Vibram Five Fingers and a new way of running

September 5, 2009

Health

I recently finished reading an amazing book by Christopher McDougall entitled Born to Run.  It is the story of a writer who enjoyed running, but seemed to get injured all the time.  Doctors basically told him that he wasn’t meant to run and should either stop or do more low impact activities such as biking.

Just when all hope was lost, he found out about a lost Indian tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who  reside in Mexico’s Copper Canyons (think Grand Canyon, only more dangerous).  These reclusive Indians are natural ultra marathoners, participating in hundred mile races throughout this rocky terrain.  The main part of the book details Chris’ hunt for a Westerner, Caballo Blanco, who went out to live with the Tarahumara.  Together, they set up a race in the Copper Canyons pitting the Tarahumara against some of the best ultra marathoners in the US.

The book, with plenty of research and history to back it up, brings to light many ideas that fly in the face of conventional wisdom and just may change the way you look at running.  To talk about all the topics discussed in this book would be the subject of multiple posts.  I will cover one of the main premises discussed.

The book makes a big argument for transitioning to a more natural way of running.  To me, this makes sense.  Hominids existed for millions of years with modern man coming into the picture roughly 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.  Nowhere in that history would I expect to find the heavily padded sneakers that we wear today.  The reason for this is simple.  The foot is nature’s natural shock absorber.  To put a huge layer of padding in between our foot and the ground is to assume that the foot, in all its natural glory, is inherently flawed.  One of the big questions asked was, “Why is it that, with all our advanced sneakers and foot technology, our runners still get plagued with injury while the Tarahumara, who run hundreds of miles in nothing but sandals, stay injury free?”  The answer was clear.  It was the sneakers themselves.  Our sneakers, with all of its padding, contributes to incorrect running styles (heel strike vs running on the balls of your feet) and does not allow the foot to do what it was meant to do.

With that, I introduce the Vibram Five Fingers.  These funky looking shoes have no padding except for a thin rubbery sole that is meant to protect you from rocks, broken glass, etc.  I’ve tossed my sneakers and have embraced barefoot running.  While it will take time for my feet to get accostomed to this new style (you have to ease in to these puppies), I truly believe it will be more beneficial overall.  Your feet will continue to get stronger and you will experience more of a connection to your environment.

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