Born To Run (2009), Chris MacDougall’s tome about the world’s ultra-running tribe, the Tarahumara Indians from Mexico’s Copper Canyons, their acolyte, the late Micah True, and barefoot running covers a lot of ground. I can’t remember an outdoor/adventure story that has created as much buzz since Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997). MacDougall wound up with plantar fasciitis, which he wonderfully describes as the “vampire bite” of running injuries.
“Once PF (Plantar Fasciitis) sinks its fangs into your heels, you’re in danger of being infected for life. Check any running-related message board, and you’re guaranteed to find a batch of beseeching threads from PF sufferers begging for a cure. Everyone is quick to suggest the same remedies – night splints, elastic socks, ultrasound, electroshock, cortisone, orthotics – but the messages keep coming because none of them really seems to work.”
He describes the sufferer’s dilemma perfectly. I would have made a quicker recovery from breaking my ankle than I did from plantar fasciitis. I got my plantar fasciitis – which lasted for 10 months – from a lifetime of heel-striking due to poor running form. MacDougall builds a compelling case against the running shoe companies who foist new models on us every six months telling us that they are guaranteed to correct our over-pronation, stop us from getting shin splints etc. He details how the incidence of running injuries increased with the introduction of the Nike Cortez in 1972, and how cushioned running shoes encourage heel-striking as opposed to how we should naturally come down on the mid-foot. The shoe companies haven’t disputed these claims and in fact are jumping on the band wagon and designing more minimalist shoes such as the Nike Free.
Barefoot running, according to MacDougall, is the most efficient form and the craze has taken off over the last couple of years with the
publishing of his book. When I ran the Dublin marathon in 2010 I was astonished to see a number of people wearing a pair of what I
now know to be called Vibram Five Fingers. I don’t think I’m ready to don a pair just yet as I’ve found that my plantar fasciitis has more or less cleared up after prolonged rest, some intensive physical therapy as well as adopting the chi-running method. Danny Dreyer’s book on chi-running is well worth picking up but it will be impossible to know if you are adopting the right form without some assistance, and I found Catherina McKiernan’s workshop to be very worthwhile.
I’d recommend Born To Run to anyone who is an enthusiastic runner, but afterwards it will be hard not to feel that you have thrown good money after bad on all those Asics Kayanos that you thought were going to keep you injury free.