I was bought a copy of ‘Born to Run’ (Christopher McDougall) by my sister-in-law and her hsband for Christmas last year. I’d not heard of the book before then, but it seems I was the only one in the running community that hadn’t.
What can I say? The book is probably the best and most inspirational book I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been running on and off for the last 4 years. I say ‘on and off’ because of the many injuries I’ve endured through the years, I don’t think I’ve managed more than 2 or 3 consecutive months without a twinge. So as the book opens with the author’s own running injury, I immediately felt that this book was going to give me some answers.
The book follows McDougall’s quest to find the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico and an illusive character known as ‘Caballo Blanco’. These people seem to know the secret to injury-free running and can run for 2 days solid with no ill effects. Their diet consists on corn and corn beer! No protein shakes, energy bars or gels.
What’s more amazing (well to me anyway) is the fact they wear flimsy sandals on their feet. Having been told that I need to wear expensive running shoes with arch support, extra cushioning in the heel and extra control to stop the feet pronating, to now be presented with concrete evidence that I don’t, is certainly a bombshell!
But, it makes perfect sense. Our feet are perfectly designed to run. It’s how we survived. If we couldn’t run we couldn’t catch food or escape danger, so the mere fact that the human race is still around today is testimony to the fact that we are perfectly designed to run.
McDougall compares the arch of the foot with the arch of a bridge. An arched bridge is incredibly strong, but place a support underneath and the structure is weakened. Provide arch support in running shoes and the muscles of the feet become weak and can lead to injury. The very things we spend hundreds of pounds on to protect our feet and joints, could actually be making injuries more likely and frequent.
This is where we come to barefoot running! It’s a scary thought, running barefoot in today’s asphalt world, but it could be the answer to all my injuries, so I’m prepared to give it a go. I’m not going completely barefoot though (there’s too many irresponsible dog owners where I live) so I’ve invested in some Vibram Five Fingers.
They’re strange looking but surprisingly comfortable. They’ve not ventured outside yet – just waiting for a dry day – but I’ll post an update after their first outing.
If you’re a runner and you’ve not read Born to Run – you seriously need to. And if you’re already a barefoot runner and have any words of advice or encouragement, leave a comment.
UPDATE: loving running in my five fingers, no issues or injuries so far – running further than ever!