I’ve talked a lot about my history of injuries, but just realized I never qualified how I got all of those injuries.
I was a reckless and foolhardy youth, but remained surprisingly uninjured from day to day. I skateboarded, climbed all sorts of tall things, trekked through creeks and woodlands, and even at one point, became an amateur lumberjack. These activities generally led to abrasions, cuts, and all sorts of minor wounds, but never any fractures or otherwise hospitalization requiring maladies.
The main cause of my perpetually broken self was soccer. Weekend tournaments with upwards of 10 games over 2 days, 3 hours long practices 2-3 times a week, and all the random pick-up/street soccer my hooligan friends and I could get our feet on. Soccer was my entire being from 7-17 years old, and I played it with the fervor of a Nordic Berserker, circa 1179.
I played for some high caliber teams, including then Maryland State Champions, Potomac Cougars, and then National Champions, FC Delco Dynamo II. I played with some guys who now plays in the MLS, for the US National Team, and even, on occasion, went toe-to-toe with the famous Freddy Adu.
I suffered broken ankles, wrists, torn ligaments and all sorts of probably avoidable injuries because of the uncontrollable bloodlust I channeled every time my foot touched a ball. But despite all these injuries, I always bounced back. I had been relatively injury free for the few months leading up to March 15th, 2002. Playing in the Richmond Jefferson Cup with FC Delco, I fractured my right tibia and fibula, setting into motion a series of events that lead to the end of my childhood dream of playing soccer professionally.
It sounds very melodramatic when condensed into a single paragraph. At the time, my 16 year old self could see no future, and the perceived inequality of cosmic order was almost too much to bear. I attempted to play competitively until 2004 at Loomis Chaffee, when I finally decided that I was not the player I once was, and would leave the scene admirably with whatever honor I had from playing in my prime.
It was about this time that I developed a strange habit. I began to just run, aimlessly, from place to place, akin to Forrest Gump. I was still in very good shape from playing so much soccer, so running seemed a natural way to expend my energy, albeit without a ball. I enjoyed running; I made friends the battery acid feeling so well described by Chuck Palahniuk, reveling in the masochistic pain of a long, good run.
This habit persisted through college. I ran where I could, and often, on nights of excessive frivolity, I would run home from a party, as it seemed the right thing to do at the time. I never approached it as a sport or workout, instead it was like dropping these words into the text box in my browser; a cathartic release of my potential (energy).
I still run. My elbow injury (that for explanatory purposes, happened when I fell 8 feet from a ladder) prevented me from running as much as I would have liked, but Winter is always my least favorite running season anyway. Now that warmer days are upon us, the urge to put one foot in front of the other at a brisk pace is slowly creeping back into my mind.
To this end, I created a timeline of the evolution of my running shoes:
There is a clear shift from soccer oriented shoes to more traditional running shoes, to ultimately, minimalist running shoes. I’ve read tons of arguments over the merits or dangers of running barefoot, and have to admit that both camps sound like extremists, pushed to being defensive for no real reason.
I started running in Vibram FiveFinger Sprints in the Spring of 2010. I bought them originally just because I like the gimmick and generally love to be barefoot, but after running in them a few times, really appreciated the difference that “supportless” shoes make. I have a bad knee from my aforementioned leg injury, and always ran in very padded running shoes, thinking I needed the extra cushioning to make it past the first mile.
Oddly enough, running nearly barefoot was only painful for the first 2 or 3 miles. After I adjusted my running to avoid landing heel first, I found that the pain in my knee actually dissipated and I was faster and lighter on me feet. It is entirely possible this was just a placebo affect that I could have stumbled upon by adjusting my gait in traditional shoes, but I would have never known, had I not tried different shoes. I just ordered my second pair of Virbam’s, this time opting for the KomodoSport cross training version.
I’ve read the science behind wearing a supportive shoes, and have to admit that it is pretty weak of both sides of the argument. The distances used to simulate running stress and astronomical; I run 3 miles 3 times a week and get a great workout. No one needs to run 10-15-30 miles, and I guarantee they would develop injuries no matter what they had on their feet. Running barefoot seems more natural, but admittedly a person has to relearn everything they know about running to do it without injury.
I disagree that running barefoot is dangerous. I also disagree that running barefoot is the best way to run. People are different; it comes down to having options. You can run in normal, padded shoes, if that is what gets you out there, but it is very cool to see that companies are at least entertaining the idea that some people might and can run differently. I for one love the tactile feel of pretty much just my foot hitting the ground; I can picture ancient Greek armies rushing into combat with nothing but flat pieces of leather protecting their soles.