The breeze is cool on your face, the ground firm upon your stride. Your breath is frequent but even, your body setting into a pace.
Running; something so natural and primitive that we are able to do it without giving it a second thought, placing one foot in front of the other, increasing your speed as you wish. But what if modern technology in the form of customised footwear was altering the way we ran and changing our natural stride? What if the ‘protective’ shoes we thought were wearing were actually preventing our body from landing naturally, the way it’s been doing since caveman times?
Tarahumara Indians, of Mexico’s lethal Copper Canyons, may have the answers. They are born Olympians ranking in top world-wide positions, yet their variation in running contrasts shockingly to that of western society. With a third world society beating countries that have access to almost any athletic training equipment, there must be something different being done in the way they run. And there is. Technique.
But how can such a remote culture, with little education let alone access to knowledge about running techniques, come across such elite skills? For starters, running in this particular tribe isn’t simply a hobby, but a necessity to survive. Without the ability to withstand running for hours on end the tribe would simply starve to death. However how they do it for so long, is where the story really lies. The answer? Barefoot.
The book ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall depicts this technique, with examples from the Tarahumara Indians. McDougall uses cutting edge science to explain why running without shoes is in fact beneficial to the human anatomy.
“We were born to run without shoes; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” He writes. “One explorer swore he saw a Tarahumara catch a deer with his bare hands, chasing the bounding animal until it finally dropped dead from exhaustion.”
Research proves that once taught, barefoot running puts less pressure on joints in the knees and lower back, and transfers it to muscles in your claves and thighs.
Twenty first century running shoes have also been developed with an elevated heel, to supposedly cushion the heel upon impact and lengthen the stride. Yet, as research accumulates, findings maintain to show that excessive heel elevation is injurious. Webber Choi, a Foot Othotist wrote on the Healthy Times that, “Research has found that the heel cushion of a shoe cannot absorb accumulated shock for long time in a heel strike. Therefore, the knee joint and other joints are at higher risk of sport injury in shod running.” Although running footwear may be desgined to protect our joints, wearing them proves to be detrimental to our bodies natural foot landing as they alter natural joint movement and prevent to body from landing as it was designed to, on our fore-foot.
I know what you’re thinking, without a tetanus shot; running around in civilized and populous cities is simply dangerous and impractical. However, there have been recent developments to assist with outdoor natural foot falling running, whilst still protecting your soles.
Shoes from Merrell’s Barefoot Collection are just one example of the new boom in light weight running footwear. The design is structured to allow a runners foot to point and flex as it might when completely barefoot. In turn, this prevents severe pressure from heel first landing on the knee and ankle joints.
As Christopher McDougall has said, “We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” So ditch your cushioned, elevated and twisted trainers for you own super ergonomic, perfectly proportioned, custom designed feet. Run fast, run safe, run smart.