While we are marking time, awaiting the passing of the Dog Days of summer heat and the beginning of our fall camping season, we continue to step out with our dogs on a healthy exercise program of brisk walks and trots around our local tree-lined lake. I do this wearing minimalist footwear. Summer is a great time to go about barefoot or almost barefoot.
As mentioned in my article, “Footnotes“, I enjoy going barefoot in our Airstream Safari travel trailer and about the house, and increasingly, out in the backyard, so last February I started wearing minimalist footwear, Vibram FiveFingers, on our walks around parks and campgrounds.
On the advice of a commenter to my “Footnotes” posting, I read with fascination the national best seller, Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2009). I continue to be amazed at the growing interest in walking and running barefoot that was sparked by this book, such as this local San Diego article, “No socks, no shoes, no problem?“. This article includes barefoot hiker and runner Glen Raines’ story and photo (read his article “Going Barefoot“). See and listen to author Christopher McDougall and The New York Times’ The Roving Runner (and blogger) Brian Fidelman as they run barefoot in Central Park in this New York Times‘ video, “Health: Barefoot Running“.
For Christopher McDougall (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), “It all began with a simple question that no one could answer… ‘How come my foot hurts?’“ His book Born to Run takes us on a journey to the Barrancas del Cobre, the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, home of the Tarahumara Indians, the Ráramuri – the Running People, the world’s greatest distance runners with uncanny health and serenity, who have few injuries wearing flat sandals cut from rubber tires compared to the sky-rocketing injuries of those who wear modern athletic shoes (invented in 1972). There he learned their secrets and, with the help of Caballo Blanco (a.k.a. Micah True – see and hear him in the YouTube video, “Super Athletes Of The Sierra Madre“), Christopher participated in the first 47-mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon set up by Caballo Blanco.
For Ted McDonald (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), the problem was “Every time I ran for an hour, I had excruciating lower-back pain… It was so discouraging.” His eureka moment occurred while reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s The Running Barefoot website. He found by running barefoot, his form improved and he was able to run marathons. He became one of the most famous barefoot runners in the world and is now known as Barefoot Ted. He admits that there are some places that require some foot protection, so he brought along Vibram FiveFingers to run the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. While there, Manuel Luna taught him how to make Tarahumara sandals. Barefoot Ted now has a company in Seattle that makes Luna Sandals inspired by the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon.
I now have my own Luna Sandals from the first batch shipped in early July. I tied mine using the Slip-On Tying Method #1. I did not shorten the leather lace so that I have the option of tying my huarache running sandals in the Traditional Method.
This week I walked and trotted 4.8 miles in these sandals, which kept my feet cool and comfortable. Going mostly barefoot since last February, I feel my feet are becoming stronger and healthier, and seem to know just what to do when coming in contact with anything; everything just seems to fall into place naturally and comfortably.
Christopher McDougall tells in Born To Run how the human body evolved as an efficient and exquisite running machine and how modern shoes encase and weaken our feet. Modern running shoes with cushioned heels entice runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, resulting in more injuries. He incorporates the foot strike and treadmill studies of Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman (The Barefoot Professor), who published a new study on toes, which gives credence to the endurance running hypothesis (the Running Man theory) that humans evolved as long-distance runners, enabling them to be successful in persistence hunting and their own survival.
The bottom line for me is that going barefoot can be joyful and fun and healthy (especially since I do not have a medical condition or sensory impairment, such as diabetic neuropathy, which could preclude it).