The Shocking Truth About Running

The best runner leaves no tracks. – Tao Te Ching

“A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries.” – Dr. Daniel Lieberman, Harvard University

One of the most shocking books I’ve read that really opened my eyes towards running and shoes is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. What an amazing read that is insightful and provocative! I used to not enjoy running and it wasn’t because I would get injured or feel pain in my legs, feet, back, or shins (although that is why most people hate running). It was more because I did not properly understand the mechanics of running and how it is really one of the best exercises you can do for your body. And not just that, but running is also a great tool to relieve stress, be one with your body and mind, and to just clear away all the negativity and noise you may hear inside your head. When you run, you feel free. Nothing matters anymore.

Running is something I enjoy now, especially running outside. I’ve always felt I was a hamster when I run on the treadmill. It just wasn’t fun. I wasn’t going anymore, literally and metaphorically.

What I’ve discovered in the book Born to Run is shocking and painful, yet comes as a breath of fresh air. Read the following excerpts and adaptations with an open mind; be prepared to view running in an entirely different mindset.

3 Painful Truths About Running and Shoes:

1) The Best Shoes Are the Worst

Runners wearing top-of-the-line shoes are 123% more likely to get injured than runners in cheap shoes, according to a study led by Bernard Marti, M.D., a preventative-medicine specialist at Switzerland’s University of Bern.

Shoes, such as the Vibram FiveFingers, mimic barefoot running, which promotes balance, agility, proprioception, and allows your feet to actually sense the environment in which you trek. Expensive, custom-fitted running shoes are ironically causing more injuries rather than preventing them. What a twist of fate. You spend more money thinking you will receive a quality pair of running shoes just to incur more injuries because of it.

2) Feet Like a Good Beating

All the cushioning in shoes does nothing to reduce impact. The impact on your legs from running can be up to 12 times your body weight. The more cushioned the shoe, the less protection it provides. When you run in cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.

Twelve times your body weight?! For me, that’s 1,404 lbs. of force exerted each time I put one leg in front of the other. And that’s considered light. Imagine the force many others exert, whom are heavier, taller, more muscular than I. It is no wonder injuries are so common. Especially when we run in cushioned shoes that provide virtually no support.

3) Even Alan Webb, America’s Greatest Miler, Says “Human Beings Are Designed to Run Without Shoes”

“Putting your feet in shoes is similar to putting them in a plaster cast. If I put your leg in plaster, we’ll find 40 to 60 percent atrophy of the musculature within six weeks. Something similar happens to your feet when they’re encased in shoes,” says Dr. Gerard Hartmann, the Irish physical therapist who serves as the Great and Powerful Oz for the world’s finest distance runners.

Pronation: a mild, shock-absorbing twist that allows your arch to compress.

Your foot is supposed to pronate; it’s just the natural movement of the foot.

When shoes are doing the work, tendons stiffen and muscles shrivel. “The barefoot walker receives a continuous stream of information about the ground and about his own relationship to it while a shod foot sleeps inside an unchanging environment,” says Dr. Paul W. Brand, chief of rehab at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, and professor of surgery at Louisiana State University Medical School.

I never liked shoes and socks ever since I was young. Everywhere I went, I would try to go barefoot. It is no wonder I gravitated towards the martial arts, where training is always conducted barefoot. It makes so much sense now. Humans are naturally more comfortable, stronger, and healthier when they are one with their body and environment. And that includes being barefoot.

For more, read:

The Barefoot Philosophy post by Leo Babauta

Barefoot Ted’s Adventures featuring Barefoot Ted in Born to Run

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

View Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    Simple living lifestyle is much better than a luxury and indulgence lifestyle.
    Being barefoot; Eating healthy; Walking in the nature; driving a reliable car… compare these with: Dressing in expensive shinny shoes; Going on a cruise and eating non-stop; Sitting in front of a TV; driving a luxury car…

    These are just a few examples.

    A simple living lifestyle can ease up our stress – no need to try to impress people. Just simply be – ourselves.

  2. Well put! Simply be ourselves. Couldn’t have said it any better or simpler. :D

  3. [...] jogging to warm up your leg muscles. Find 50 meters of grass, a good pair of running shoes — barefoot is best! — and just run. Run until you can feel yourself slowing down, stop, wait about a minute, and [...]

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