Friday, July 23, 2010

Understanding the Risks and Proceeding Intelligently

I hear some of my friends mention that they'd like to give barefoot running a try.  I also hear from much more advanced runners that they are thinking of incorporating some barefoot runs in their workout schedule.

Sometimes the people that say that to me are intrigued by the fact that I'm doing it, and they think it's cool that I'm excited and enthusiastic about it.  This is really great!

But I would like to say here that I did not just jump into this on a whim.  I have been reading about barefoot running for the past year.  I wanted to do it for at least the past six months, but I needed some preparation time.  It has been a carefully considered decision.

I was aware that there were risks and I finally made the decision to take the risks because I became convinced that I wanted to experience the benefits.

You know, it's so natural to go outside barefoot, but because of the things that can happen, shoes were invented.   It is also natural to desire to protect our feet from the discomforts.

However, there are some risks to wearing shoes too.  Different risks.

I watch older people try to walk around, however, and I can't help but wonder, as I see some of them struggle and wobble along, if their feet have not remained strong.  It seems that the trend for many is for the feet to get weaker and weaker, and for the shoes to get more an more supportive and orthopedic as we get older.  It appears to be a slippery slope. And people seem to just accept this as a natural progression of aging and thank heavens modern science and design can provide for this aspect of getting older with all these great shoe products to help.

In fact, soon after I had to start buying extra supportive shoes just for walking -- or so I believed, as I wrote about here -- this catalog, Footsmart --which has all these shoes for older people -- started arriving in my mailbox.  There are shoes out there that are so motion-controlled that they are like rigid steel.  In this catalog are all kinds of products for people having all kinds of issues with their feet, which I'm gradually coming to believe are caused by wearing shoes in general.  Or, if not caused by the shoes themselves, these issues are brought on by having forsaken walking barefoot at least part of the time like I had.  Maybe it's not so much the shoes themselves as the mentality of abandoning foot fitness.  Not wanting to do the foot work ourselves, but have it done for us.

I'm not trying to slam these products at all.  Maybe they are truly a blessing for people who need them.  These are just some of my personal observations and "ponderings." New observations colored by new beliefs about the use and purpose of feet and a new awareness of feet fitness as I feel my feet and ankles strengthening over the weeks.  I wonder if there is any way  of knowing if older people who walked barefoot all their lives are stronger and walk better? There is probably information out there somewhere about this.  Studies.  Tribes of people that still live barefoot.  Too lazy to hunt for the information right now.

Anyway, back to the risks.  So, we invented shoes because of some of the problems and "dangers" of going barefoot.  But everyone has to choose their risk to benefit level in all the activities they choose to undertake.  Some people really love fast food, processed food, and edible other items passed as food created in laboratories. There are risks to eating that food, but people take the risks because they enjoy eating that stuff.

There are risks to driving, getting on an airplane, skiing, and horseback riding, and actually risks to partaking of all athletics in general.  I have observed young people getting injured in sports activities, but they obviously enjoy the activity so much, that when the injury is healed they usually can't wait to get back to the sport.

And let us not, of course, forget that the way we all come into the world -- childbirth -- has risks.  But I thank God my mother thought the benefits of having me were worth taking on those risks.

But people that I talk to -- some -- seem to really bothered by taking on the risks of running barefoot outside.  It seems like such a foreign scary thing to some. There are great objections, and many people act as if you may not have considered the risks.  I find it curious that these same people may take other risks that I would not take for their own activities, but they become very concerned about the choice to take the risks of going barefoot, even though our feet were designed for barefoot running, and it is a natural, good activity in general. It just seems to scare some people.

What brought this post on today?  Well, I read on Jason Robillard's blog (the guy who wrote The Barefoot Running Book: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running) that there is a danger of barefoot runners breaking a toe. In his post, "Barefoot Running Injuries: Broken Toes" he describes a real-life example of this happening to a runner and he also cautions to be aware of the risks.

Well, I am sold -- at this point -- on the benefits I have read about barefoot running and I am undertaking this journey to experience some of these benefits. I have already begun to experience some, one of the main of which is just how darned good it feels.  Mr. Robillard claims that there are many more for the beginner barefoot runner to look forward to.

I proceed cautiously optimistic. I will take the precautions I need to remain safe while barefoot running.  I hope that anyone who wants to try it as a result of reading of my little adventures will also proceed carefully and keep themselves informed all along the way.

1 comment:

barefootjosh said...

Great post. A few other things to consider when pondering why corrective footwear is so popular:

1. Preventative measures. People don't necessarily wait until something hurts before they try to "fix" it.

2. Stomping in cushy shoes feels good. "wow, if I can stomp on the ground without hurting my feet, I must be really protected!" I also wonder if being able to stomp through tough terrain gives a person a sense of empowerment.

3. Fashion. I think this is the biggest deciding factor in footwear. Big heels make you taller.

Keep up the good work!