Gloves for your feet?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

Paul Oppenheim

There has been a lot written recently about barefoot running and so-called "minimal footwear." The Competive Foot is carrying those light, strange-looking things called FiveFingers, which are essentially gloves for your feet, with a compartment for each toe. Some people love them. Other shoe companies have introduced lighter, more basic shoes with less cushioning and support. Tim Eggert, owner of the Competitive Foot, says New Balance is also introducing some minimal shoes this spring.

Much of this was kicked off by the wide attention generated by John McDougall's 2009 book Born to Run (a very entertaining story), which tells of the Tarahumara Indians, of northern Mexico, who run long distances in simple home-made sandals, with only a piece of old rubber tire tread under their feet. And they rarely get injured.

Over the past 35 years, with the rising popularity of running in the U.S. and the rest of the world, shoe manufacturers have developed highly cushioned and supportive footwear. But some think this has over-protected our feet, resulting in poor running form, and many runners still get injured despite the protection. This is blamed partly on heel-striking, made possible by all that shoe cushioning.

If you try running barefoot on a hard surface, I guarantee that you won't land on your heels, at least not for long. You'll be up on your forefoot, utilizing the natural shock absorbing qualities of your feet and ankles. And supposedly this is how we were intended to run. But after years of cushioned running you can't just change overnight.

About a year ago the doc I've been seeing for my gimpy knee suggested I try a bit of barefoot running a couple times a week. Just a few minutes indoors, he said. No need to go nuts and run barefoot over rough pavement or in cold weather. So I tried it in his office, then at the health club with laps around the gym, and sometimes around my big condo lobby. I discovered I was already tending to be a mid-foot striker instead of a heel striker, probably a result of my unconscious reaction to reduce knee impact. I can't say that there's any miracle, but my feet and ankles are stronger since I've developed more of a mid-foot stride and have been running barefoot. And I'm still running.

Perhaps 10 years ago Scott Arient, a long-time member of the Oak Park Runners Club, and an accomplished runner, began wearing racing flats for virtually all his running. Most of us use heavier training shoes for daily runs, saving the lighter, minimally cushioned racing flats for race day. But Arient felt that the lighter shoes allowed his feet to have closer contact with the ground, and provided more flexibility and strengthening for his feet and ankles. Looks like he was ahead of his time.

I've always preferred more basic running shoes with fewer gizmos, and I'm keeping my eye on those new, more minimal shoes. But I'm not yet ready for a pair of FiveFingers. The concept is interesting, but they still look kind of goofy to me.

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad