Less May Be Better

Barefoot running, Five finger shoes, whatever you call it.  After years of adding more and more padding and support to runner's feet, a growing trend is swinging the other way.  Minimalist footwear.  The argument is that the human body is already designed to run - our species has the most effecient bio-mechanical anatomy for movement.  A lot of animals can out-sprint us, but nothing can out run us.  Before running - as we think about - was even conceived of as an "exercise" or a "sport", a soldier ran 26 miles in Greece wearing full battle gear.  Messengers crossed the Inca empire on foot.  Apache warriors out-ran horses.  Bushmen ran down antelope to exhaustion.  So why did we suddenly need our arches supported, heels lifted, and our ankles braced by wider and wider soles?

An extreme example?  When I started guiding on Rainier, I wore big double plastic mountaineering boots up and down the mountain, supporting my ankle only a little less than a ski boot.  During my second summer, I started to be plagued by rolled and twisted ankles when I went for 5-10 mile trail runs.  I wondered if those boots were actually too supportive, allowing my ankles to weaken, and creating a negative bio-feedback loop.  I started wearing running shoes to the snow's edge - then I started to wear flip flops.  The short distance - 1.5 miles, and the smooth trail made it the perfect training, especially with the typical 45-lbs pack.  My ankles strengthened, my feet became more stable, and suddenly my running improved.


I still run in shoes because those five-finger things just look like more trouble to take on and off than I want to be bothered with.  But these two fellows in Arcata, California, have redesigned the sandal.  It reminds me of what I've seen tied to the feet of Spartan warriors, Inca messengers, and Copper Canyon runners.  I'm not going to throw in and support their Kickstarter program, but I'm going to watch and think about getting a pair this fall.