My first reaction to the latest anti-barefoot blah-dee-blah printed in The HuffPo was, are people still talking about this? I skimmed through to see if there was anything new or interesting worth responding to, but instead found the same-o same-o. The guy targets “barefoot shoes,” but his criticism is against barefooting in general.
Before I go any farther, let me clarify that when I say “podiatrists” I mean “podiatrists who know nothing about running but feel entitled to give advice anyway.” I’m sure there’s some scientific legitimacy in the field, I just lack the motivation to find any. Diagnosing and healing broken stuff, I suppose.
Everyone who reads this blog by now knows all the arguments that makes debating an anti-barefoot podiatrist akin to challenging a dead man to a duel. Sure, you could fire a shot, but you don’t really “win” and you’re just making things messier. So I’ve pretty much stopped thinking about them, and feel little need to waste time on a topic which only affects those who wish to be affected.
Iris however made an interesting tangential observation that I feel deserves comment and got the brain juices flowing: who died and made the podiatrist king (second death reference in this post; is being sick making me dwell on my mortality?)? That is to say, running involves the entire body, not just the feet. Yet the podiatrist has cornered the market on medical advice for runners. Frankly, I’d rather hear what a hip specialist has to say on the topic of running, because there’s more room for error with how I move my hips than how I move my feet. I mean, once you get the feet, you get it. You can focus on using your feet to help you figure out the best way to move the rest of your body.
I’ll get back to the main topic in a sec, but I think this is important to mention, re the hips: it’s the twist that alleviates the pain and injuries that would otherwise result from thudding. Here’s what Dr. Chubby Checker has to say on the subject:
Come on everybody!
Clap your hands!
All you looking good!
I’m gonna sing my song
It won’t take long!
We’re gonna do the twist
and it goes like this:
Come on let’s twist again,
like we did last summer!
Yeaaah, let’s twist again,
like we did last year!
Do you remember when,
things were really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s twist again,
twistin’ time is here!
Heeee, and round and round and up and down
we go again!
Oh, baby, make me know you love me sooooo,
like we did last summer,
Come on, let’s twist again,
like we did last year!
Seriously, throw out all of your how-to-run tomes. This song tells you all you need to know about running form.
OK, back to the foot. So how did the podiatrist accrue so much influence in running culture? They don’t offer anything of value; every other doctor would recommend exercise for a weak body part. Only the podiatrist recommends atrophy. People go to podiatrists to be told they’re weak and unfixable. That’s weird, especially for a culture like running culture that is so motivated by eradicating weaknesses. I had once thought that the runner-podiatrist relationship was a result of human desire to damage oneself, but that doesn’t answer the question, why the foot? Put on your tinfoil hats everybody, I’ve got another theory.
Above, I wrote “once you get the feet, you get it.” By “it” I mean how to use the feedback from what your feet feel to run smoothly. Most runners don’t get “it.” Their body tells them they’re missing something and it has to do with the foot region, but they don’t know what that something is. So they buy fancy colorful shoes that look all science-y and sporty. They buy bounciness and cushioning. The buy arch support. They buy stabilization. Deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole they go, all the while asking “what is it feet? What do you want? I give and I give, and pay and pay, and still you betray me.”
What they are feeling is the sensation of a severely underutilized body part, but don’t know it. They just feel something is amiss below the ankle. They fixate on that one body part, and ignore the rest of their flailing corpus. The culture feeds this fixation, dividing people into under vs over pronators, high vs low arches, Nike vs Adidas, heel vs toe strike, all culminating like a chorus of Amens to the angry and inscrutable Foot God. Every god needs a human representative, and for the foot worshipers that is the podiatrist.
Next time you’re at a big marathon expo, look around. You’re in a tent revival full of foot worshipers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my feet, just not on their own. They’re a part of my entire body, one part that has to work together with the rest. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what they want when they want it, no different than my hands or head or… um… hamstrings (O alliteration, your siren song is strong! Damn! I did it again!).
Back to the podiatrist – any anger and fist-shaking at them is misdirected. That is, if you’re a podiatrist skeptic of the angry, fist-shaking variety. They are just a reflection of what individuals want. They didn’t step up to a mic and say “excuse me, you runners, we’re in charge now, what we say goes.” What happens is runners and media seek out their advice. We’ve given them that authority. So really, it’s probably best to ignore them until one of them says something interesting. It’s not like they give a rats what I think.
Anyway, tally hoo. The wife made an interesting comment that turned into a post, now I shall once again distance myself from the sordid subject of shoddy silliness and focus on freaking out about Charleston.