29 Dec Broken Feet
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. This is an open challenge to any and all running shoe manufacturers in the business to create a shoe that serves a severely underserved market. I will tell my whole story in the hopeful belief that it might help some other skinny, fast, shy, cardiovascularly challenged but strong, bullied youngster who may need a little bit of encouragement from an adult to succeed in sport beyond his wildest imagination.
If you want to get right to the challenge – skip through to it here >>
Chris MacDougal launched, maybe unwittingly at first, a revolution of sorts in the running industry when he published his book BORN TO RUN. Whether it launched a trend or merely was one in many of a semi-scientific, semi-directed trend – Chi Running – Natural Running – Gravity Running – &c – is a debate that still exists in some corners. MacDougal’s success is undeniable, but all of this is largely irrelevant to me.
I AM A TOE RUNNER
Always have been. I was bullied and made fun of unmercifully as a youngster for the way I walked – on my toes – bouncing down the sidewalk. And as the entire 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes made me aware as we walked the 400-800m to the Polo Grounds for Gym Class, I was weird. I bounced. The boys jump-skipped behind me every step, every day. They asked me why I walked that way. So “gay.” They meant “effeminiate.” I didn’t know what any of that meant at the time. I just knew they were singling me out because they thought I was different. Strange. Weak. I could name every one of the boys today if you pressed me. But I won’t. They’ve all grown beyond this stupid, juvenile behavior – at least the few I still know. And it would be wrong to rub their noses in it. I was taught differently than they were.
The truth is, though, they were right. And it still affects me today as a 46 year old. I bounced. I couldn’t help it. It was just the way my personal biomechanics worked. My mother even asked my pediatrician – Dr. Taylor, whom I loved like a Norman Rockwell family member – how to solve my bounce-walking when I was a kid. His brilliant response – “buy him heavier shoes.” I don’t blame him, either. Biomechanics and kinesiology were unknown in small town America at the time.
As I grew, I tried every sport imaginable.
Flag Football – I was fast, so they put me as a wide receiver, but I couldn’t catch, so I never found out if I could take a hit.
Baseball – In scouting parlance, I could run, but couldn’t hit, catch or throw. Never even got to the infield fly rule.
Basketball – Confused by the 3-second rule in the lane and I didn’t want to mix it up in the paint.
Hockey, lacrosse and… basically all other team sports (we track guys called them “ball-sports”) – my hand-eye coordination was questionable. Great for a recreational player. Lousy for a competitive player.
Soccer – Grew up in the age of the Cosmos. Beckenbauer. Chinaglia. And of course, the world’s beloved Pele. Never really learned the sport the way I should have, as my English and Irish friends remind me. I was great in the open field, struggled in close quarters.
I first discovered track & field through my father (a national-class schoolboy hurdler) and grandfather (a h.s. conference record holder at the 220 low hurdles. A great event that no longer exists.)
I was introduced to the sport through a junior program in my home town. Recruited to a local track club (Mine Mt. Rd. Dept.) by an unknown, volunteer, junior coach who you may know today from his work as the head coach at the University of Colorado. I found my home in running. Every single day, I was still made fun of for the way I walked on my toes, but eventually, after time, and a few races, I at least began to see some respect among my fellow running competitors.
I had a pretty successful high school running career. And my college career never really panned out the way I had in mind. Injury related to the way my feet hit the ground was probably the worst of it. Then I gave up running altogether for years. I got big. Very big for me. But even at my fattest, I still ran on my toes. Which tells me a person’s gait is simply, natural. You may be a heel runner, a mid-foot striker, a toe runner and that’s just the way you’re built. Don’t try to change it.
But what it all boils down to is in all my years of running, I’ve never found a shoe that really works for me. When I was a kid running at 140 lbs or less, it didn’t really matter what shoe I ran in. When I was a 200 lb clydesdale still running on my toes, however, I needed a shoe that might protect me and help me keep moving forward.
The problem – there wasn’t one. And there still isn’t one.