I’m reading the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (look for review after I finish) and it has really had an effect on me. I don’t know why I am continually surprised when I learn something like this, but for some reason I always am.
It seems that one of the most important themes to the many things I have learned as I age is that our ancestors had it right. Whether it is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “newer isn’t always better,” the lesson is clear.
The theme of the book is that running barefoot is natural and in fact, quite healthy. In fact, our footwear industry has done more to cause injury than anything in our history. By strapping ourselves into these cushioned little foot pillows, we are training our feet to perform in unhealthy ways.
I (and probably you too) spent most of my childhood running around barefoot with nary a shin splint or bout of plantar fasciitis. In junior high and high school, I ran cross country track and never had any foot issues. (The flats we ran with were nothing but a thin piece of rubber.)
It wasn’t until I was an adult that could afford expensive running shoes, that I started to have back and knee problems. I decided that I was too big to run… too told to run… too broken down to run. I sprained my ankles three years in a row playing basketball with Converse high tops. I developed plantar fasciitis and was told I need MORE arch support.
What gives you the best arch support is USING your arch. You use your arch by walking and running barefoot. In fact, people who add barefoot activity actually shrink their shoe size… because building up your arch shortens the length of the foot. All these super cushy shoes are acting as a crutch to our arches and weakens them.
While, I’m not expecting to compete in any marathons anytime soon, I do think I am ready to try to become a runner again. Step one was today – walking in bare feet. I am sure that I will need to build some callouses before I dare try running. Heck, I may not even try running barefoot, maybe I will try to get some minimalistic shoe and take advantage of the protection.
I did just 1 mile today barefoot on the crushed gravel trail and was blown away by a few things:
- Being barefoot started a conversation with everyone I met. One lady inquired, “Going barefoot huh?” I told her that I was listening to “a book about barefoot running.” She said, “Oh, Born to Run!!!? I love that book. It is the greatest book I have ever read.” Another couple of elderly women chuckled as they passed saying, “did you lose your shoes?” I just told them “no” and smiled. Finally, a fit looking man in his 60’s was jogging by saying, ” THAT’S what I’m talking about! Barefoot running is the best!” I glanced down to see he was wearing barefoot slipper type shoes.
- There was really no pain despite being quite a rocky surface. There were one or two sections of the trail where the pebbles were larger that did cause me to step a little lighter, but nothing truly painful.
- I let my feet do what felt natural and my gait changed from landing on the heel to landing on the ball of the foot and curling my toes to grab more ground as I moved forward. It felt a lot more natural and was a heck of a lot better on my back than the old jam to the heel.
- I notice the movement involves my hips and midsection quite a bit more. I’m assuming it will be better for my core than running/walking in shoes.
I will let you know how things progress, but for now I am a convert to the barefoot movement. Once again, our forefathers knew best.