Barefoot Running: Famous Runners Who Raced in Bare Feet

Barefoot running seemed to have started to make its trend nowadays and is returning full force in the 21st century. However, despite the ongoing debate of the benefits of running sans the shoes or at least, by using minimalist barefoot shoes, what most people do not know is that years before, there have already been people who have been dominating the racing world and winning gold medals left and right by running bare foot! It’s not unusual but you might be surprised how some great athletes actually raced their sprints and marathon the “natural” running way!

One of the famous people who raced barefoot is Bruce Tulloh who is known as the barefoot champion during the 1962 Europeans. Although he did not take running seriously until he was an adult, he gradually improved and in July 1959, he won his first British AAA title over 3 miles under 13mins! Despite the fact that he won most of his races like the 1962 UK 2 mile run, Tulloh reasoned that his decision on whether to wear shoes or not usually depended on the type of track he was running on.

Another prominent runner is Herbert “Herb” James Elliot. He is a former Australian athlete who is known as one of the world’s greatest middle distance runners. The difference between Elliot and most of the runners he competed with was that he trained barefoot. He never lost a race over 15000 meters or a mile in his career. During the 1958 Commonwealth Games held at Wales he won a gold in the 880 yards. The following 2 years he set a new world record when he won the gold medal in the 1500 meters at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

Finally, Zola Pieterse or better known by her maiden name Zola Budd is one of the former Olympic track and field racer who broke the world record in the women’s 5000 meters in less than three years. She has built her career in the most unusual way as she mainly trained and actually ran the race barefoot! Her career has influenced quite a trend in society. In South Africa, taxis are nicknamed “Zola Budd” because of their speed. Even singer like Breanda Fassie, had a hit single in the 80’s with a track entitled Zola Budd.

Surely, if these top athletes have benefitted from running barefoot, we might too! Fortunately for us, today’s innovation provide shoes that allow us to get the benefits of running barefoot without worrying about debris or stubbing our feet! Let’s just say, if these people were on top of their game during this century, they’d be encouraging a lot of people to run barefoot!

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  • Thomas June 8, 2011, 8:33 pm

    Abebe Bikila was one of the most famous barefoot runners. He won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome running barefoot. He became a national hero in his home country of Ethiopia, and when he died, 65,000-75,000 people attended his funeral.

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