Mankind has spent thousands of years making things easier for ourselves, but in the process, we may have weakened our bodies. Its sad to see that through the years, we've been able to accomplish so much, yet at the same time, made ourselves weaker. Before, it was required of us to be able to walk long distances to go to school, but now, all you need to do is wait for a bus to pick you up and it'll take you to school as you sit. Society has made us become more efficient... yet at the same time, it has stunted our growth and we aren't as strong as we are. With the luxury of tools that helps us, we grow weaker.
Just as our minds grow weak when we rely on calculators to work on simple math problems, our body can grow weak with too much support. When we break a bone on our foot, a cast is placed to support our foot, and after we get off the cast, we need to go through therapy in order to strengthen the foot. Support is good, but having too much support will weaken the body (as well as our mind). In certain cases, it's good to rely on that support, but should we always rely on that support... even when we don't need it? Sure, it makes things easier or faster... but in the long run, it slows us down, makes us weaker, and in the end, we may even end up hurt because of the support.
Shoes have always been a big part of my life. Currently, I have approximately 8 pairs of running shoes that I regularly switch out to wear on different runs. I have two favorites which are completely different from each other. I have the Asics Kayano 18 which my dad bought me for my birthday present, costing over a hundred dollars. I also have the Asics Gel Hyperspeed 4 which I bought on roadrunnersports.com for less than fifty dollars. I do most of my training on the Kayano because of the support that it gives me, and because I'm not worried about speed. However, on my hard runs and races, I put on the Gel Hyperspeed because of its lightness and with it, I can speed up. The Kayano weighs approximately 11.5 oz while the Hyperspeed weighs 6.6 oz, making a considerable difference. However, even though the Kayano is good because it supports my legs in my long runs, I need to balance it out with other shoes so that my feet can becomes stronger. It's not that the Kayanos are bad, but it's that if I continue to run with them, the muscles from my calves up will get the exercise that it needs but the foot will weaken, getting use to the support it receives from the shoe. There are times that my feet need the break and support (which is why on weekends, I switch out my other shoes with the Kayano on the second day of running the long distances), but there are times when I need to make sure my feet are strong and the arches are holding.
I'm hoping to be able to get to a point where I won't need the support anymore, but it's important to take breaks and sometimes, I need to force myself into that break. The idea behind barefoot running is that you are working on your foot strength, and allowing your foot to support itself. I agree with the ideology of those kinds of shoes, but for some reason, I'm wanting to stick with the Asics that I'm wearing. It protects me a lot more, and my legs have already gotten accustomed to wearing shoes, so I'm choosing to wear the Asics shoes, which supports my feet more by protecting it, rather than preventing the biomechanics to do their own job. I look at my heel and see that I mainly use it when I'm standing still, more like a base, but when running, the heel doesn't take any of the impact, as the feet almost 'rolls' from heel to toe, and the impact lands on the balls of my feet, allowing me to continuously go forward.
There are times though, where having a good heel support is good. Yesterday, I had previously cycled to work and learned that my car was fixed and cycled to my car to pick it up (going to school, made a PR of cycling 15.82 miles in 58:33, and cycling to my car, I made it 4.62 miles in 19:42). After cycling for 4 consecutive days in a row, and pushing that last little bit, my legs were exhausted. The day before, I had done an hour and a half of floor hockey, which was a lot of sprinting, and by the time I went over to the indoor soccer field to play, my legs were nearing their limit. Fortunately, my mind was just fine. I pushed myself hard that game, and wearing soccer shoes, which has no support for the heel, it hurt me when I made a sudden stop with my whole foot, and after the game, with the constant stops and goes, my right heel felt a little bruised.
Support is needed at times, and at other times, it's unneeded. At work today, I'm wearing my flip-flops. They do nothing as a support, and pretty much are devices that help protect me from stepping on something sharp. I've heard people say that flip-flops are accidents waiting to happen and are bad for your feet because it doesn't have arch support. I look at my flip-flops and see something that lets my feet become free, allowing me to walk as I want, allowing my body mechanics to work the way it should. Without arch support. Our bodies are complete, and when we support it too much, we weaken it.
As I write this little article on shoes, I'm starting to change how I see things... I look at the 8 pairs of shoes that I have and see that those protect my feet from excessive amount of training and possible injury from running too much. I look at the flip-flops that I'm wearing and I see that it has strengthened my feet and allows me to run with the strength I've trained through the lack of support. When running, I think it's important to have some support because it is what it is... support. Should I wear support all the time? No. Should I wear it to prevent possible injury because I'm pushing myself? Sure. Should I wear it for a race? Why not? As long as it allows you to fully utilize all the muscles of your feet and you're running correctly, having support should be fine right? What it boils down to... is balance. Balance is key in life and when we go extreme in either direction, we end up injuring ourselves. Balance yourself with what you run in, balance yourself with what you work in. Balance yourself.