I recently got into this whole barefoot running thing. The theory is, our caveman ancestors did a perfectly good job getting around without arch support, so why can’t we?
So far it’s pretty good. I’m running a couple of 10-minute miles during my lunch break most days, which is fun and relaxing. There’s a great little park behind my office with a couple of miles of trails and a couple of hills, so it’s definitely a fun time.
And the muscles in my feet are sore in places I didn’t know I had muscles. Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t know I had muscles in my feet at all.
Part of the conceit of barefoot running is that the muscles in our feet get out of tone because they aren’t involved in stabilizing our gait, thanks to fancy supportive shoes, leaving us open to foot injury. Makes sense since this story would be true if you told it about any other muscle group. The other part of the theory is that all these supports hide the physical cues our body would give us when we’re pushing it close to injury, meaning that injury suddenly comes on us, rather than small twinges inspiring us towards moderation a self-protection. This also makes sense.
If you buy the barefoot thing, then it’s also says that the cycle of a runner’s health, with more conventional footwear, is greater and greater investment in supportive shoes and orthotics and things like that, paired with more and more serious injury. Certainly this theory matches my past experience with running: great pain from plantar fasciitis and shin splints, followed by great investment in orthotics, followed by a small improvement, followed by even more pain.
But with my new barefoot shoes – Vibram Five Fingers that could hardly be more comfortable – I don’t have that pain. I’m running pain-free for the first time in 12 years. And I love it.
So that’s me and my wacky toe shoes. I love them. And now I’m even thinking of switching the rest of my shoes to minimal styles. We will see!