Did Abebe Bikala run a marathon without running shoes?

The marathon is really a hard event; it is 26.2 miles of hard running. It is hard on the body, particularly the feet which explains why all marathon runners spend so much consideration to what is on their feet. Marathoners invest a lot of time deciding on the right running shoe and lots of money is associated with running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, Abebe Bikala from Ethiopia showed up for the marathon and there were no shoes remaining in the teams gear that would fit him, so he ran the marathon without shoes and won the gold medal. This is commonly praised as a incredible achievement. Recently there has been a community of athletes who are advising the running footwear is not all they can be promoted to be and are recommending that running ought to be done barefoot, just like nature intended. After all, we were not created with footwear and historical humans simply had to run great distances without running shoes to stay alive as animals needed to be hunted on foot over long distances.

Running footwear are actually only a quite recent creation. Those who suggest the barefoot approach to running like to point out the achievements of Abebe Bikala as further justification that we do not require running shoes. There are certainly many other arguments both for and against barefoot running, with hardly any scientific research supporting it. While Abebe Bikala winning gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics without running shoes certainly suggest that it is possible, what those who like to tout his successes as evidence often leave out that he later went on to win the gold medal and also set a world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala was able to set the world record this time wearing running shoes; to put it differently he could actually run faster when he was using running shoes. We may well have evolved to run without shoes, but we also evolved in an environment ahead of concrete and hard surfaces came along. While the accomplishments of Abebe were outstanding, using him as proof that barefoot is better does not stack up to scrutiny.