I’ve been running long distances (cross country running) since elementary school, and I’d always accepted as fact the need for good running shoes. I usually spent significant sums of my limited money on expensive running shoes (usually Nike). However, about 2 years ago I stumbled upon a new type of running shoe, the Nike Free (see image below). It’s a minimalist running shoe, a kin to the slipper. It has little support, no air or gel pads or other cushioning. The shoe confused me because I’d read, been told, believed and told others that you need shoes with good support to be a runner. So why was Nike introducing a shoe that went against everything they’d been telling us and selling us for decades? I was confused. Nonetheless, I bought the Nike Free and wore it as a street shoe, since I believed it would be folly to do any athletic activity in such a shoe. I love the shoe, and it has become my favorite shoe. I even played a season of ball hockey in them without injury. I’ve been tempted to buy a second pair, and likely will eventually.
While recently reading the book Born to Run, I discovered the origin of these shoes. The author, Christopher McDougall, is a writer who was unable to run due to injuries sustained while running. He was told by several prominent sports medicine doctors that he was too big for running, and that he should switch to another sport (cycling was suggested). He wasn’t satisfied with their answers, so he set out to find a way that he could run injury-free. His quest took him to Mexico’s Copper Canyons in search of an ancient tribe called the Tarahumara Indians who can run hundreds of miles barefoot (nearly) without rest or injury. Along the way, he encounters cross country running coaches and doctors who recommend cheap running shoes and/or barefoot running. Apparently Nike listened to a few, and produced the Nike Free running shoe. I’ve noticed that other shoe companies are following. While walking past a Reebok store the other day, I noticed a Nike Free-type shoe advertised in their front window.
Disclaimer: I am a Nike shareholder.