Yes, Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia won the Olympic Marathon in 1960 in Rome running barefoot. Zola Budd of South Africa running for Great Britain also rose to fame in 1985 running in the Olympics in her bare feet but she fell and also was falsely accused of tripping American Mary Decker.
In my case it's not for speed, but rather for a reduction of shock to the joints. As crazy as it seems, it really does reduce the shock by 50% or more depending on the person.
Minimalist shoes do not work, as was proven last week when Vibram agreed to settle a multi million dollar lawsuit regarding their Five Finger line of neoprene "toe" shoes.
Here's an interesting history of barefoot running from Wikipedia including the current trend that began around 6 years ago.
They even mention our running club but the numbers are old......we now have over 6,000 members.
My wife and I ran a race in Downtown Ferndale yesterday, and despite the heavy partying that must have gone on Sat night (no shortage of freshly broken glass around early in the morning) not a scratch reported by any of the barefoot runners.
Throughout most of human history, running was performed while barefoot or in thin-soled shoes such as moccasins
. This practice continues today in Kenya
and among the Tarahumara
people of northern Mexico.
Historians believe that the runners of Ancient Greece
ran barefoot. According to legend, Pheidippides
, the first marathoner
, ran from Athens
in less than 36 hours.
After the Battle of Marathon
, it is said he ran straight from the battlefield to Athens to inform the Athenians of the Greek victory over Persia.
Modern barefoot running first rose to prominence in 1960, when Abebe Bikila
won the Olympic marathon
in Rome barefoot after discovering that Adidas
, the Olympic shoe supplier, had run out of shoes in his size. He was in pain because he had received shoes that were too small, so he decided to simply run barefoot; Bikila had trained running barefoot prior to the Olympics.
He would go on to defend his Olympic title four years later in Tokyo while wearing shoes and setting a new world record.
British runner Bruce Tulloh
competed in many races during the 1960s while barefoot, and won the gold medal in the 1962 European Games 5,000 metre race.
In the 1970s, Shivnath Singh
, one of India
's greatest long distance runners, was known for always running barefoot with only tape on his feet.
During the 1980s, a South African runner, Zola Budd
, became known for her barefoot running style as well as training and racing barefoot. She won the 1985
and 1986 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
and competed in the 1984 Olympic Games
in Los Angeles. Kenyan
runner Tegla Loroupe
began running barefoot 10 km (6.2 mi) to and from school every day at the age of seven. She performed well in contests at school, and in 1988, won a prestigious cross country
barefoot race. She went on to compete, both barefoot and shod, in several international competitions, marathons, and half-marathons. She won the Goodwill Games
over 10,000 metres, barefoot, and was the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon
in 1994, winning again in 1998.
A barefoot man in robes running while holding a stick (1878)
In the early 21st century, barefoot running has gained a small yet significant following on the fringe of the larger running community. Organizers of the 2010 New York City Marathon
saw an increase in the number of barefoot runners participating in the event.
The practice saw a surge in popularity after the 2009 publication of Christopher McDougall
's book, Born to Run
, promoting the practice.
In the United States
, the Barefoot Runners Society was founded in November 2009 as a national club for unshod runners. By November 2010, the organization claimed 1,345 members, nearly double the 680 members it had when it was founded.
One barefoot runner, Rick Roeber
, has been running barefoot since 2003, and has run more than 50 marathons, 2 ultra-marathons of 40 miles, and over 17,000 miles (27,000 km) all barefoot.
Other prominent barefoot runners include Ken Bob Saxton, known as the "godfather of barefoot running", and Todd Byers, a barefoot marathon runner from Seattle
who has run over 100 marathons barefoot.
On 8 December 2006, Nico Surings of Eindhoven
, Netherlands, became the fastest person to run 100 meters (330 feet) on ice
while barefoot, completing the task in 17.35 seconds.
And on 12 December 2010, the Barefoot Runners of India Foundation (BRIF) organised a 21 km (13 mi) barefoot half-marathon at Kharghar
near the Indian city of Mumbai
. The run had 306 participants.
In 2011, the United States Air Force
began development of a program to support barefoot or minimalist running in its ranks. One of the leaders of the program was Lieutenant Colonel Mark Cucuzzella, who won the 2011 United States Air Force Marathon
in a time of 2:38:48 while wearing minimalist running shoes.
On 1 April 2012, runner Rae Heim embarked on a 3,000-plus mile barefoot run from Boston, Massachusetts
to Manhattan Beach, California
. She is raising money for a Tennessee-based organization, Soles4Souls, who will deliver one pair of shoes to needy children for each dollar raised by Heim.
And on 23 June 2012, Robert Knowles, of Brisbane, Australia
, set two Guinness World Records for both the Fastest 100 km Barefoot and the Longest Distance Run Barefoot in 24 Hours, as part of the Sri Chinmoy Sydney 24 Hour Race. He logged 166.444 km (103.424 mi), or 416 laps on the Blacktown International Sportspark track, barefoot.