I was never the fastest runner. Quite honestly, I rather disliked running all throughout school. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I discovered the pure joy of the sport. Granted, I initially got into running for the sole purpose of losing a few pounds. Within a few short months I became faster, trimmer and more confident. I was a runner.
My 2001-2002 running season was improving thanks to running 100+ kms (62+ miles) per week and several 5k and 10k races under my (hydration) belt. My first 1/2 marathon, Calgary’s Harvest Half, placed me in a respectable 38th place. I was on track to run a strong marathon mid 2002.
And then, disaster struck.
Seemingly overnight a severe iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) injury made running impossible. For the next 8 months I tried everything. Cross training, chiropractic adjustments, expensive orthotics, deep tissue massage and stretching. No luck. The pain was now a constant. While driving or sitting at work. I began to stand in front my computer, that helped a little.
It turned out a weak hip abductor muscle was the cause. But what caused the weak muscle(s). I was in the fittest shape of my life. How could this be? I was puzzled. I did everything that a runner ‘”should do”. I was fitted for the right running shoes to “correct” my gait, replaced them regularly as instructed and kept my running schedule busy.
But now, after nearly a year of little running – I lost my endurance – and gained anger and confusion. One day my frustration peaked when a 10 minute light run caused me to hobble home with a throbbing burning on side of me knee. I jumped online and started researching. I read everything I could find about natural and injury-free running. And like many fellow barefooters, it was Ken Bob Saxton’s barefoot running site that opened my eyes.
Yes, it made perfect sense. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to walk and run. But modern running shoes have broken this is a short 40 years.
In the early 1970’s Bill Bowerman, a track coach turned entrepreneur, created a cushioned running shoe that allowed runners to take longer strides. By cushioning the heels and tilting the runner slightly forward, the gait of the average runner was changed to a heel strike stride rather than the more natural mid or forefoot strike. Mr. Bowerman, and his business partner, Phil Knight, marketed the new shoes under the brand name of Nike. And so began the industry we recognize today. An industry plagued by injuries that affect 3 in 4 recreational runners.
Coming in Part II : My first barefoot run…