Myth: The Shoe Makes The Runner

It was the summer before my junior year of high school, time to gear up for cross country. A friend of mine was also the cross country captain and we were heading up to Capitol Hill in Seattle to check out gear at his favorite running shoe store. One of the services they provided was to watch me run on a treadmill barefoot, analyzing my gate to find the perfect pair of shoes for me. Like many runners with a high arch, I have a fair amount of pronation (my foot lands toward the outside and rotates in toward the ball of the foot as I strike the ground). What I didn't know is that this is a problem. The staff never used that word, but they quickly recommended shoes that helped to control that pronation. With a more "balanced" foot strike, my stride could be more efficient. At least that was the logic. Well, problem solved: I bought the shoes and loved them. For years, I thought I was running how I should be, then I started hurting. I had been training my body in shoes. I thought that I was dependent on shoes to run at all, let alone well. Only since taking on a barefoot/minimalist style have I come to see how misguided I was. It has helped me to see three basic distinctions in running and in life. I hope these help you also!

1. Trust Your Body or Trust the Technology

It started with a basic choice, one I did not realize I had when I was a junior in high school. You can strip away interference and trust your body, or you can follow the technology wherever it leads you, and your running technique. For the most part, running shoes exist to separate runners from the ground. They create a barrier, a safe haven from the dangerous impact of the human foot on the earth. The running shoe industry thrives off the assumption of the world being dangerous to the human body. By adding some technological protection, maybe, just maybe, we can stave off injuries. From personal experience, I have found the opposite to be true. 

Trusting my body has helped me to be safer and more adventurous at the same time. I am safer because I have instant feedback. If something hurts, I stop, I adapt. Rather than pushing through pain, I know how to use pain as a tool and make changes accordingly. I am more adventurous because every component of moving is a chance to learn. My weakest link right now is probably the padding on my underfoot, so I have started running barefoot farther and more consistently. I am not afraid of running on pavement barefoot, and I know my working limits and how to push them. Running has always been enjoyable to me, but it has become even more colorful as I am opened up to new sensations and components. Running barefoot lets you feel the different textures of what is beneath you. It has also helped me to reset my posture and straighten my back. I still love running in my LUNA Sandals because they don't interfere with my natural stride while making it easier to run longer distances. That is the point. Trust your body, not technology. An invention that interferes with how you operate is no invention at all.

2. Trust Your Intuition or Trust the Experts

There is a place for expertise, and even my journey into barefoot running has been aided by the expertise of authors and friends who have gone before me. Yet even the collection of wisdom, in this case, is first and foremost an act of trust in my intuition. I was initially skeptical of barefoot running, but something within me prompted me to explore. So often, experts are interested in telling you what to do and why because they are right, they are the experts, so shut up and listen. I'm inclined to do the opposite, even if it leaves you disagreeing with me in some points: Trust your intuition

3. Be->Do->Have or Do->Have->Be

My thinking until recently has been shaped by a pernicious component of this myth, namely that I need something or someone to complete or fix me. I am broken, I am incomplete. I am fragile and vulnerable, I can't run without shoes. Instead of coming from a place of confidence and completion, we often start from a place of consumption. I have one friend who started running when she got a pair of running shoes, but even that is because she wants to run, because she is what she aspires to be. My pronation didn't change when I got a pair of shoes, it hid. Instead, all I needed to do was be me. By running as I am, I can do things I never thought possible and will have results I never dreamed. No pair of shoes can do that for me, it starts with me. 

The shoe doesn't make the runner; never has nor ever will. Trust your intuition, trust your body. No shoe or device can complete you. Run from the level of your being and you will be amazed by the results.