When you come to find that some of the basic things we're told culturally are wrong e.g. running shoes are good for you, it makes you wonder what else you should be questioning.
“There’s not a lot of evidence that running shoes have made people better off.” Daniel E. Lieberman, Harvard University, Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants (NYT)
Earlier this year, I began running and then eventually doing all my work outs in Vibram Five Fingers, a soft five toed rubber-soled shoe. Five Fingers provide basic protection against objects on the ground while providing a natural running experience.
When people at my gym see me wearing these shoes and I tell them that I run in them as well, they often ask incredulously "you can do that?" I usually reply, "it kinda worked before there were shoes!" It turns out, (surprise!) our bodies were designed to run this way.
While I took time to run short distances first and give my body time to adjust, stubborn knee issues and hip tightness from running slowly faded away. In my five fingers, I run faster, more comfortably and easily than I have in years.
If you want to read more about the benefits of barefoot running, check out Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants, a recent New York Times article about barefoot running and Christopher MacDougall's eye-opening book, Born to Run.
Mr. McDougall, the “Born to Run” author, ” said manufacturers, doctors and retailers were doing runners a disservice by pushing such shoes. “People are buying it thinking it’s going to do something for them, and it’s not,” he said.
Mr. McDougall’s book is centered on the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, known for epic 100-mile runs with nothing on their feet but strips of rubber. The book has become something of a manifesto for barefoot runners.
After suffering chronic foot pain and being advised by sports medicine doctors to give up running, Mr. McDougall tried thin-soled shoes. Now, he said, he runs long distances without shoes — or pain.
You can watch an accompany New York Times video to this story below Health: Barefoot Running.
If you get cold, check out the Vibram Flow which offer additional insulation or Injinji five toed socks e.g. see image at right! If you decide to go this route, be sure to order a slightly larger pair of Five Fingers.Nike's use of sweatshop labor - a subject which recently made news again here in Seattle at the University of Washington ... who knew their running shoes were actually hurting us too?
For me, running and working out barefooted has changed my body's relationship to the ground and my way of thinking. For one thing, I feel my feet, hips and skeleton more consciously as I move. But more importantly, what cultural assumptions are at work in my head that might not be based on empirical evidence?