I need some life editing. There has been a powerful consumer drive in me for most of my life with the result that I have accumulated a lot of “stuff” – possessions that I didn’t really need and still don’t. Now don’t get me wrong I have worked hard to buy these things but cleaning out my attic and shed has made me realise how much rubbish I have. Most of us work hard to try and buy a house and a car and then we work harder to maintain it or buy a bigger house and a bigger car – but do we need it? We can be obsessed by new things —dreaming of what happiness they could bring. But what once seemed fresh and exciting quickly becomes the norm, new purchases lead to fresh expectations. We live in a world of abundant choice, but with choice comes a cost, because with too must choice we fail to choose and take all options. Advertisers offer you happiness when you consume their products. As soon as we get used to a new possession, we look for an even better one! Our old possessions are relegated to storage. Buying a new house, car, or iPhone might satisfy us momentarily, but it doesn’t last. George Carlin, a famous stand-up comedian famously observed that “a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”Maybe less is more, having less space, and less stuff would mean a smaller carbon footprint, money savings and can create room in our lives for more important things.
To live like a minimalist I will have to edit ruthlessly, I will have to clear the arteries of my life – it may be a long process. Not only that but I will have to stem the inflow. I will have to think before I buy. I still want to buy great stuff and things I can enjoy, but I want stuff I can enjoy for years. But I have a problem. I have a running shoe fetish, I don’t have a budget for runners – I don’t like to limit myself. Why do I buy so many runners? I am fascinated by the potential for improvement in my running without doing more training (aren’t we all). Will this particular pair help me be better, be faster, I suppose I am an advertising dream. I have memories associated with runners, the miles logged, thoughts had, problems I have worked through, people I have met. Bad runs in a particular pair of runners get stored as learning experience – beta testing, and good runs get stored as aspirations for the future. It’s the weirdest relationship I have ever had. But running too can be minimalistic and in its truest sense running is barefoot. Now I am not willing to brave the streets strewn with broken glass and rusty nails and heaped with endless piles of toxic dog poop in my bare feet. But I am willing to embrace minimalistic running shoes as part of a greater effort. A minimalist running shoe provides insignificant interference with the natural movement of the foot, has a low heel to toe drop, is very lightweight and has no motion control or stabilising devices (Esculier et al., 2015). I have dabbled in barefoot running in the past but never fully committed because I like the reassurance for my average investment of 90-100 euro per pair of traditional running shoes. I am less likely to get injured, be more comfortable because I buy “well made”, expensive, branded runners that suit my running speed (slow), my weight? They are better??? Aren’t they? In fact low to medium-cost running shoes have been found to be as comfortable as more expensive models (Clinghan et al., 2008). But at least by spending more money on my runners I am protecting myself against injury???? ……. No seemingly not! (Lieberman et al., 2010; Goss & Gross, 2012)
Like many I credit Christopher McDougalls book “Born to run” for sparking my interest in barefoot running. Macdougall recounts his personal experiences with historical and factual information on running, ultrarunning, human anatomy, and the Tarahuma tribe of Mexico’s Copper Canyons in a story that reads like fiction. The individuals McDougall describes in his book are such unique and entertaining characters that their real life popularity soared after Born to Run was published. It has lead to an explosion in the popularity of barefoot running. But bare feet and minimalistic running shoes were not invented in 2009, and have been the footwear of choice for many top and other runners long before the current fashion and Macdougals book. The problem is for every study showing that minimalist shoes change your stride, reduce your impact forces, or lower your injury risk, there’s another showing the opposite. But just as in life considering and effecting change in running is by the nature of adaptation going to be slow, but just as in life, maybe in running – less is more and it’s time to remove the excess that is holding us back.
Clinghan R, Arnold GP, Drew TS, Cochrane LA & Abboud RJ. (2008). Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes? Br J Sports Med 42, 189-193.
Esculier J-F, Dubois B, Dionne CE, Leblond J & Roy J-S. (2015). A consensus definition and rating scale for minimalist shoes. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 8, 42.
Goss DL & Gross MT. (2012). Relationships among self-reported shoe type, footstrike pattern, and injury incidence. US Army Med Dep J, 25-30.
Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D’Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang’eni RO & Pitsiladis Y. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463, 531-535.