Anybody who knows me knows that I have really gotten into running the past few years. It’s been a great experience. I’ve lost some weight, released some stress, and found a great way to get my mind and body in sync.
Unfortunately, I am prone to overdoing things, so I ended up getting a stress fracture a few months ago. It was my first-ever sports injury. I guess that makes me officially a jock, after 43 years.
Anyway, during my vacation to Mexico in April, I read a book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s a true story about his encounters with a remote tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyon whose main claim to fame (besides their dislike of outsiders) is their ability to run incredible distances barefoot, or nearly so.
In reality, the book is about the barefoot running phenomenon that is becoming increasingly popular. One of the characters wears a pair of Vibram shoes, which are essentially a foot glove intended to protect the feet from pebbles and glass, while allowing for a natural running experience. It is our natural way of running, after all. We’ve done it successfully for thousands of years! Well-constructed shoes have only been around for a few hundred hears. Modern running shoes came to market in the mid-1980s with structured heels and arches. Coincidentally, since then foot and ankle injuries have increased to unheard of levels. Some argue, as McDougall does in the book, that it is no coincidence.
I found the book very inspirational, and decided to give them a try. I was training a lot at the time, trying to get ready for a Boston Marathon-qualifying time (3:30) in the San Francisco Marathon. That is when I got my stress fracture. It was a frustrating setback. Several people tried to make a connection between the stress fracture and the barefoot running. I now realize I was simply running too far, too often, not giving my bones time to recover. It has been a very important lesson.
Now that the injury has healed, I am back to running in my Vibram FiveFinger Bikila shoes. They are amazing! It has taken me some time to adjust, though. I find that my lower legs and arch get more of a workout than before. I’ve had to relearn how to run, moving off my heel forward to the front and middle of the foot. I’ve discovered that kicking forward a bit helps me put my foot down properly before using my arch to push off again. The meditative experience of mind-body connection has increased. All-in-all, it’s been a great experience. I’m enjoying running more than ever, and running bare everywhere!