wasn't easy. It still hurt to walk, but I
oddly observed that the boots I was using to
traipse my way down the snowy sidewalks to
work were killing me, while the old battered
brown shoes I put on when I arrived didn't
cause me nearly so much trouble.
I knew that I was in no condition to be
running, but as the winter wore on and I
continued to heal, I found myself standing
on the indoor track of my local YMCA one
morning, a pair of glove-like
contraptions on my feet.
I'd stumbled onto a post about Vibram's Five
Fingers on a forum somewhere, and quickly
ordered a pair of the quirky-looking things.
I knew that my skin was not the
thickly-calloused stuff of an advanced
barefoot runner, but that I might get a feel
for things with a bit of protection between
me and the floor. Besides, they're strictly
anti barefoot at the Y, so I needed
It was the first time I'd ever attempted to
run without supposedly-stabilizing
anti-pronation shoes, and I experimentally
toed the ground and rolled my feet around on
the track to see how it felt.
I'd spent the previous few days watching all
the videos I could find of western barefoot
runners and tribespeople who run with little
or nothing on their feet. There were a few
key differences I observed between their
running and my own.
The main point I took from the videos was
that none of the barefoot runners landed on
their heels, because, as I found out through
experimentation, it hurts way too much.
Runners proudly boast of increasing the
length of their stride, which usually means
reaching the leg far out in front of them
and landing on their heel.
Kick off your shoes and try doing this
barefoot and you'll findit's next to
impossible to maintain for more than a few
steps on a hard surface. There's no way that
a heel strike could have been the natural
inclination of our running ancestors.
Instead of landing on the heel, the runners
I was observing in the videos landed flat
footed or on the forefoot.
Another thing that I noticed was that their
strides were short but very rapid, and their
heels kicked up into the air behind them.
They could still run fast this way, but with
considerably less jaring.
I saw most barefoot runners have excellent
posture. Running on the street, I often see
joggers bent at the waist. Barefoot runners
pretty much keep their torsos and heads in a
straight line. Some do bend, but they do so
at the ankles, a la ski jumpers.
Later on I noticed most of the children
sprinting around the playground in a
park I run through display the same style,
though they apparently seem to lose their
inclination for it at some point.
And so at the Y I started teaching myself to
run in place while mimicing that style.
Eventually, when my right foot allowed it, I
started doing a few laps.
My conclusion? It felt good. In fact,
running had never felt better. Slowly, I
started to imagine that I might have been
wrong. Maybe, despite my flat feet and
pronation, I really might have been born to
Born To Run:
Could We Be Endurance Hunters?
So why were we born to run? What possible
practical purpose could long-distance
running be put to? It's a question that no
one has a solid answer to, but we're
starting to make progress.
A number of scientists, taking note of our
unusual running ability, theorize that the
it evolved so we could exploit an empty
hunting niche. They note that extant
aboriginal peoples will occasionally
literally run prey to death over many miles
because their cooling abilities can't keep
up with ours.
Yet even among Aboriginals, this is a source
of a relatively small portion of their
I'd argue that given how the rest of the
human body is laid out, we adapted the
ability to travel over the emerging African
savanna to the fruit trees we rely on.
This is too complex of a topic to adequately
tackle here, so if you'd like more
information about this, check out this article
on human evolution
If We Were Born To Run, Why Are We
Constantly Injured Doing It?
Why we were born
to run may be up for interpretation to run,
but it's clear that in recent decades, we've
fallen far from our potential.
Messed up hamstrings, knee pain, plantar
fasciitis, tendinitis - runners are a mess.
The culprit are the clunky running shoes and
other corrective devices that steal our
strength, allow us to adopt unnatural
To read about recent surge of research that
is showing running shoes to be injury
causers, and learn more about what you can
do to stop the idiocy, read
Born To Run:
Back At It
As the last of winter snow began melting, I
found myself padding down my city's streets
in five fingers. At first it was tough to
run just two miles, but I took things really
The calf muscles, ankles, and stabilizers
I'd never fully used in in running shoes
were sore after just a short run, but I just
gave myself more time to adjust because I
realized I was really onto something. Though
my right foot occasionally voiced some
complaint, I found that as long as I stayed
out of heeled shoes I could run without
I read somewhere that most running shoes are
similar to the casts we put our broken limbs
in. Sure, they'll lock it in place and keep
it stable, but so too will it mean the
atrophy of all the muscles in the area. When
you free your feet again, you'd better be
ready for some major muscle building.
In May I decided to enter the Bishop's 5k
For Kids, which was the second race I'd ever
competed in. I had no intention of trying
very hard, but I found myself easily
outpacing most of the runners, and even took
first in my 19-29 age group.
I shouldn't have, but some runners in front
of me accidentally left the boundaries of
the race and were disqualified. But still, I
did better than I ever expected to do
barefoot, and proved the viability of the
Since then I've been running completely
barefoot on grass, trails, and pavement in
an attempt to build up the tolerance of my
I ran the 2009 Hartford Marathon in Five
Fingers, and was amazed at how well it went.
I plan to continue to increase my barefoot
and minimalist speed and endurance.
The best part is that I feel I'm only just
approaching my potential, and that I could
conceivably build up to ultramarathon
distances over the course of a few years if
I feel the urge.
Born To Run:
Hear Us Roar
You were born to run, and you have no more
need of being injured than you do of being
If you're feeling lethargic and find it hard
to breath when you're running, it's likely
that you're out of shape, but you could also
be suffering from poor health in general.
Chronic fatigue is a growing problem in our
over stimulated world, and the only answer
is healthy living.
Just breathing is another problem. I could
never breathe through my nose when running
until I'd stopped eating meat, dairy, eggs
and grains. Similar changes will set you on
the right path.
Barefoot or minimalist running is not magic,
but merely common sense.
When you remove the shoes that allow you to
adopt a running style in which you can
injure yourself, you have little choice but
to run in a more natural manner, even if
you're not perfect.
Transitioning to barefoot running is an
article in its own right, but it's safe to
say you should go slow. Though I had been
running 6 years when I went barefoot, and I
was also a yoga devotee with legs in good
shape, I still had major soreness, and I've
spoken to others that had a much harder
transition than myself. Go too quick and you
risk serious injury, so just take things
I think you'll find, after padding around a
bit with so little between the earth and
your feet, that you absolutely love it, and
you'll have to admit that you are indeed
born to run.
And besides, it's not just a joy, but a joy
that's good for you. You were born to run,
so get at it.