Dear John, I am a high school cross country runner in Naperville Illinois. I have read several books and studies and have fallen in love with the minimal style of running. I run about 65 miles a week and I currently wear the New Balance Minimus Trails and I do all my runs in them. I have not had any trouble at all with them. The reason I am sending this is because for my English class, I have a project that requires me to learn how to do something. Taking advantage of a great opportunity, I have decided to make Huarache Sandals. One part of my project involves interviewing an expert on my subject. I was wondering if you were willing to answer a few questions for me about the huaraches and minimal running in general. I would greatly appreciate it if you e-mailed me back so I can send you approximately ten questions about this subject that I am eager to find the answer to. 1. Why is minimalism becoming a trend in the United States and what has led to this "rebirth" in barefoot running? 2. What are the benefits of running barefoot vs with big shoes? 3. How have Humans Developed to have features built for running long Distances? 4. What parts of the body enable us and help run long distances? 5. Why do you think people developed to run long distances? 6. Do you think running high mileage early on will disable you in the future? 7. Do you think that the Tarahumara have the right idea going in their way of life? 8. Do you believe that running barefoot/minimalist will help reduce injury. 9. Do different body types affect the efficiency of distance running? 10. Is it possible to strengthen the arch of ones' foot and if so how? I would greatly appreciate it if you got back to me if soon as possible if you are able. I would love to learn more about this fascinating topic and would be forever grateful if you helped me out. Thank you so much, Lukas SkucasLucas: Thank you for writing. I don't claim to be an expert on huaraches, especially not making them, but I'll try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. First, I wear the huaraches made by Barefoot Ted: Luna's. I bought my pair about two years ago, in part after reading about him in Christopher McDougall's book Born To Run. At that point Ted's huarache business was a "one monkey operation" and he was still making them custom. What that entailed was me tracing the outline of my feet on a piece of paper and sending it to him. Now I think he and his monkey minions have standard sizes, which you can find out more about at his website: https://www.lunasandals.com/ I prefer to run completely barefoot, but my huaraches are my next favorite way to run, either because my soles are a little raw from a long run, or for night running, when I just can't be certain what I'm running on. I run in the huaraches both on pavement and on trails. They're very thin and sometimes for trails I've been tempted to 'upgrade' to something a little thicker, but really they work fine. Other minimalist footwear I use are the Vibram Five Fingers (for longer trail runs/races) and I also have a pair of Merrell's, which I bought for cold weather running only, though I'd only use them for trails. Otherwise they're too shoe-ish and actually hurt my feet if I run on pavement with them. Too much coverage. If and when I ever live back where the weather is warm, I'd use huaraches for most of my minimalist needs, but again, I do run completely barefoot a lot. Now I will attempt to answer your questions!
1. Why is minimalism becoming a trend in the United States and what has led to this "rebirth" in barefoot running?I think it was helped by the book Born To Run, though I'd heard about the 'trend' just before I heard about the book (which is more about ultrarunning than going barefoot). I think honestly that runners have been getting frustrated with the quality of shoes. I was suffering from plantar fasciitis, couldn't run for two years, saw 4 different doctors, and nothing helped. But when I ran barefoot, the PF vanished. Minimalist running helps runners connect better to trails (I think it's more popular for trail running) by allowing them to actually feel some kind of sensation, to feel the terrain underneath their feet.
2. What are the benefits of running barefoot vs with big shoes?The benefits seem to be stronger feet. Period. No more common shoe-related injuries like plantar fasciitis, or 'bum knees.' The benefits of "big shoes"? I don't see any anymore. They just seem to weaken our feet.
3. How have Humans Developed to have features built for running long Distances?Well, I'm not an expert on this, but again, check out Born To Run, it goes into how we humans evolved over at least a million and a half years as runners, in order to hunt. We ran animals down. We had to. We hadn't developed bows and arrows, or even spears yet.
4. What parts of the body enable us and help run long distances?I think the whole body helps. Yes, our legs and feet, but when I run long distances, my whole body feels sore!
5. Why do you think people developed to run long distances?See question 3, though I will add here that Born To Run is merely condensing info that's already out there about how we humans evolved and lived.
6. Do you think running high mileage early on will disable you in the future?No! It will make you stronger! That is, unless you run in shoes! Then all bets are off! Then it seems like the ole PF will get you, or your knees will give out from all that jarring heel striking.
7. Do you think that the Tarahumara have the right idea going in their way of life?From the accounts I've read, in Born To Run and other sources, they seem pretty darn healthy. But I don't know all the information to be able to answer this.
8. Do you believe that running barefoot/minimalist will help reduce injury?It reduced my injury! I can run again. I have a friend who stopped running because of a bad knee, but now runs again, in VFFs. I will say though, that I've heard about people injuring themselves by running in minimalist footwear they way they would in 'regular' shoes. You have to learn to run differently: No heel striking, lifting the feet instead of slamming them down. If people are interested, I'd send them to the Barefoot Runners Society Website. Or, just start slow. Trot. Listen to your body.
9. Do different body types affect the efficiency of distance running?I'm not sure. I do know that when I attempted the Burning River 100M, I saw a variety of body types, especially some big dudes. Distance running seems to be at least in part about endurance, stamina, stubbornness.
10. Is it possible to strengthen the arch of ones' foot and if so how?Yes. By using it. 'Regular' shoes, or anything with arch support, weaken our arches. Like I said, I could immediately run again when I went barefoot. My feet seemed to enjoy being used again! Also: Go barefoot whenever possible. There is also a movement building to live a barefoot lifestyle. Even if you don't run, go barefoot around the house. Switch to minimalist shoes for any footwear needs. Avoid arch support or cushioning. I hope this was helpful Lucas. Again, thank you for thinking of me. Cheers! John