Apr 04

On believing what you’re told. And running. Barefoot.

Written by | 13 comments »

I’m reading that book that every runner should read. Or every one who has feet should read. Or even people without feet should read. Born to Run was recommended to me by a friend and I ordered it from The Book Depository. Free shipping worldwide? Was it too good to be true? Almost. I waited one month until finally a knock at the door one sunny morning in Obregon and voila! It appeared! My book!

So first of all you need to know a couple things about me: I have awful feet. Or so I have been told my entire life. I started playing basketball when I was 8. My brother and I were in a mixed under 10s league and our mum was the coach. It was awesome. We won the B division and I still remember the game as though it was the ultimate underdog story with someone in our team scoring the winning basket just seconds before the buzzer.

I continued to play basketball all throughout my middle and high school years. At one point when I was about 13 I was playing/practicing about 14 times a week for 3 different teams. My feet hurt. They hurt so badly that after practice I’d take off my shoes and cry. When I woke up in the mornings I wouldn’t be able to stand because of the pain so I would crawl down the stairs and complain during breakfast until my feet warmed up and felt a bit better. I have no idea why I didn’t tell my coach. I think I was scared of her, so I just kept going. One day after practice my Dad had had enough so he took me to the A&E. And so it began…

It turned out I had a double stress fracture in my foot. One near my big toe and one near the fourth toe. I was passed from podiatrist to podiatrist to orthopedic surgeon and back to podiatrist. I heard the word ‘pronated’ so many times it just became a normal part of my vocabulary. I wore moon boots, I had moulds made of my feet, I was trialled in many a running shoe. They begged me to get off my feet: just swim instead! they told me. But anyone who runs or plays a sport, knows what it’s like to be told to stop. I needed more opinions and every opinion said the same thing: get good orthodics, get better running shoes, and run less. I actually did eventually stop playing basketball. But I took up running (go figure) and have run many half marathons, 5 & 10kms and a few adventure races.

We were a bit geeky…:P

So I’ve been reading this book born to run and it is so captivating. Even more so when I discovered that a lot of the book takes place roughly eight hours away from where we’ve been living in Obregon. There’s so much to talk about – the whole book is just mind blowing – but what really grabbed my attention was the whole ‘barefoot running’ debate. Prior to reading this book I thought that anyone who ran barefoot was crazy, because every foot doctor I’ve ever seen has told me that we NEED SHOES. But really? When you really think about it, it sounds mental. I read somewhere that it’s like putting a cast around your neck and then taking it off and wondering why you have no strength. Apparently ALL running injuries are modern injuries, ie. have only existed since the invention of the running shoe!

From the author of Born to Run:
I began drilling into running-shoe research, and the further I went, the less I found. There’s nothing there. Nothing. No evidence whatsoever that running shoes do anything. Know why you’ve never seen an ad for a running shoe that actually tells you what the shoe will do? Because there is no evidence that running shoes do anything to prevent injuries. None. In fact, research currently in progress indicates that runners in shoes experience far more impact than runners in bare feet.

I feel a bit silly really. Why didn’t I question the whole running shoe thing earlier? Well duh, because the doctors told me it was the best thing for me. And as a 14 year old, you don’t really question the professionals. But the older I get, the more and more I realise the importance of questioning everything. The importance of keeping an open mind and reading lots and asking lots of questions and testing things out for myself as much as I can and never just accepting one answer from one person or even one answer from lots of people. Because theories are constantly being disproved, new solutions are always being discovered and curiosity is what drives us forward.

So I’m most definitely going to give this barefoot running thing a try. My feet can’t get much worse (way to jinx it though) and I’m so curious.

There’s plenty of places to read more if this kind of thing interests you. I did some googling so you don’t have to:

If you’re a barefoot runner or have tried it out, I’d love to hear your stories!

  • Anonymous

    are you going to get some of those “bare foot” running shoes now? the ones with toes? they are funny.

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      miss devertess, i most definitely hope so. they are hilarious and i used to always laugh to myself when i saw people wearing them. but now i shall be laughing at those people withOUT them. muahahahaha. but yeah, i’ll look ridiculous.

  • http://twitter.com/antheaw Anthea Whittle

    You were the first person I thought of when I was reading the book – the person I know who does love to run. And the Mexico thing was such a convenient tie-in!
    When I thought about it, the (very few) times I’ve enjoyed running were barefoot on grass. It’s amazing what a difference the foot situation makes. Glad you’re enjoying the book xx

  • Kara E Ingram

    I think in theory barefoot running makes sense. My only concern is running on pavement… so much impact. 

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      Yeah i was thinking about it today as I was out running…the pavement is such a modern day invention too right? So maybe it’s not so good for the ancient art of running 😛 I guess trails and grass are always best for the majority of training anyway – but that’s just not practical sometimes! I have no idea… :S

  • Jacinta Bird

    Oh, I was so pleased to see this post. I only started running at the end of last year and did the couch 2 5k program.  I then read this book at Christmas and loved it. I no longer feel that my flat feet / fallen arches are such a big deal anymore. I also find since adopting a barefoot style footstrike (although I am still fully shod) I no longer get achy feet when I run … which considering how overweight I still am is amazing. We’re currently living in PapuaNew Guinea, and everytime I watch local children run I am still astounded at how fun and effortless it is, and yep they are all running barefoot.  The local shoes here are jandals / flip flops. Nothing flash or fancy, and certainly no orthodics with gel inserts :)

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      That’s awesome! I’m so stoked you’ve read the book! I watched a video AGES ago about that running style (landing on the midfoot rather than the heel) and I loved the way it felt. It feels so much more graceful too huh. Like running on tip toe sorta. Next step…those funny five finger shoes 😛

  • http://foxglovephoto.wordpress.com/ Natalia

    Those toe shoes are hilarious. But Id be curious to know what it’s like to run in them? You’re so right about the need (and realization) that we need to question things, and not always settle for the status quo. 

    When Im next in the library, Im going to see if they have that book – you’ve sparked my curiosity.

    One last thing… can I expect to see that apple crumble recipe here or on the Cruz family kitchen anytime soon?? (not to sound demanding or anything) 😉

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      Hahaha, yes! I just need to make it in daylight hours so I can take a good enough picture of it… but it’s coming 😛

  • Nick Harris

    the book is an inspiration. yes, do try barefoot its awsome! but two comments if i may: (a) you’re using muscles that you haven’t used since you were, what, 6 – 7 years old? so, ease them into it. (b) theres more to it than just taking off your shoes. even without shoes you can have bad habits. think of it as learning a new technique. tonnes of info online, including plenty of bs. this is quite good: http://www.newbalance.com/performance/running/good-form-running/ 

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      awesome resource nick, thanks! yeah, I’ve watched some videos from my old running club about the mid-foot thing and am usually conscious of it when I run now. Definitely need lots of practice! And I’ll remember to ease into the barefoot thing – I can see it being a real downer the next day if I just bust out with a 10km run in bare feet tomorrow 😛 

      Thinking of you and your little family! x (wouldn’t mind a picture or two…) 

  • Mitchell Anita

    Pamela noooooo! Don’y buy the toe shoes!!!!!

    • http://www.mividacontigo.com/ Pamela Minett

      Haha Anita, I found this on a blog about them: “Yes, they look weird. My kids say they look like “gorilla feet.” I was initially embarrassed, but I got over it. When people make fun of me now, I tell them, “ridicule is the last stage you go through before you order a pair!” I have several friends now running in them who initially laughed.”