Thursday, February 04, 2010


Sort of divergent from politics, but I recently got a pair of these. I've only taken them on two runs so far, but I love them.

I've run, on and off, since I was a teenager. Pain in the joints was always something I just had to deal with, but as I've gotten older foot problems have been added to the mix. Who would have thought that the answer wasn't to buy better shoes, but instead to go nearly barefoot?

Strange as they look, the FiveFingers shoes hark back to a simpler time. Humans have long run barefoot or in flat soles. Professor Lieberman’s research suggests that two million years ago, our ancestors’ ability to run long distances helped them outlast their prey, providing a steady diet of protein long before spears and arrows. More recently, at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian runner, caused a stir when he ran the marathon barefoot and won.

Things changed in the early 1970s, when Bill Bowerman, a track coach turned entrepreneur, created a cushioned running shoe that allowed runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, rather than a more natural mid- or forefoot strike. Mr. Bowerman and his business partner, Phil Knight, marketed the new shoes under the Nike brand, and the rest is history.

At the same time, millions of Americans began taking up running as a pastime. Those twin trends ushered in a golden age of biomechanics research. “There was a lot of concern about injuries because of the boom,” said Trampas TenBroek, manager of sports research at New Balance. The logic, he said, was that “if you build a heel lift and make it thicker, you take stress off the Achilles’ tendon.”

Walk into a sports store today and you’ll see the results: shoes with inch-thick heels and orthotics designed to correct overpronation, supination and a host of other ills.

Mr. McDougall, the “Born to Run” author, ” said manufacturers, doctors and retailers were doing runners a disservice by pushing such shoes. “People are buying it thinking it’s going to do something for them, and it’s not,” he said.

Not to mention that a good pair of running shoes are over $100 and last only a few months. My Five Fingers cost me around $75 + tax and are supposed to last for about 10,000 miles.