While reading “Born to run …” I am mindful that the author, McDougall, is also a leading proponent of barefoot running, which the Tarahumara do quite successfully. When I started running again with my Couch-to-5k program everyone chimed in with “be sure you get a good (read: expensive) running shoe.” As I am prone to do I then researched shoes a lot, talking to several runners whom I respected, and found a shoe that did just what I thought I required: good cushioning. The following statement in “Born to run …” places that notion in grave doubt:
Before the invention of a cushioned shoe, runners through the ages had identical form: Jesse Owens, Roger Bannister, Frank Shorter, and even Emil Zatopek all ran with backs straight, knees bent, feet scratching back under their hips. They had no choice: the only shock absorption came from the compression of their legs and their thick pad of midfoot fat. Fred Wilt verified as much in 1959 in his classic track text, How They Train, which detailed the techniques of more than eighty of the world’s top runners. “The forward foot moves toward the track in a downward, backward, ‘stroking’ motion (not punching or pounding) and the outer edge of the ball of the foot makes first contact with the track,” Wilt writes. “Running progression results from these forces pushing behind the center of gravity of the body. …
From Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Knopf, 2009. ISBN 0307266303). In chapter 25 of the book McDougall makes a strong case for getting out of cushiony, structured shoes. The quoted material above has names of famous runners who’ve been familiar to me all my life. The barefoot idea seems so simple, and now so obvious.
I think I see a pair of FiveFingers KSO Trek “non-shoes” in my future.