Saturday, October 03, 2009

Foot Coffins

By Diana Hsieh

A few weeks ago, the NY Times ran a pretty good story on the barefoot running trend: Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants. Here's the basic story:

Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all.

Plenty of medical experts disagree with this notion. The result has been a raging debate in running circles, pitting a quirky band of barefoot runners and researchers against the running-shoe and sports-medicine establishments.
The establishment view is that -- despite millions of years of barefoot evolution -- the human foot is nonetheless seriously defective:
"In 95 percent of the population or higher, running barefoot will land you in my office," said Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the New York City Marathon. "A very small number of people are biomechanically perfect," he said, so most need some sort of supportive or corrective footwear.
And here's the view that I've found fits my own experience:
"The shoe arguably got in the way of evolution," said Galahad Clark, a seventh-generation shoemaker and chief executive of the shoemaker Terra Plana, based in London. "They're like little foot coffins that stopped the foot from working the way it's supposed to work."
(Foot coffins! Too perfect!) Last year, I was hobbled by unbearable and untreatable foot pain whenever I attempted even moderate running and hiking -- until I went barefoot. While barefoot is surely not for everyone, I say: foot coffin dogma be damned!

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