July 15, 2009

Running Bare

The Los Angeles Marathon happened to go down my street this year and it seemed
that there was a representative from every age and place. Some ran suited out in running gear, others wore old gym clothes, but a few, the brave ones, ran barefoot. So brave and so inspiring were these runners, in fact, that I curiously researched this bare lifestyle to see if it was possible to easily take on this unusual challenge. Before you read the rest, just know I am not suggesting that running on 26 miles of pavement is safe (glass in your sole anyone?), but I am going to offer you up what I do know: being (near) barefoot has helped my sciatica (damn high heels) and has given hope to the little toes I thought would forever be squished triangles.

My search for something semi-barefoot led me to Frontrunners, a runner's mecca made up of two clothing stores and one shoe store in Brentwood. There, on the shelves between the running and the cross training shoes, was the answer: Vibram Five Fingers. Ridiculous. Gecko-like. TIME Magazine Best Invention of 2007. With a pocket for every toe, these "shoes" make your feet look nothing short of hilarious, but the moment you put them on. . .sold! While the rubber soles are designed to keep your feet stable and as they should be (à la our ancestors' feet), the tops are almost water-shoe/sock like. They're also machine washable and they come in a few styles to suit your need. I picked up the KSO series.

If you aren't convinced by the idea, check this out: according to the New York Times and Wired magazine, shoes of all shapes are genuinely hurting us. Gasp! If you're in athletic shoes, those expensive things that basketball stars get paid 9 trillion dollars to endorse, you are twice as likely to hurt yourself. For every inch of your Jimmy Choos, you're putting about 20% more pressure on your toes and legs. Worst of all? No one seems to be immune. Studies have suggested that by age 50-55, 95% of Americans will have foot or ankle problems. Good ol'biomechanic basics are not on our side.

Now, I can't say I thought I would walk out with the Vibrams (ok, yes I did), but I was really convinced I wouldn't wear them in public. I have. Sure enough, there have been a few looks, but mostly these shoes have brought out the questions and the discovery that yes, my friend, we aren't alone with our hurting backs and ugly digits. That being said, if you dare to be curious and get yourself a pair, start slow. The marathon is still a year away.

1 comment:

  1. that's interesting! i'm a runner, about 4-5 miles every other day or so, depending on my schedule (definitely not a marathoner, nor do i aspire to be, i'm more of a zen runner, just for peace of mind, breathing etc.) but the no shoes part of it is a new one on me. i suppose that's what we all did prior to shoes right? so who knows...? :)