In this edition of My Bookshelf, I’m going to review a more “lay” book – Born to Run.
Born to Run is the story of how the author, Chris McDougall, went from barely being able to run, to finishing a 50-mile trail race in the middle of Mexico. Chris had suffered from chronic heel pain, and the story really starts off with him asking the question, “Why Does My Heel Hurt?”
I’ve got to admit, this book is pretty damn engaging. Books like this and the works of Malcolm Gladwell have made it a lot harder to return to my usual journal articles and textbooks. The stories the author goes through are engaging and keep you glued to the book.
One of the primary themes behind the book is how an ancient tribe of Mexican Indians (the Tarahumara) are able to run extreme distances on a near daily basis without injury. It gets really interesting when the author starts discussing the issues with the athletic shoe industry, and how many of these shoes not only fail to prevent injury, but could actually increase it!
As I mentioned up front, the book was wildly entertaining. However, I think we should be judicious in going from full footwear to running barefoot. I think there is most definitely a place for kicking the shoes off and returning to our roots – after all, the feet are chock-full of mechanoreceptors that give our bodies feedback.
But I also see the other side of the equation as well. I think between this book and other related materials, we’re going to see a growing trend where people think all shoes are the devil and getting rid of your running shoes is the solution to everything. This is pretty typical, as you’ll often see huge swings in the pendulum – as Alwyn Cosgrove says, we over-react in the short-term and under-react in the long-term.
As is typically the case, a pragmatic and middle-of-the-road approach is probably the most prudent.
I guess the only thing that disappointed me about this book was the outcome. The author claims he ran the 50-mile road race, something he never would’ve been able to do in the past. This leaves you with the impression that fixing your gait and “getting rid of your high-end running shoes” is the solution, right?
However, in a recent issue of Men’s Health the same author continues to deal with his chronic heel pain, and in this case some overhead squats “solve” the issue.
I guess it just left a bad taste in my mouth as the whole thing seems a little misleading to me. First it was barefoot running that solved his heel pain. Then, it was overhead squats. What will it be next?
Regardless, I think the book is worth a read, and I think employing some barefoot training in your programming could definitely pay dividends. At the very least, getting out of your shoes for low-level activities like your dynamic warm-up could be a great idea.
For now, though, I’m going to keep the Nike Free’s and Puma’s handy. In my opinion, they still serve a purpose.