And then there is the rest of us.
I think it's safe to say that over the last year or so, we've all at least considered drinking the Kool-Aid. By taking a completely crass view of Born To Run, you realize that it is one of the greatest (and perhaps completely unintended) works of propaganda ever written. It's an entertaining, readable story that makes some very compelling arguments for barefoot/minimalist running. We all have a little bit of a primal instinct left in our DNA and the booked tapped into it perfectly.
But human nature is complicated, probably more now than in any time in history. We live in a world that became increasingly fast paced through the second half of the 20th century. That pace was then amplified by the technology of the last 10 years. As a result we have grown very impatient because we can get anything we want within 24 hours. Information is instantly available. Books, music and movies can be downloaded in a matter of minutes. And as long as we are willing to pay for it, almost any product we can think of can be delivered to our doorsteps overnight.
So what happens when information is instantly available and (in the case goods and services) that information can be acted upon so quickly? Trends come and go faster than ever before.
Barefoot running is a trend, plain and simple. Like I said in the first paragraph of this post, there are people who have always run barefoot and will continue to do so. But they aren't the people who have been overly evangelizing barefoot running recently. They aren't the people who have been propping up Vibram's balance sheet for the last 18 months. And they aren't the people who will inevitably get out as fast as they got in.
I read a forum thread on beginnertriathlete.com today where the poster was commenting on the barefoot running trend by citing Malcolm Gladwell, the author of one of my favorite books The Tipping Point. I'm paraphrasing here, but the point being made was that trends usually swing opposite to each other with every cycle. If a low heel drop and minimal uppers are the technological and cultural paradigm of running shoes today, it will eventually go the other way. In fact, it's already happening. Have you seen these shoes yet?
|Hoka One One "Mafate"|
By using an EVA 30% softer and increasing its total volume to 2.5 times that of a typical trail running shoe, we allow for more cushioning than any other shoe on the market today, dissipating up to 80% of the shock associated with heal striking when running.I'm not saying Hoka One One is going to single-handedly swing the trend. Personally, the only way you'd ever get me to run in those things is if I could also wear a Japanese school-girl outfit, pigtails and a Hello Kitty back-pack. But eventually, something will stick. And most of us will quickly forget what the whole fuss about barefoot running was in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to admit I am a sucker for trends. But as a result of trying out Vibram Five Fingers a couple times early on, I consciously decided to avoid barefoot running. I realized that I had already found running shoes that allowed me to run long and far while staying injury free. I mostly wear Newtons. To be fair, I'm not surprised that their design borrows from both schools of thought.
I'm also not bashing the true barefoot runners. I recognize that just because the "trendiness" of barefoot running has eclipsed the act itself, the trend does not invalidate barefoot running. In fact, I would suspect that there are many barefoot runners that are just as annoyed as I am.
And yes, the barefoot running trend annoys me. The reason is simple - running is a very intense activity and your feet are way too important to get caught up in hype and for-profit marketing. I don't know of anything in the world that works for everyone, so I think it's safe to assume that barefoot running is no different. Yet, the spin on barefoot running has reached such a fever pitch that the message has almost become "unless you start barefoot running RIGHT NOW you will get injured and your running career will be over". Sure, there are plenty of more reasonable voices out there. But the problem is that at the apex of any trend it is super easy for all common sense to go flying out the window.
Think I'm wrong? Then why is Justin Bieber so popular?