Magazine | 11:13 pm | November 10, 2011 | By Tao Tao Holmes

We all run wrong

Running barefoot is probably better than running in high heels.
Running barefoot is probably better than running in high heels. Photo by vestman.

So I run wrong. I got it. And the more I run, the worse it’s gonna get – the more I’m going to kill my joints, the creakier I’ll be in twenty years, the more worthless pairs of shiny, aesthetically divine sneakers I’m going to pay money to hurt me. I wish you’d told me this when I was 10. Then I could have avoided tumbling down this disastrous, commercialized path. Ten year-olds, it appears, are the newly recognized running gurus of a lost generation of overstrained athletes. But instead, I’m 20, and my motions are stuck in a cyclical heel to toe, heel to toe running rhythm.

So explains Christopher McDougall in a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, building on the wealth of knowledge he acquired from writing his book “Born to Run” to disprove all previous running myths. McDougall’s audience is an aging generation of men and women still overtaken by runner’s lust, but unable to justify the damage consistent running continues to inflict on their bodies. As it turns out, the shoe industry they have been worshipping, pioneered by Nike, took off with untested items and spiraled out of control, cluttering our closets with shoes that proclaim to reduce impact, but in fact encourage a style of running that hits our muscles with a force of up to three times our body weight.

But let them fear not, for McDougall has connected with a number of new experts (among them, the Tarahumara, a hidden desert society of ultra marathoners, and medical specialist Mark Cucuzzella, a runner reborn) to unveil the injury-proof, evolution-tested “one best way” to run: no pushing from the toes, no landing on the heel. And no more cushioned shoes.

McDougall isn’t some heretic preaching to an unconvinced choir — “barefoot shoes” have developed into a $1.7 billion industry, with Vibram FiveFingers abound. The trouble is that people are buying “barefoot shoes” but continuing to run the same way as they did before. It’s a long relearning process, and one that I’m loath to begin. Speaking as someone who heads out on impromptu jogs at eleven or twelve on any given night, reading the testimony of McDougall is deeply unsettling.

My best possible move? To West Virginia, where running doctor Cucuzzella has begun the “grassroots reinvention of running.” In the mean time, I’m just going to stick to my Asics.

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