An amazing thing.. When I began to run 20 years ago, American runners knew that you needed good shoes to protect your joints as you ran. More padding, such as Nike added with the “Air Max” would help protect your joints from pain and damage. Everyone understood this fact, and bought the best shoes they could afford.
I recently ran Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, the story of a 260 pound man that wanted to run, and wouldn’t accept “modern medicine’s” response of – a 260 pound man can’t run without pain, and eventually ALL runners are going to face injury. His research took him to a tribe in Mexico made up of the greatest runners that mankind has ever seen. They ran in sandals.
There seem to be several different shoe choices now – for those that want to run “like they are barefoot”, but without the danger of glass landing in your foot. From the Luna Sandal (sold by Barefoot Ted from the book Born to Run), Vibram Fivefingers (with toes!!!), Runamoc, or even Nike Free Run+ we can now spend $85 or more to run like we have no shoes on! (There are those that suggest we can run like we have barefeet for far less money.. But that involves a level of bravery that my poor sensitive feet don’t yet grant me..)
There is a series of experts that are well regarded that point out that barefoot running (or minimalist running) strengthens the foot, and changes your running style in such a way as to help prevent injury. When you don’t heal strike – you don’t send the same level of “jarring” up your legs and back. The suggestion is that Running shoes, while trying to “fix” our stride – is actually causing us damage. (Podiatrists are NOT fans of this thought process). With my upcoming Physical Fitness test in a week and a day, now is not the time for me to be experimenting with new running styles, yet I do look forward to passing my PFT (and having my broken toe heal) so I can try out a pair of the Vibram Fivefingers and see how they work!