So, I’ve written before about my trials and tribulations with heel pain and such. I’ve written about the question of shoes, no shoes–Chi Running and the fantastic you’ve-got-to-read-this book Born to Run. I tried barefoot running and was amazed to feel the difference, it really grabbed my attention–but basically barefoot running is out of the question where I live. It just didn’t seem a reasonable idea.
I have been struggling with heel lifts prescribed by a podiatrist, stretches, running shorter, running on soft ground…all kinds of things, with pretty underwhelming results. I was And then a friend dropped by a month ago or so wearing what looked like old fashion tennis shoes. Low heel, minimal support or construction–very simple. I asked him about it and he said he loved them–wore them for traveling because they’re light and could run in them as well.
The simplicity of this shoe got me to thinking. And thinking about the premise of Born to Run–that our over-architected shoes are damaging our feet and making running a lot harder than it really is. So, I researched the retro shoes that are coming back on the market and gave one pair a shot. I ordered Asics Tigers and when I got them, I was dubious.
There was practically nothing to them–they were flimsy, lightweight, they almost felt too cheap–how could I run in these? So I didn’t. I just lived in them for a few days, and I have to say: my feet were happier than they’ve been in a long time. So it was time to take them on the road…
I did short runs at first, and found that even though I felt a little vulnerable in them, I enjoyed my runs more. I stayed with short runs for a couple of weeks–low hills, mostly flat, easy stuff. And then last week, for some reason, I decided it was time to test these puppies out–I was feeling good in them. My feet felt strong, balance was good, I felt light on my feet. So I did one of my more ambitious routes, one I rarely do anymore but I like. I ran for 45 minutes, doing hills and trails, and felt like I could have gone further. A few days later, I ran for an hour and the next day, my feet, though tired, did not feel damaged. In fact, considering the work out, I think they felt pretty good.
In the meantime, I heard McDougall on NPR talking about Born to Run. At one point the interviewer asks: so really, what’s the secret. Are shoes (or no shoes) that important? Yes, he says, it’s not magic. We really were born to run. Our feet are amazing. Our feet adjust to our needs, our over-architechted shoes are doing serious damage. (check out his blog here)
I’ve never run an hour like this; I actually felt like I could have put in another chunk of time. But the more I thought about it, the more it sort of made sense: I grew up wearing flip-flops. I never wore these over-architected tennis shoes until I was in my 50’s. I don’t have structural problems, my stride and strike are both neutral. I have duck feet–meaning thin heel, big toe box–that do better when I’m striking on the ball rather than the heel…so, if the shoe is made to strike the heel, it’s going to hurt, right? Right.
Well, the experiment continues…All I can say is that I’m amazed. Running has taken on a whole new dimension for me. Oh, and I forgot to mention–I wore my regular Adidas shoes the other day and could barely finish 20 minutes. I had shooting pains in my heels and felt like I was running with big boxes on my feet–it was insane. So, I’ll post again in a month and update with news. Later gators.