Monday, April 30, 2007

Living Tarahumarically

Those of you who have met me in person might have noticed that I don't really like shoes. And I really, really hate socks (with the burning hot passion of a thousand suns), so if I'm wearing anything on my feet at all, it's probably something that consists of nothing more than a footbed with some straps attached -- I'm a minimalist when it comes to footwear.

I'm also currently in the process of learning to run. My daily workouts on the treadmill have, until recently, involved walking up a hill, but no running. Previous attempts to run regularly have always resulted in some discouraging excuse to stop -- pseudo ailments like shin splints or sore knees. But this winter, I took another stab at running, only this time, I didn't bother with the dreaded shoes -- I'm running inside and on my own treadmill, so who's gonna make me wear them?

Well, lo and behold, it turns out that running shod can be a bad thing, because shoes can force a person to land on the heel, sending the force of every landing up the leg, where the bones and joints have to absorb the impact. Ouch. Running barefoot, however, allows for a ball-heel-ball landing that's much easier on the body. At least that's what I've been reading lately, since I've discovered that I can run just fine as long as I skip the shoes. So far, a couple of months into running up to 3 or 4 times a week, I haven't found an excuse to stop. The legs and knees are feeling fine (if a bit stiff or sore at times).

Then I ran across this article from Men's Health Magazine, "The Men Who Live Forever," and discovered that I might be onto something with this barefoot running thing, and am part of a movement, even:
Orton is part of a growing movement of Free Your Feet rebels, who believe it's not running that causes injuries, but running form and economy of training. One of the more vocal -- and surprising -- members of this group is Gerard Hartmann, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist who works with the world's greatest marathoners and also consults for Nike. According to Hartmann, the vast majority of running-related foot injuries are a result of too much foam-injected pampering. Running shoes have become so supercushioned and motion-controlling, they allow our foot muscles to atrophy and our tendons to shorten and stiffen. Without strength and flexibility, injuries are inevitable.
The article speaks to those with higher aspirations than mine -- I doubt I'll be running a marathon any time soon -- but it offers some good tips on technique. Even if you're not ready to throw away your shoes, it's an interesting read, with some thoughts on diet as well as workouts. And you might find yourself tempted to try a breakfast salad...

1 comment:

gid said...

Wow! That is a great article.

This quote struck me:

Webb had been hobbled by foot injuries early in his career, but after he started barefoot exercises, his injuries disappeared, and his shoe size shrank, from a 12 to a 9. "My foot muscles became so strong, they pulled my arches up," says Webb. "Wearing too much shoe prevents you from tapping into the natural gait you have when landing on the ground."