There is a programme that regularly runs on the Discovery Channel. It's called MythBusters. I'm sure most would have heard of it, or perhaps seen the odd episode.For those that haven't it basically sets about taking commonly held misconceptions and proving them right or wrong. The things they test are normally as wacky as possible and while not particularly relevant for most of us living our everyday lives, they do act as an alternative form of light entertainment when we're all Coro Street'd out.
Anyways, there are a few running related misconceptions that I thought I'd take this opportunity to shed some light on. What I'm about to write shouldn't be taken as fact, but rather one man's opinion on the ever increasing bombardment of technical mumbo-jumbo.
Firstly, Gore-Tex is not suited to every occasion. While there are many occasions when Gore-Tex shoes will do a fantastic job, there are equally as many occasions, in wet old New Zealand anyway, when Gore-Tex will be more detrimental than beneficial. More specifically, the waterproof Gore-Tex fabric will do a great job of keeping your feet warm and dry, until you walk through water that happens to be deeper than the top of your shoe! When this happens, you'll find water rushes into the top of the shoe and then cannot escape. You end up with drowned feet for the remainder of your run or walk.
Secondly, tramping boots are not the only option for tramping footwear. There are off road shoes too! While tramping boots are good for multi day tramps when you want to guarantee the safety of your ankles and keep your feet as dry as possible through those less than ankle deep puddles, off road shoes are sometimes are better option. Why? Because they are usually much lighter and therefore you expend less energy carrying them around. They are usually more flexible and therefore more suitable for your flexible feet. They are usually a more cost efficient option. They are usually lower to the ground and therefore provide your body with more feel and consequently stability. And lastly, when you happen to come across water that happens to be deeper than the top of your shoe, at least the free draining off road shoe will drain out once you've passed through.
Thirdly, bare foot running may be ideal for the barefoot guy in Ethiopia who has been running all his life on dirt trails, but be very careful in the harsh concrete ridden urban environment that most of us live in. There is more and more research coming out now which says that there are benefits to be gained from a more natural running shoe that is closer to the ground and therefore less cushioned. But be careful! The human body is not designed to absorb the jarring impact of foot on concrete day after day. It needs some cushioning. That level of cushioning should be selected based on your size, experience, run duration, and age. If you think you'd like to try the barefoot approach, work into it very slowly. You'll initially find that your calf muscles are forced to work overtime and unless you've trained them carefully, they might well break.