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“Everybody get on your feet,
You make me nervous when you in your seat
Take off your shoes and pat your feet,
We’re doin’ a dance that can’t be beat
We’re barefootin’, We’re barefootin’,
We’re barefootin’, We’re barefootin’…”

BAREFOOTIN’, Words and music by Robert Parker

Abebe Bikila I’m not a runner so I can’t speak from my own experience, but there is a big community among them that promotes running barefoot because they say it is more natural and better for your feet and your whole body.
We human evolved from apes because we needed to run long distances to hunt animals on Africa’s vast savannah. 
In the ancient games the competitors used to ran barefoot but as the Greek empire extended, many athletes from colder climates came to race wearing sandals.  As soon as shod athletes became winners others adopted the running sandal. In the 18th century a light weight shoe was developed which could grip the ground, but it was only in 1948 that the company Adidas was founded and the modern running shoe was invented.
Recently this new trend of going back to basics and running barefoot is taking hold of a new generation of runners and even big companies like Nike or Vibram have created “no shoes” to simulate barefoot running.
But it was actually during the 1960’s Olympic games that an Ethiopian became famous for running without shoes. His name was Abebe Bikila and his barefoot running happened just by a series of events. 
Bikila joined the Ethiopian Olympic Team at the last moment as a replacement for Wami Biratu who had broken his ankle. There were few shoes left for Bikila and none of them fit well, so a couple of hours before the race he decided to run barefoot, the way he’d trained for the race in his native country. Bikila won in a record time of 2:15:16.2, becoming the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal.
In 1964 he won again the Tokyo Olympic Marathon setting a new world record, though this time he ran with shoes. He was the first athlete in history to win the Olympic marathon twice.
In case you are interested, there is a film titled Atletu (The Athlete in English) that tells the story of Abebe Bikila. It was directed by Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew  and has been shown recently at some Film Festivals in the US.

The Athlete Film

Abebe Bikila is just an example of the many Ethiopian athletes than run with great effort and determination to succeed. With or without shoes, Ethiopia keeps on giving famous runners, men and women that set records all over the world.
Here are some famous Ethiopian runnersTirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar, Berhane Adere, Miruts Yifter, Gete Wami, Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebreselassie.


Born to run
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich
Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila by Paul Rambali
Bikila: Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian by Tim Judah

Running Barefoot
The Athlete Film