“I can’t prove this, but I believe when my runners train barefoot, they run faster and suffer fewer injuries.” – Vin Lananna, Director of Track and Field for the University of Oregon and seven-time NCAA coach of the Year
“Shoes do no more for the foot than a hat does for the brain.” – Dr. Mercer Rang, the legandary orthopedic surgeon and researcher in pediatric development
Last summer, I read the book called, “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall, and it’s safe to say that his book game me a completely different outlook on running. Here’s why:
I became so intrigued by the lifestyle of the Tarahumara that I started to hardcore research them. Nobody knows who they are unless they’ve read McDougall’s best-selling book.
A quick background: The Tarahumara is a Native American tribe located in northwestern Mexico and are known for their incredible long-distance ability (When I say long-distance, I mean they run reeeaaalllly long distances, averaging about 100-200 miles over the course of one or two days).
Rarámuri means “runners on foot” or “those who run fast.” They run through tough country canyon to communicate with members within the village. That being said, how come they don’t get injured? How can they run so fast and so far?
In Born to Run, McGougall argues in favor of endurance running and barefoot running based off his experience with the Tarahumara. For years, I’ve thought that the secret to injury-free running is based off of wearing the proper shoe. It’s not, nor is it from stretching or running high mileage.
It’s pure skill. It’s primarily about technique and strategy.
Why haven’t I heard this before? Throughout my running career, I’ve been told to believe it’s all about the shoe you wear. Every running magazine will tell you that–it’ll preach endlessly and stress the importance of wearing the proper footwear.
So how do the Tarahumara do it?! They run ultra-marathons on rocky trail paths, wearing nothing but handmade sandals (I’m sure you can imagine what that may look like). The famous Caballo Blanco, a.k.a. the White Horse, is the central character in Born to Run, and started the Copper Canyon ultra-marathon. So how did their legs hold up from running barefoot?
Well, statistics show that running barefoot can strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot–more so than a shoe can, regardless of inserts or orthotics. It also improves balance while promoting a healthy and natural running style.
Landing on the heel can cause breaking in every stride. By removing the heel lift in almost all shoes, runners will learn to land on the forefoot rather than the heel.
Give barefoot running a try, and you may be surprised with the results.
(Information found on chrismcdougall.com)