* You don’t have to run or jog, but you should still read the rest.
“When you run on and with the earth, you can go forever.” -Tarahumara Indians
The more expensive your runners, the more likely you will get leg injuries.The multimillion-dollar industry that surrounds the science and technology of making running shoes is a joke. A year ago, I felt an intuitive urge to walk and run on soft grass. Instead of running on the pavement with my runners, and feeling my joints and knees getting more sore, I decided to put my shoes and socks on and begin jogging in a grass oval close to my home. It was amazing. Sometimes it would rain overnight, which made the grass slightly damp. It was a wonderful experience that I cannot express how invigorating and rejuvenating it was. Running barefoot felt easier, more natural, more efficient, and less jarring to my body. After some testing, I can confirm that I am running faster and with less effort.
In my first book about Tarahumara Indians, I learned that they ran more than 100 miles in the Copper Canyons of Mexico wearing only rubber-soled sandals. I used to laugh when I saw them running alongside elite ultramarathon runners from North America.
Now, fast forward to a few years and I just finished one of my favorite books. It is called “Born to Run” by Christopher MacDougall(1). He is an American journalist who has a prominent profile as a contributing editor to Men’s Health magazine as well as writing for publications like Esquire or the New York Times. The book describes in detail how the human body was built for running and how running can cause injuries. They all stem from the wrong way we run, and, most importantly… our modern running shoes.
McDougall points to a variety of scientific research, biomechanical analysis, and expert opinions to prove that running shoes are more susceptible to injury than high-tech, supportive, and expensive ones. It is because of the myth that running shoes, or expensive orthotics, artificially supporting our feet or propping them up, is a good idea. As with any artificially “prop up” of the body to stop it doing what it was designed to do, the structures involved in this process actually become ‘weaker”. As the strength of the muscles, bones, ligaments, and surrounding bones decreases, the likelihood that they will be injured increases. This is why 75% of serious runners sustain a leg injury every year.
A glimpse of “Born to Run”
Humans have been running without pronation control, arch support or gel-filled pads beneath their heels for millions of years. McDougall
Leonardo da Vinci regarded the human foot with its incredible weight suspension system, which accounts for one quarter of all bones in the body of the human being, as a’masterpiece of engineering’ and a work art.
Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian Marathoner, ran barefoot across the cobblestones in Rome to win the 1960 Olympic Marathon.
“Shoes do not cause pain but impact it.” Running comfortably is what pain teaches us. You will see a change in your running style the minute you step out barefoot. Bob the Barefoot Runner
“Covering your feet in cushioned shoes is like turning off the smoke alarms.” – Barefoot Ted
“Bricolage is the idea that less is more or that the best solution can be the most elegant. If you have everything you need, why add anything? Barefoot Ted
“Many of the foot and knee injuries we are seeing are caused by running in shoes that make our feet weaker, over-pronate and cause knee problems.
When the first athletic shoe was created by Nike in 1992, people had strong feet and less chance of getting injured. Professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, Dr. Daniel Lieberman.
“I believe that runners who train barefoot are more efficient and less likely to sustain injuries if they do so.” Vin Lananna, Stanford University head coach
“There is no evidence running shoes can prevent injury.” McDougall
Dr. Craig Richards from the University of Newcastle, Australia, wrote a 2008 research paper for The British Journal of Sports Medicine. He stated that there is no evidence to support the claim that running shoes are less likely to cause injury.
“No stonemason worth his salt would ever put a support underneath an arch; push down from underneath and you weaken all of it.” Gerard Hartman is a physical therapist who has treated many of the greatest distance runners in the world.
“The foot is supposed pronate.” Hartman (i.e. It’s completely natural!
Hartman said, “Putting your feet into shoes is like putting them in plaster casts.”
“Painful truth No1. McDougall: The Worst Shoes Are the Best –
Nike conducted their own research into barefoot running in the early 2000s and were astonished by the results. The company quickly shifted to making money from running barefoot. They launched TV ads that featured barefoot athletes from Kenyan marathon runners to rock climbers, dancers and karate masters. The message flashed across the screen: “Your feet are you foundation.” Get up! Make them stronger! Make them strong! The phrase “Performance starts here” is written across the sole of barefoot. The final slogan is ‘Run Barefoot’.
These are my two favorite quotes…
“The best runner doesn’t leave any tracks.” Tao Te Ching
“You don’t stop running to get older. You get old because your stopped running.”
It is interesting to note that primitive cultures, which haven’t had modern running shoes and instead rely on Mother Nature’s infinite wisdom in designing the human foot for their feet, can run many miles per day and have never suffered from an injury.
Why? Because the master designer herself has designed our feet. Our feet contain more than a quarter our bones. We tend to land on our midfoot rather than on our heel when we wear ‘cushioned runners’ because the shoes will cushion us.
Instead of dragging our front legs too far forward and causing damage to our lower bodies with 12 times the weight of our bodies, we can run more naturally without expensive running shoes. The feet are more inclined to touch the ground and land softer on the center and/or balls of the feet. This makes use of the foot’s unique design to displace more force, reducing stress on the feet and lower legs.
Running strengthens your feet, ankles, and legs. This reduces the chance of injury over time. It’s also much more efficient. After a few weeks of practice, you’ll likely notice a faster pace and less effort. *
What happens if grass isn’t available?
It’s not a problem. Many people don’t have a safe, lush area of grass where they can run. There are two choices.
Option 1 : MacDougall & I suggest that you buy a pair of basic runners (and they are cheap). The better, the cheaper and with less support and shock absorption, the better. These will help you run more naturally, improve your foot function, and strengthen your legs, ankles, and feet over time. They are an excellent pair of runners and are worth the effort. A few months back, I purchased a pair at Target for $17. These are great… and a fashion accessory! Both men and women give me great looks when I go to the gym.
My ‘Stunning’ Barefoot Runners – I Get Some Great Looks! Enjoy!
Option 2 Another option is to purchase a pair of “barefoot runners”. Even the largest manufacturers of running shoes, such as Nike, admit that the most expensive runners can often be the cause of injuries. There are many brands out there of barefoot runners. I purchased a pair of Vibram five fingers (see left). These are the most well-known, but you can Google “barefoot running” or “barefoot running shoes” to find a lower price.
* Important Note: To avoid injury, this should be done slowly. See the suggestions below. Here are some suggestions for you:
- Even if you are just a walker, it’s a good idea to take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot whenever possible. Even better is to do this on lightly wet grass. (You also get the benefits from the ancient practice known as ‘earthing’.
- You can purchase barefoot runners or cheap runners if you’re a runner or jogger, particularly if you jog on a treadmill or hard services. Dunlop volleys provide minimal support/shock absorption. Gradually move from walking to a slow shuffle to jogging for a few weeks. This should be done slowly and using the correct running technique (see 3.). To avoid injury
- While I believe it is best to jog or walk barefoot on soft surfaces or with minimal support on hard surfaces, I do not recommend this. Biomechanically, you must run correctly. You must keep your body straight and aligned with your hips, head, and back. If your feet are close to the ground, you need to have a shorter stride (quicker is okay). You should also have a soft landing at the mid-foot. You must start slowly and increase in pace as your body is not used to this type of movement. Walking for one week is enough. Next, do five-minute shuffles every other week. You can then gradually increase your walking time to 5-10 minutes per week. I.e. This is a gradual transition to another form of running/jogging.
- Do not rush to run barefoot. You will most likely inflict injury on yourself.
- Jog on soft, dewy grass without any prickles and bindies Oh! Wherever possible, This is gorgeous!
- Avoid running on concrete or other hard surfaces. You might need to run on concrete and other hard surfaces. However, you can still use a little cushioning. My Vibram Five Fingers are my running shoes. I run on grass whenever possible. However, regardless of the surface, I always try to follow the above technique so that it doesn’t cause any further problems. I have slightly dodgy/arthritic legs from years of playing football and heavy leg weights, so I don’t want to make them worse.
- Get a copy (1) of “Born to Run”(1) for more information about the scientific evidence, the opinions of world-leading experts, and the anecdotes from the top runners in the world who don’t use modern running shoes. It is a wonderful read.
- Reconnect with nature and you will see how running and walking were meant to be. This could change the way you view jogging or exercise. It might even be enjoyable, if it isn’t exhilarating. Take it seriously! Enjoy.