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Barefoot and Fad free

01/10/2010

Much Like Tom Cruise, I have done the research, although I am less glib.

I have been playing with the barefoot ways for about three years now. I have not gotten into the running side yet. I hope to change that this new year.

Where can we begin on this subject? Should we start in the beginning? I am no anthropologist, researcher or PhD. I know very little about the mechanics or philosophy. What I do know is; it works for me and thousands of others. Oh, it’s been around since…well, since man has stood and took his/her first steps.

Just as there is a stark difference in our diets, there is a difference in our footwear as well.

Now obviously these are very old pictures. Can we visit a tribe in Africa, South America and see the same thing today?

There are hundreds of foot strike analysis studies. There are probably thousands of books written on the subject.

Popsci.com article on the subject

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-01/barefoot-running-study-finds-your-sneakers-are-unnatural

Wikipedia article on the subject.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_running

Video study on barefoot running

MOVNAT barefoot running

You can type barefoot running into your favorite search engine and get dozens of page hits.

Is barefoot running the flavor of the week?

Is barefoot running the fad of the week?

I truly think people are starting to understand the benefit of going primal. Which tells me it may be a little of both, a fad and a flavor. In my own understanding, a flavor would be an Atkins diet, Susan Summers, Sally Struthers, Tickle me Elmo, etc… Something that comes into favor and leaves just as fast. Where as a fad, in my understanding is something that comes back into favor, or is reintroduced. Many fads come back into favor and like the flavor, go right back out. Mullets, bean bag chairs, pink flamingos, etc… The Paleo diet, barefoot running, I would consider all of these things a fad coming back into the light. What we don’t want these to become is a flavor and go right back out of favor. Now unlike pink flamingoes, this isn’t something liked by a few and despised by the most, or left in your hated neighbor’s lawn as a summertime joke. These are tried and true practices that have been used for over a million year. We can almost see mini fads within this as well. We happen to be in one now.

Pictured at left is a pair of 7,500 year old sandals. At right is a pair 2010 Sketchers Step ups. Can you guess which is “proven” better for your posture, feet and well being? Shoes have become a billion dollar industry that exploded in the 70’s and 80’s. Those that are old enough to remember the days before the tennis shoe sneaker conglomerate can remember the shoes of old. Flat soles, no support and certainly no powersole air induction powerglide feature! We were not walking on pillows or air. I for one am, like millions of others around the world, to blame. I spent my entire life thinking like others that the thicker the better, the more coils under my heel the better. Cushion, cushion, cushion. Baby our feet. Without sounding cold and like an idiot. Here is an analogy. What happens to a paraplegic legs, they are unused and lie there dormant. They shrivel up, they wither away. Muscle mass is nonexistent. Let’s make a little better analogy maybe, I think that may have been too cruel! An astronaut can only spend a set amount of time in 0G of space. Without gravity our bones would turn to rubber. Ah, that sounds better. So, same logic put towards our toes and feet. We don’t use it; it withers and turns to rubber? In some ways yes. These feet we use, they are not blocks on the end of our muscular legs. These are our stabilizers for walking upright. These are our sensors, sensing our way in life. Why else are there so many small muscles and tendons in our feet, why so many nerve endings. We don’t need unnatural arch support, we already have it. We need to retrain our muscles to support our mass. These thick soles and high heels are ruining our sense of the world. Sensory deprivation is a horrible thing. Analogy time, imagine not being able to taste your food? That is what we are doing to our feet. We are not allowing them to touch our world, our lives. Buddha has officially kicked me out, too much philosophical mumbo jumbo.

So, what do we do? This year I was determined to try more than just walking, training and living barefoot. I wanted to try barefoot running. Well, here we are in October and I am no closer to this feet. I will say I spend a considerable amount of time IN barefoot, just not running. Course I spend very little time running as it is.

It’s not like I dread the thought of running over glass, nails or splinters. I don’t think about that at all. Although it seems to be the going complaint with barefoot running. I will say in my considerable time hiking, I have very few times come across the shard of glass or nail. Now, knowing my luck I would find that errant shard! But, I really find this complaint to be fairly moot. Training your feet and soles properly, they can and will stand any test. I suppose if I was dead set against having my pasty whites touching nature, I could shod them in the most minimalistic of wears.

Huaraches – are Mexican Sandals. Many use these as minimalistic footwear. Personally, I like this approach as it is easy on, easy off. As can be noted in the next section, there are no nooks and crannies to store mud, dirt and leaves. Even better, if you get a flat (break a tie), you simply retie it. Very retro and you cannot debate the caveman styling.

Vibram Five Fingers – There are many different models, some with straps to keep them on your feet. The models above are the classic. Much like slippers they slip right on and right off. Like I said above, there is a problem with debris getting into the show in my opinion. I would still recommend them to anyone, even though I never wore them. In my frugality though, these are priced well above my limit.

Nike Free 3.0, 5.0, 7.0 – Nike started the revolution with its first sneaker. Nike and all of the other manufactures have spent billions of dollars and thousands of man hours trying to get you to replace your sneakers every 6 months. Spent billions of dollars and thousands of man hours trying to get the soles thicker and spongier. The shoes have been over-engineered from the beginning. It makes me wonder how many billions they have spent to figure out the running shoe has damaged the human foot! On the same token, how many billions of R&D did it take to come up with the Free? This is a minimalistic Nike answer. So, in the same vane as how they started the revolution, they are trying to spark the “as barefoot as possible” approach too. They need to recoup those billions you know.

I guess, I prefer the truly unshod approach. But, I am also in the cold north. I think I will change my tune once December through February comes around.

You can spend, like me, any number of hours on YouTube. Researching the numerous videos on the subject. You can follow the wise teachings of the barefoot Sensei, Barefoot and grounded, read from Chris McDougal’s wonderful book “Born to Run”. I could probably fill another entire page with resources I have read, used, subscribed to or otherwise passed in my reading.

What are your thoughts on the barefoot industry? Are we in the barefoot days? What are your experiences with running barefoot? Do you have any tips we can use? Leave a comment, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. Better yet, let’s get together and do this thing.

Caveman

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