I just finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I actually met Christopher in Salt Lake a couple weeks ago and got the chance to talk to him a little about the book and footwear and Vibram Fivefingers. He's an interesting guy and its a great book. I'd even call it a bit of a page turner. Much of the book focuses on the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and some unlikely interactions with ultra running characters including Scott Jurek, Jenn Shelton and Billy Barnett. Jenn and Billy spent a year or so in Bend not too long ago. Jenn actually still owes me a half rack of beer (she bet me on one of our noon runs that Obama would select Clinton as his running mate). I'm pretty sure she'll never pay up.
Born To Run isn't especially flattering of the specialty running business but it raises some great questions. I really enjoyed all the talk of over-supportive shoes and barefoot running and the like. These are ideas we've batted around at the FootZone for years now so it doesn't feel very challenging. Many of these concepts have influenced the way shoes are made, and the way we sell shoes, for several years. It's also part of the reason we play with minimalist shoes like Inov-8 and ultimately, 5 fingers. I'm convinced that we will all benefit from strengthing our feet, but equally sure that it requires baby steps. I'd even say that the running industry (or at least some of the larger shoe manufacturers) have known for years that you can't just lock people up in the most stable shoe without eventually creating other problems. But we also see on a daily basis that stability will help runners avoid many common overuse injuries. Like so many things, there's a balance. At the shop we know our job is to meet people where they are at, provide them with good information, and get them into footwear that will work. I do think the running industry will continue to evolve. Shoe heights will continue to come down and shoes will focus less on stability and more on balance. I'd also bet that almost all of us will still wear running shoes. I've run some in my Five Fingers and I don't see them replacing my running shoes.
Regardless, for a shoe geek like me who's spent the last 20 years fascinated by running shoes and what works best for people, I love the conversation. It will hopefully all just make us healthier. Cheers-Teague