Daniel Lieberman, 10 Years After “Born to Run”
Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman is an evolutionary biologist whose 2004 study on human evolution, “Endurance running and the evolution of Homo,” caught international attention by arguing that among the animal kingdom, humans are supremely adapted distance runners. The study made the cover of the prestigious journal Nature under the title “Born to Run” and subsequently led to Lieberman’s being a major figure in Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book of the same title. Lieberman, a barefoot running aficionado, has also been strongly associated with the barefoot running boom that followed that book’s publication. Writer Richard A. Lovett talked to him in August at an international running science symposium in Calgary, Alberta.
Running Times: How has your association with barefoot running affected your life?
Daniel Lieberman: It’s been fun, but what’s frustrating about it are the strong reactions that have very little to do with what I’ve ever said. But I can’t tell you how many have told me, “How dare you say that!” I’m also fascinated by the extreme reaction by people who think barefoot running is somehow evil or dangerous. Most have never tried it. It’s like breast-feeding: It’s a completely natural, normal thing to do. If you want to do it, do it. If you want to not do it, don’t do it. Or, you can do it on Tuesday and not on Thursday. It’s interesting how things get polarized and people want to put you into one of two extremes. I’m actually kind of a moderate guy.