Thursday, May 23, 2013

Born to run....Almost Barefoot!

The barefoot running movement remained in obscurity for about a decade more. Christopher McDougall released the book Born to Run in 2009 and it became an instant sensation with a cult following in the US running community. In the book, McDougall profiles a reclusive Native American tribe who have since gained fame. The Tarahumara, as the tribe are known, have dwelt for centuries in the savage North American terrain that comprises the desert region of the continent from Mexico into the southwestern USA.

Just what does this elusive, reclusive tribe do for fun? One might ask. They run, of course. They run competitive races, many are festive with a significance that would rival the Olympics if this tribe’s world were representative of the planet. They literally run races up to 100 miles, and not just the elite runners of the tribe This is a tribe of runners; it’s in the culture at least as much as baseball is in the culture of mainstream USA or soccer in mainstream Mexico.

Before Born to Run was published, the tribe’s only connection with “civilization as we know it” was an American runner named Micah True, who lived sporadically among the tribe but was mostly a loaner whom tribes people described as if he was a ghost. True, who passed away in 2012 during a run in the wilderness of New Mexico, was better known as “Caballo Blanco”, which literally translates from Spanish as “White Horse”.

The Tarahumara ran “almost barefoot”; they wore thin, leather sandals whose only real purpose was to protect the feet from the scalding hot sand of the desert. The sandals, which because the basis for the now-popular Xeroshoes running sandal, allow completely-unrestricted movement of the foot. The runner’s feet are able to bend and move as if the runner was barefoot.

In 2010, a group of Colorado runners who were part of a new Barefoot Running Club based in Boulder, CO began to experiment with Vibram material and nylon string to make running sandals modeled after the tribal originals. The Barefoot Running club had been recently formed by Jessica Lee and Michael Sandler. Sandler was about to become the nation’s most famous barefoot runner, and the club founded by Jessica would fuel the fire that finally moved barefoot running onto the mainstream running community.
The Tarahumara's sandals were mimicked with rubber soles and nylon strings that became the well-known Xeroshoes. Xeroshoes Corporation continues to work to support the Tarahumara, the tribe that gave us running sandals and helped us reconnect to our roots in the earth. 

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