I started barefoot running about a year ago, trying to work around a pesky IT band injury. After hurting myself in a marathon, I changed my stride. First, it changed in such a way that transferred the injury to my opposite hip — even when I was sleeping. Then I began reading about avoiding heel striking via barefoot running (which despite current fads is an ancient practice, common today in Kenya and South Africa — remember Zola Budd).

Since then, I have learned a lot about it. Some people go too far in their promotion of barefoot running, however. In this video, I talk briefly about the pseudo-science in Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth by Michael Sandler with Jessica Lee.

On p.19, he mentions that running barefoot grounds you to earth’s Schumann Resonance:

“It turns out that the earth has a frequency, or a heartbeat, called the Schumann Resonance, of approximately 7.83 hertz. This number is important because it’s the same frequency our brains use to survive and thrive. In other words, our vibrations are matched or we vibrate at the same frequency of the earth. Put another way, we evolved in sync with the frequency or heartbeat of the earth.

NASA scientists have known this for years. In early space missions, astronauts became surprisingly weak and ill when they went into space and left the resonance of the earth behind. They now alleviate this distress by having a vibrational device attached to the ships that resonates at the Schumann Resonance — by matching to the frequency of the earth, space help astronauts stay in sync.”

I was amazed by this concept, and wondered immediately if it were true. Did NASA really put these devices on space shuttles? Weren’t astronauts weaker because they needed gravity and weight-bearing exercise to maintain their muscle tone?

Probably the best refutation of this is found in Facts and Fiction of the Schumann Resonance, which concludes,

“…you should be very skeptical of any product, service, article, website, or merchant who uses the Schumann resonance, in any way, as part of a sales pitch. The Earth does not have any particular frequency. Life on Earth is neither dependent upon, nor enhanced by, any specific frequency. Most of these sales pitches are what we in the brotherhood like to call a Word Salad, sciencey-sounding language thrown together in such a way as to sound impressive to the layperson. There’s plenty of sciencey goodness in understanding why and what the Schumann resonances actually are, without co-opting them to promote nonsense.”

Here’s an article that effectively refutes the idea that NASA put “Schumann resonators” on spacecraft. The author also points out that this electro-magnetic frequency is “Trapped between the ground and a height of roughly 80 km (nearly 50 miles), where the ozone layer and the ionosphere meet.”

Pseudo-science aside, there were good excercises and plenty of sensible advice in the book, and it inspired me to run some of my favorite trails barefoot, which felt absolutely marvelous. Following Sandler’s advice, however, I wore my shoes on all the rocky/gravelly parts.