Now slow down there, you cheeky lunatic fundamentalist you*. Put that pitchfork away. Douse your flaming torches. I’m not saying that I actually am Jesus. Heaven forfend (as it were). I would never declare myself to be the actual Second Coming of Christ. Whether I am or not is a decision each one of you must make for yourself on the available evidence. Or lack thereof. Which seems to be primarily how such decisions are made. Anyhow, whether I am your actual deity is between you and your god. Which may or may not be me. Confusing, isn’t it?
Just back from a run round the park in the above new gear. They’re sandals designed for barefoot running. They give some grip and protection against the pointier things out there, but basically let you run as though you’re barefoot.
I’ve been interested in barefoot running since I read Born To Run (an awesome book). The theory behind it is that your foot is as perfectly designed a thing for running on as it’s possible for evolution to provide. However, instead of using it we tend to over-protect it with increasingly built up, over padded, over supported, over engineered shoes (particularly running shoes). This is like running in a cast – your foot’s natural mechanisms wither up because they’re not being used, which leads to injury. The usual response to injury is to get even more supportive shoes. And so it goes, a self-perpetuating problem. To be free of injury we don’t needed stronger shoes. We need stronger feet. As with everything else in the body, that strength comes from use. The closer to barefoot you get, the stronger you’ll be, and the less frequently injured you’ll become.
No! Wait, not Jesus! A gladiator! Gladiators are cool. I run like a gladiator now. I am Russell Crowe when he was still cool, and before everyone suspected he might be an arse.
Anyway, when I started running in Scotland a few years ago I had my gait analysed in a running store. i was told I over-pronated badly (my arches are almost non-existent) and so needed a great deal of support. I nodded eagerly, and bought the recommended shoes. I still got injured though. Groin strains, pulled muscles, shin splints, twisted ankles, torn ligaments, and more – often enough to have me half convinced that running really wasn’t the sport for me, not matter that I enjoyed it. When I looked into minimalist running shoes – which reduce the support and padding considerably in an effort to get closer to proper barefoot – it was partly because I didn’t have much to lose. It’s done the trick. Since switching to my Nike Frees I haven’t had a single niggling running injury.
No, wait! I run like Jesus if he was a gravelly voiced, kick-ass gladiator played by Russell Crowe! Jesus the magic gladiator is the coolest thing ever. I run like that now.
Anyhow, I actually didn’t buy these Luna Sandals (which are handmade in Seattle) for running, though that’s how I found them. I just wanted a robust sandal for my upcoming xmas hols, that can handle boats, beaches, island trails, city streets, and other such varied things.
Of course, as soon as I unwrapped them I had to at least try running in them. Only once around the local park (about a mile and a half) because my feet aren’t used to full barefoot style.
And I loved it. Partly that’s because I’m a big kid, and the sense of freedom they give you is sort of irrepressible. Beyond that though, being able to feel the ground so well changes how I run completely. I use my toes, totally without trying. Wrapped in a shoe, my toes don’t do very much except bend at the joint when they need to. In an open sandal though, you can feel them flex, grip, and more. It’s weird, and funky. I noticed it most going up slopes – they sort of grab, and help to pull me forward. All sorts of other things shifted for the better too, my posture most notably, without any thought from me.
I’m not declaring myself a convert yet, though it was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ll definitely start building up my distance in them though, and see how it goes. They’re my new favourite toy.
Kirsty giggles at the thought of me running around in sandals. I suspect she’s also quietly mortified, in case anybody we know sees me.
Once I have my ‘Running Like Gladiator Jesus’ t-shirt made up though, she will no longer despair.
I’m almost certain.
*I’m huge on the lunatic fundamentalist circuit. Thy Fearful Symmetry is, like, their favourite book ever. They go literally berserk when they read it. Oh, the emails I’ve enjoyed from them…