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Did Abebe Bikala run a marathon without running shoes?

The marathon is a challenging distance to run; it is 26.2 miles of hard running. It can be hard on the body, especially the feet which is the reason all marathon runners pay so much consideration to exactly what is on their feet. Marathoners invest considerable time finding the right shoe and plenty of money is associated with running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikala  arrived for the marathon and there were no shoes left in the teams supplies which would fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot and went on to win the gold medal. This is commonly hailed as a exceptional accomplishment. In recent years there's been a group of athletes who are implying the running footwear is not all they're claimed to be and are promoting that running should be carried out barefoot, much like nature intended. After all, we were not created with shoes and historical humans simply had to run great distances without shoes to stay alive as animals needed to be hunted on foot over long distances.

Athletic shoes are actually only a quite recent creation. Runners who promote the barefoot approach to running love to point to the achievements of Abebe Bikala as additional justification that we do not need running shoes. There are certainly many other arguments both for as well as against barefoot running, with little or no scientific data supporting it. Whilst Abebe Bikala winning gold medal at the Rome Olympics without running shoes obviously suggest that it can be done, what those who like to tout his accomplishments as evidence often omit that he subsequently went on to get the gold medal as well as break the world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala managed to set the world record this time wearing running shoes; in other words he could actually run faster when he was using running shoes. We might well have evolved to run without shoes, but we also evolved in an environment before concrete and hard surfaces emerged. While the achievements of Abebe were remarkable, using him as proof that it is better does not stack up to critique.