Ah, technology. Solve some problems create others. My exercise focus these days is turning to running, and shoes. I had pretty much giving up on long distance running as a form of exercise due to concern about long term knee damage. Now, I’m learning more about more about barefoot running, which seems to address this concern. While not necessarily barefoot (minimalist shoes are also used effectively), the basic idea is to change a runner’s stride to avoid the heel strike and the impact that produces on the knees…instead, landing on the ball of the feet and using the foot geometry to absorb the impact. Good or bad? Well, look at it this way, our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution. We’ve invented new shoes that have allowed us to change our stride, only to find that other areas of the bodies are now unsuitable for the new loads being applied. Wired magazine has a great article about this, and you can expect this ‘trend’ to really take off in 2012.
The solution is really quite simple and elegant. Respect and understand how our bodies evolved, and ENHANCE the design rather than trying to alter it. Wearing minimalist shoes is a form of enhancement…you get the optimal stride and form, but with more protection for your foot (nice to have in areas with hot pavement, or rocky surfaces).
Check out Barefoot Inclined for one runner’s story of re-learning how to run.