Maybe I am late to the game in reading Born To Run,
by Christopher McDougall, but it has proven to be one of those books that changed the way I see the world. I’ll try not to bore you with a lame book review and instead will just focus on what I learned. Namely, that running can be (and should be) painless and fun.
For the past 14 years or so, I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis
(PF), which I can most accurately describe as the feeling of stepping on a sharp object just in front of the heal, normally on the first step or two out of bed. The pain lingers awhile then lessens to a dull ache throughout the day. I tried the sock
. I tried rolling the arch out on a wood dowel. I tried wearing an arch support while I ran. I spent gobs of money on the best arch support shoes there were, but all to no avail. The PF lingered on. Then along came this book.
Have you ever tried to run barefoot? I did. It hurt. I thought, “Well, no wonder why we all wear shoes.” However, what Mr. McDougall presents in his book is that modern running shoes are the actual problem. With all the amazing cushioning and arch support features of modern running shoes, most of us have been retrained to strike the ground with our heel first, roll forward to push off with our toes, and lengthen our strides. Take those running shoes off and it’s a whole different story.
After reading this book, I decided to give barefoot running another try. I stayed committed to the new technique for a few minutes, even though it hurt, and began to noticed a distinct change in my stride and how my foot hit the ground. I almost instinctively shortened my stride and ran on the balls of my foot because it hurt less
then striking the ground with my heel first. This resulted in a much more pleasant running feeling. I tried this technique again the next day, but felt an extreme tightness in my calves and Achilles’ tendons and found getting to just two miles exhausting. After a bit more research, I realized that this technique uses many different muscles that for me were weak and I couldn't just immediately switch it up overnight. So I backed off and did a lot of run/walking for a few weeks and more trail-running so as to not induce stress fractures. I soon became comfortable with this new running style.
What does this have to do with my PF? Thank you for asking. By the second week, it was gone. GONE, I TELL YOU! One day I kicked my legs out of bed, readying myself, as I always had, to endure the sharp stabbing pain in my foot and… wait… nothing. I almost skipped to the bathroom I was so amazed. I’m not suggesting that everyone ditch their running shoes and go out and run 10 miles. I write this in order to share my experience with a new take on running “properly.” Personally, I have not gone completely barefoot, I found a “minimalist” running shoe for $30 (that pretty much look like the spikes I used to wear in high school track without the spikes), but, more importantly, I am focusing on correct posture and foot strikes.
As a note, Born to Run
is not all about barefoot running. In fact, only one chapter is dedicated to the topic. Mr. McDougall’s story is more of an anthropological account of how running makes us human complete with adventure and goofy characters. Personally, running has become much more enjoyable. I look forward to my runs with a renewed sense of focus and intent. I give this book two toes up.
Learn to Run Barefoot with Lee Saxby and Terra Plana