These experts are often wrong but they are never uncertain. Rather than simply saying, "I don't know," they're all too happy to pontificate endlessly on a subject they know nothing about. They blithely offer one fact-free assertion after another, all bathed in a patina of reasonableness and authority. In my experience, there are two types of experts who are most likely to fit this description: (1) People who sell running shoes and (2) podiatrists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.
For example, the February 2010 issue of Runner's World contained a discussion about barefoot running that included comments from a "sports podiatrist-biomechanist" named Kevin Kirby who made a point of assuring readers of his expertise ("I lecture on biomechanics internationally") while enthusiastically making the case against barefoot running. However, when asked to provide for advice for aspiring barefoot runners, Dr. Kirby offered this bromide:
Go out and do a little barefoot running on nice grass.In fact, folks who actually run barefoot are much more likely to recommend starting on a smooth, flat surface like an asphalt trail. Running on grass poses the threat of twisting an ankle or stepping on something hidden beneath the surface. (See here for example of better advice.) Dr. Kirby is positioning his advice as being expert when it's really nothing more than his idea of "common sense" without a shred of evidence behind it.
You'll hear the same kind of thing all the time in running shoe stores:
Start somewhere soft so your feet don't get pounded.Of course, the whole point is not to cushion your feet. That's what running shoes do. The point of barefoot-style running is to learn to land without the pounding. Or here's another favorite:
It'll take a while for your feet to build up calluses.I run up to 10 miles barefoot and my feet are less calloused now than when I wore running shoes. Other barefoot runners will tell you the same thing. If you're running properly, there's nothing abrasive going on that would cause calluses.
Wanting good advice before you undertake your first barefoot run is not a bad idea. Just make sure, though, that you're getting it from someone who knows what they're talking about, someone who has actually run barefoot. Check out the links on the right, especially Barefoot Ken Bob and Barefoot Ted. And when it comes to shoe stores and medical professionals, keep in mind Upton Sinclair's famous admonition:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.