Born To Run
Spawned by the book Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall, the barefoot running movement has seen runners and biomechanists question the theory that cushioned shoes protect the body from impact forces. In Born To Run, the author attempts to find the reason for his recurring sporting injuries, and in doing so discovers that his running shoes have caused him to run with poor technique, and allowed his foot and other muscles to atrophy with disuse. His quest sees him consult orthopedic surgeons, biomechanists, anthropologists, and several eccentric characters who lead him to visit the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. His story climaxes in his running an ultra-marathon trail race in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico with the indigenous people, who run for fun, either barefoot or in home-made sandals.
Barefoot: What the..?
The theory behind barefoot running is that the human body is designed with millions of nerve endings on the feet. These nerves 'tell' the legs to react according to the surface that is run on. By bending the knees, flexing the ankles and other subtle adjustments to the stride, the body has its own built-in shock absorbers. When shoes are worn, especially cushioned 'high tech' runners, this body shock-absorbing mechanism is stifled. Studies have found that cushioned shoes actually increase ground reaction forces (as the body tries to 'feel' the ground by increasing foot impact). Coupled with heel-striking gait (caused by high-heeled cushioned running shoes and the belief that this is the correct way to run), it's no wonder that many runners become injured.
It's not recommended that you throw out the running shoes and suddenly run barefoot or in minimalist shoes. After years of disuse, your foot and lower leg muscles would be awakened and become very sore! When wearing minimalist shoes for the first time, it is recommended that you initially wear them around the house for a few weeks, then go for walks, then gradually increase running distance.
The same goes for totally barefoot running – walk first, then run. Purists, like Barefoot Ken Bob, who has clocked more than 50 years of barefoot running (and 77 barefoot marathons), say that barefoot is the only way to run 'properly'. He maintains that by running totally barefoot, your stride becomes efficient as you naturally run to avoid unnecessary sideways movement of the feet (which would cause blisters). Ken Bob says, "Let your soles be your guide" – when they become sore, it's time to rest. (A built-in safety mechanism). Another of his favourite sayings is "Relax, relax, relax!" Further information can be found at: therunningbarefoot.com
Barefoot runners, when asked why they do it, often reply: "because it feels good", or "because it makes me feel free". We have been given freedom from guilt by the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Son gives you freedom, you are free! (John 8:36)