Born To Run

This review is about shoes.

I just finished the book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

One major takeaway from this book is the idea that modern athletic shoes actually hurt our feet by bypassing the natural action of the foot. The book presents the foot as an incredibly engineered, infinitely adaptable little piece of the body. That’s not hard for me to believe. The idea is that modern athletic shoes coddle your feet so much that the feet get weak, resulting in a far greater incidence of running injuries (and back problems, I suspect) than people had before Nike and others popularized “jogging” and the modern running shoe. The shoes also encourage a method of running that causes damage. And, after having problems *caused* by their shoes, changing shoes or adding orthotics, etc., to solve the problem isn’t addressing the root cause of the problem: the over-engineered shoes themselves. The book makes the statement that running shoes don’t reduce injury, they reduce pain. So if they’re accelerating injury but hiding the pain, that’s bad. Is this true? Well, the book convinced me.

Naturally, if you’ve got repaired bone or ligaments in your body, this is something to take very carefully — and gradually. Talk to a doctor. Or talk to a few until you find someone that you think is really taking a fresh look at things, rather than someone just repeating the conventional wisdom he was introduced to in medical school.

The author of the book comes across as a little over-eager to me, but not to the point where I distrust his message and conclusions. It’s a mass-market book and I expect he’s trying to keep the pacing of the book fast to keep it interesting. The author offsets this by liberally mentioning names of researchers and one or more studies throughout the book, adding substantial credibility in my view. But I already bought the premise and am inclined to trust the body to do things the right way, if left alone — so I was an easy target.

I bought some minimalist shoes for everyday wear, Moc3 RunAmocs by SoftStarShoes. I’ve been wearing them only a day now so it’s too early for a report, other than to say that they’re comfy so far. And the folks at Soft Star Shoes were very friendly and helpful.

I know in my case, on the occasion that I’m around the house all weekend watching my young children (thus little or no shoe wearing), my knees feel great on Monday. Barefoot agrees with me.

Many shoes make my knees hurt so I’ve long been on the lookout for a magic orthotic insert and I’ve tried two or three without much improvement. I’m now headed in the opposite direction: Getting as close to factory defaults (barefoot) as possible. We’ll see how that goes. The idea of strengthening my feet by simply letting them do their job without artificial cushioning resonates as a pretty basic idea that aligns with my opinion that the body has an uncanny ability to self-correct and heal all kinds of problems, given the opportunity.

It was also an enjoyable book. Recommended. I bought the paperback on Amazon and got the audio CD version from the public library.