So there I was, visiting old friends and making new ones at a recent training conference when one of my old buddies walked up to me and began to tell me how he had gotten his back to stop bothering him. Being one of those older warriors in law enforcement with chronic issues, I was all ears.
He explained he had been reading a new bestseller called "Born to Run" that details how modern shoes, especially running shoes, have caused the destruction of our bodies and Nike hasn't really created running shoes, it has actively attempted to destroy mankind. I may be misquoting that last part but that about summed it up. It seems we were meant to run barefoot and over great distances to find our inner peace, greatest wellness, and true meaning in life.
My friend pointed to his weird five-toed footwear and said since reading the book he had either gone barefoot or worn these strange glove-like shoes and his body had found new vigor and was pain-free. You younger crime fighters might laugh about that last issue, but around age 50 you will rediscover every hit you took in football and every twisted ankle you received in a foot pursuit.
I may not look it now, but I once regularly ran five- and 10-kilometer races with like-minded folks from my department. As my running went along I suffered more and more problems with my legs. Finally the day came when my orthopedic specialist looked at my X-rays and said, "Mr. Smith, we all come to bridges in life and it looks like you've crossed the running bridge."
I thought he was not only not funny, but he was lucky I didn't send him over the bridge crossing the river Styx; I simply never went back to him. I kept running and running. Now I get cortisone shots every so often and have mornings when walking down the stairs is akin to some bizarre trial by joint pain.
Well, I did read the book and the premise is that we, Homo sapiens, have the most remarkable foot in all the animal kingdom, and that running over long distances is why we are so smart, and used to be kind and gentle and loving creatures. OK, the author doesn't use those exact words but once again it is that noble savages bunch of malarkey that I, frankly, would write a mocking essay of if I were a lesser man.
Our ancestors, bounding barefooted, ran as whole joyful villages, dragging the elders and children behind. We would merrily run down an antelope and dig in eagerly, never worrying about plantar fasciitis or ligament damage.
Such foot ailments were supposedly created by the evil scientists at Nike (why the other companies get a pass is somewhat confusing) who put our soul-freeing feet on padded soles that trapped our other souls in...well, you get the idea.
So if we will only run barefoot or as close to it as possible we will find our perfect form and function, and then we can find meaning and joy in life and the tranquility that comes from running several hundred miles a week. This will make you a happy, happy person with no job, friends, or family; it's a lot like working twelves.
Honestly, I don't know how far we were meant to run, but I do agree that soft shoes have created a real problem for us. I know many of you warriors are constantly seeking to optimize your fitness and some of the tips in this book may help make your running workouts safer in the long run. The happy caveman stuff we have all read before, but the book is entertaining.
In recent years I have seen so many "old" ideas make comebacks like kettlebells, and intervals, and calisthenics. I was even asking a buddy at that same conference how he had lost so much weight when he smiled and said, "I haven't told you about the Neanderthal Diet?"
Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.