I have more running shoes than I do regular ones. In fact, add up mine and my partner's regular shoes and I still have more running ones. I like running in different shapes, types and heel drops. About half of them are 'barefoot' shoes. By this I mean that they are zero-drop (have no heel-raise at all), and have no cushioning, just 2-4mm of rubber to protect from grit and stones. But of all my shoes, these are the ones I use least. Don't get me wrong, Vibrams and Vivobarefoots are great shoes, but they can't beat the onslaught of sensory feedback that the 200,000 subcutaneous receptors in your feet are itching to provide. But there's more...
There is something about the bare barefoot, something shamanic, yogic, some electrical neuromagic that works between the soles of the feet and the brain. The feeling after a barefoot run is somehow different to a shod one. I always knew it was. Could this be the reason?
There is a movement called 'earthing'. Its basic tenet is that our bodies now spend a great deal of time disconnected from the earth. In evolutionary terms, this is a recent phenomenon. It is thought by the earthers that our bodies build static, positive, charges relative to the earth. Earthing the body, returns the voltage differential to zero and this is thought to provide benefits for mental and general well-being. Some evidence for the health benefits of earthing has been provided (and you can read about it here.) But there has been a good deal of bad science, too. More evidence is needed to substantiate the claims that "Reconnection with the earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being." (Journal of Environmental and Public Health Volume 2012, Article ID 29154).
Some studies have begun looking at the way that barefoot running shoes change our natural gait. Vibrams have been linked with an increased propensity to heel-strike, for example (see Pete Larson's blog entry, here.)
For me, earthing seems intriguing and provides an answer to a difference of experience that I had already noticed between barefoot running and running in barefoot shoes. I would love to know more about the real physiological and psychological impact of earthing.