Before you throw out all of your modern running shoes and go prancing around barefoot like a Tarahumara, consider this: the winner of this year’s Copper Canyon Ultra—a Raramuri—credits his victory to wearing running shoes instead of their traditional sandals.
As reported by El Diario de Chihuahua, Yo he participado 3 veces, en la primera no llegué a finalista, en la segunda quedé en el lugar 14, las dos primeras veces usaba huaraches, pero están mejor los tenis, ya me acostumbré los uso desde hace dos años porque no lastiman”, reveló con cierta timidez el rarámuri triunfador.
Which roughly translated means that the race winner came in 14th the first two times he participated wearing sandals but won this time because his feet were more comfortable in running shoes. A Nike representative must be en route with a contract.
With all the recent data showing how running shoes can hurt your feet (more accurately weaken), and of course that tome of beautifully-crafted hyperbole, Born to Run, what to wear was a huge topic down in Mexico. I don’t think anyone questions the logic that as a culture we’ve become dependant upon shoes which has weakened our feet, but the jury is still out on whether barefoot running is a paradigm shift (did I use this phrase on two consecutive days?) or something that should be reserved for training only. If we’re keeping score, my group of runners were all wearing running shoes, albeit many were favoring racing flats over the more modern “system support” trainers.
Personally, I haven’t given up any of my shoes. For now, instead of wearing one style, I switch back and forth between support, no support, barefoot, five-fingers, and different styles with a theory that this will force my feet to adapt to the many different stresses and get stronger than they would be if I just went barefoot. I, however, have absolutely no evidence that my theory bears any merit yet. I’m beginning to think that a combination of racing flats, barefoot training, and foot strengthening exercise is going to be the protocol for almost all serious runners in the future.
Or you can just distill it all down to corn mash, drink it, and just go out and run for as long as you can. As race director and folk hero Caballo Blanco puts it, “The point: None of that crap really matters, what or not one wears on their feet. Run Happy…Run Free.”