are running shoes ruining your feet?

UPDATE: Tony Rix recommends Vibram’s latest model, the KSO Trek. (see the comments)

That’s one of the themes of a fantastic book I’ve just finished:

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

I’m convinced that author Christopher McDougall is on to something.

For specifics, check this article: The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money?

His theory is that we evolved running barefoot. And became the dominant species on the planet because of that advantage.

Running barefoot … an advantage?

It seems counter intuitive. Yet the case laid out in his book seems irrefutable.

Shoe companies, especially Nike, seeking mad profits, have convinced us to buy technology that changes our natural technique.

In recent years I’ve been hiking and trail running in one of the cheapest pairs of shoes made by New Balance. I bought them because of bunions. Perhaps, by luck, this soft, flat-soled shoe is what I need.

I’m tempted to try hiking in Vibram Fivefingers. That’s what the author is using now for distance running.

… That might be going too far.

Instead, I’ll pull out my old sandals. I’ve hiked in those before, very comfortably. Those feel like “bare feet”, but keep the pebbles and grit out.

Leave a comment if you’ve experimented with tossing your hiking boots in the closet. And getting back to something more natural.

6 Replies to “are running shoes ruining your feet?”

  1. The world of running has been strongly influenced by the move back to a “natural” gait. Most shoes are still overbuilt, but products like the Nike Free have been successful for the past 4 years and the Vibram has a few strong adherents.

    Note however, that while we did evolve barefoot, we didn’t grow up barefoot … we are used to shoes, which will become obvious as soon as you try to run across country barefoot. So we balance historic and current conditions; the result is the ideal shoe has good padding underneath, and minimal other structure or features.

    For hikers, improvement is much easier to come by: I’m amazed at how many people still wear BOOTS. Boots are all bad, the switch to trainers is easy, highly beneficial, and brings you much closer to natural conditions than encasing your foot in a boot.

    1. Hiking boots provide good ankle support. The last time I wore trainers whilst hiking I nearly twisted my ankle. So I always prefer to wear boots now.

  2. I’ve been wearing Vibram Fivefingers for distance running and hiking for the past year and truly love them. There is definitely an adjustment period when you start wearing them and you have to be more aware of foot placement on the trail in rocky terrain (stepping on small rocks starts to hurt after a while), but overall it’s a wonderful experience. I love being able to actually feel the trail. Soft, hard, warm, cold, dry, wet…it adds to the overall experience in my opinion.

    The best part of switching, for me, has been the total absence of the knee pain I used to feel after long hikes and runs. My knees used to ache for at least a day after a long run. Since switching, I haven’t any pain.

    If you decide to try them, I would go for Vibram’s latest model, the KSO Trek. It has a little more traction than the straight KSO’s, which provide almost none on the trail when you hit patches of snow or mud. I don’t have a pair of the KSO Trek’s yet, but I plan on getting a pair this spring. For colder weather, get a few pairs of Injinji wool socks. REI sells them and they work great with the Vibrams.

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