I read Born to Run about two years ago and it had an economic impact on me: Since I finished the book, I have bought three pairs of Vibram Five Fingers – the funky-looking footwear with toes, which one of the characters in this book wears. I did run in them and liked how I felt; however, the novelty worn out as they became popular and more attractive minimalist shoes came on the market. Anyway, this is a book review, not a Vibram review, so I will try not to digress too much if I can help.
The author, Christopher McDougall, touches on a few interesting topics in this book and seems to have done a range of interesting research, from anthropology, physiology, human revolution, ultramarathon races, and shoe business. However, the meat of this book, at least to me, is Chapter 25 when he describes about barefoot running and its benefits. Whether his and barefoot proponents’ theory about barefoot running is true or not in this modern world paved with asphalt and concrete covered with pieces of glass and rocks, among other hazardous materials to your feet, it caught my curiosity and hit my weakness about running shoes. So I bought two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers. While I ran in them, or wore them in the gym, I did not develop any injuries. When they came out with a new model ‘specifically designed for running’, I bought the new model. I took them to city streets and track. They felt great and my performance improved, though I cannot give too much credit to the shoes alone, because my training has become tougher and I did wear other shoes as well.
The author’s arguments make sense to me. We all, at least us runners, heard one argument: Cavemen did not have shoes and they did fine without them. While such argument is not very convincing, the author sites a few convincing research results and interviews with podiatrists and specialists. The trend where the foot and knee injuries among Americans have increased since shoe manufacturers started to sell cushy shoes in the 70s seem not just a coincident. No modern medical technologies or alternative exercises have reversed this trend. The human feet are designed to absorb impact. If you protect them too much, it loses such functionality and starts causing problems, not only to feet themselves but also to other parts of the body.
Whether barefoot/minimalist running is just a fad or here to stay, this book is a very entertaining read, and it goes pretty fast. I would think non-runners will also enjoy the book for its colorful characters, anthropological aspects, and a setting where this non-fiction takes place. I recommend this book.[schema type=”book” url=”http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307279189/” name=”Born to Run” author=”Christopher McDougall” publisher=”Vintage” pubdate=”2011-03-29″ isbn=”978-0307279187″ ]