We've heard whispers on the wind of late. Whispers and shadows behind closed doors that talk of deceit and treachery. An 20 billion dollar industry, and at its foundation, a lie.
Published a few months ago, Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run, tells us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. He claims that with 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in our highly evolved feet and ankles, the human body is born to run. With injury on the increase amongst runners, currently 60-80% each year, running shoes are advancing every year in their technologies: thrust enhancers, roll bars, microchips. You would think with these advances injuries would be almost obsolete, but compare the half-million years we've been on the planet, and the 40 or so years that the modern running shoe has been in existence. Perhaps easy to see why we might be more adapted to running barefoot. The Tarahumara tribe in Mexico are possibly the best long-distance runners in the world. Known to cover some 300 miles non-stop, these secretive people live in basic conditions, often in caves with no running water, and wear little more on their feet than a piece of old car tire, or a leather thong. In fact studies have shown that the cheaper your running shoe, the less likely you are to suffer injury.
Running barefoot though, is not advisable. Apart from the possibility of landing on something sharp, unless you grew up on a farm in Africa, chances are you've been wearing sneakers most of your life and have somewhat adapted to the cushioning.
Enter the Five Finger Vibrams. Yes, they're rather bizarre to behold. While they clearly more closely resemble the human foot than the modern sneaker, all those toes look odd. However, while regular sneakers cushion your feet, these shoes stimulate the muscles in your lower legs and feet through a heightened sense of touch and feel, making you stronger and improving balance, agility, and proprioception.
Available $80, vibramfivefingers.com