I bought Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run because I’d been hearing that it was this book which popularized the idea of barefoot running. Since having foot surgery, I really want to do what is best for my feet, so I got this book to see what all the hype is about and to try to determine for myself whether the arguments for barefoot running seemed sound.
I discovered, however, that barefoot running is the focus of only two or three chapters of a tale that examines an Indian tribe in a remote region of Mexico, whose lives and entertainment focus on running — sometimes for days on end — wearing crude sandals made of old tire tread, as well as American ultra runners, including the accomplished Scott Jurek and the possibly crazy Barefoot Ted, among others. The book is about enjoying the run. Finding purpose in it. Loving it. Adjusting your stride and gait to help you achieve those things — even on rocky and treacherous trails.
The story meanders from the author’s search for the reason his foot hurt when running, to the remote region of Mexico where the Tarahumara live, to the academic world of American universities where researchers try to determine whether humans were truly meant to run (there’s a lot of evolutionary theory in here that I don’t believe, but the examination of the physiology of various running animals was interesting.) It tells how Jurek got into distance running in the first place, why Barefoot Ted runs barefoot, and how Nike has contributed (or caused detriment to) the world of running. Collegiate athletes, recovering cardiac patients, crazy hippies, world-renown marathoners, primitive tribal groups in Central America and Africa, and a writer who just wants to run without pain — they’re all covered here, culminating in an amazing trail race run by the best of these and witness only by a few Mexican villagers.
I didn’t get clear answers to my questions about barefoot running by reading this book. The arguments supporting the practice seemed strong, but I’m still skeptical and interested in hearing the other side of the debate. What I did get, however, was an inspiring story of people who run — in shoes, barefoot, or in tire-tread sandals — and love it.