I have recently finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, a book about running that has been out for a few years now. It was loaned to me by a friend who suggested I read it, mainly for the astounding story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their feats of running, either in bare feet or with a couple of slabs of rubber tied to their feet.
The book left a bit of an impression with me, as I believe it has for many people, for the way in which the author suggests that we humans have been changing the way our bodies have regressed thanks to the invention of running shoes. It was fascinating stuff and raised some seriously good questions about the lack of success that running shoes with so-called stability support, motion control and cushioning features have had in preventing injuries.
In fact, since running shoes have been around, the instance of running injuries have sky-rocketed thanks to way in which they force runners to become heel strikers rather than midsole or forefoot strikers.
So this brings me, as it has many others, to the question of how I might incorporate some barefoot running into my training regimen. Not only that, the myth that has been perpetrated on us about only wearing running shoes for around 800km before buying a new pair is now coming under close scrutiny by me. I will certainly be wearing my shoes long after the recommended use-by date that has been handed to me by the shoe companies.
Certainly, I won’t be simply switching to barefoot running. That would be running suicide. Instead I want to train my body to use a more correct posture when running. In other words, I want to get into a more upright position when I run. I also want to shorten my stride length to give myself more of a chance of striking towards the midsole rather than the heel.
Finally, I want to buy a pair of minimalist running shoes. Racing flats are the closest I have to minimalist shoes and they will do the trick for the time being, giving me the lightweight shoes and flexible soles needed to allow my feet to perform as they should. When possible I would also like the chance to do some running in bare feet. I will try to report back on how I get on with the hunt for minimalist running shoes.
Living near the beach allows me to do this without putting too much stress on my feet. I will start off with a few 5km runs along the hard, wet sand of the beach as I become more accustomed to the way in which my feet strike the ground barefoot. This should also help me in my quest to make perfect my running posture.
One final thing, I am going to stop worrying about seeking out the most expensive running shoes possible. In the past I have always looked for shoes that would give me some kind of an edge. I bought shoes thinking that the small piece of rubber in the sole, or the gel pockets or the air would protect my legs from the shock of foot striking ground. Now I know that my body is equipped with all the shock absorption that is needed, I just need to retrain my body to use it properly.
I have an audacious schedule of running this year, a larger list of races that I am planning to finish than I have attempted in any other year. Included are two marathons and two half-marathons and I believe that by running with the correct foot strike I can complete all of the training as well as the actual races without getting injured.
Time will tell and we will see whether this Nerd Chop to my running philosophy pays off or breaks me down.