Barefoot Running


This is not a really a topic on forum management (hence its filed under ‘Whatever’), but I am a forum junkie. I own several and moderate at several others and contribute to some others and hang out at even more. I am also a bit of a fitness nut and have been known in the past to have run a marathon. Not surprisingly, I do hang out at a few running forums.  While out running last week I came across a couple of runners who were running barefoot. I was intrigued, so did some digging around and found this discussed on a number of barefoot running forums.  There was also some discussions on barefoot running on medical forums. Its all about the debate of if we should be using running shoes to run in or should we go natural and run barefoot. On the one hand, one group see running shoes as being evil and the other group see barefoot runners as acting like they belong to a cult. The views on barefoot running were certainly polarized and there is even an anti-barefoot running website and plenty of pro-barefoot sites! I was certainly surprised to see the same names pop up on many websites and blogs with names like ‘Barefoot {X}’ everytime something negative was said about barefoot running!

The reason I am writing about it here, is that the topic is an interesting case in forum behaviour which is obviously of interest to forum administrators. What caught my eye on one forum thread, was the inability of those discussing this topic to talk to each other and talk past each other. The Straw Man argument gets used a lot. The straw man argument is defined by Wikipedia as:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “set up a straw man,” one describes a position that superficially resembles an opponent’s actual view, yet is easier to refute. Then, one attributes that position to the opponent. For example, someone might deliberately overstate the opponent’s position. While a straw man argument may work as a rhetorical technique—and succeed in persuading people—it carries little or no real evidential weight, since the opponent’s actual argument has not been refuted

In debates on barefoot running, this approach to the debate is used widely by both sides and it was clear to me that most of them did not know they were using that argument!. It is very much similar to the debates in politics (eg Liberal vs. Conservative) or religion (eg Christianity vs. Islam). These kind of debates have no winner  as they have no common ground. In all the forums I manage, we do not allow political or religious discussion for this reason. Who would have ever thought that something as innocuous as barefoot running would fall into the same category. Interesting case study in forum behaviours.

I have decided to stick with my running shoes.

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