Author’s Note: This is not a condemnation of sneakers or the benefits of technology, it’s meant to evoke thought, imagination and meditation about God’s creation. The author wears shoes and sneakers most of the time.
I recently purchased a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for running. In part this was due to the influence of a fellow running friend who ran the NYC Marathon in them as well as reading the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Born to Run is a fascinating read and it documents Christopher McDougall’s quest to find the best way to run after some serious running injuries. One of the places that he goes in his research quest is to Copper Canyon in Northwest Mexico where the Tarahumara, a Native American tribe, live. The thing that’s interesting and compelling about the Tarahumara is that they are amazing runners. They are known for running upwards of 60 miles a day just for the heck of it, and on a very basic corn based diet. What’s more, they do it on sandals, without the aid of the best running shoes designed by the likes of Nike, Brooks or Reebok. To the average American runner such as myself that seems crazy until you become familiar with the history of running. It turns out that there is a direct connection between the rise of running shoes beginning in the 1970s and the rise of injuries in runners. The more padding, the more support, the more injuries. The reason, it is argued, is because the running shoe greatly affects the mechanics of the foot and body of the runner. In other words, running shoes create injuries because they inhibit the foot and body from running the way nature intended or, for that matter, God intended.
Anyways, I’ve started running in Five Fingers and it has been awesome. They take a little while to get used to because running in them requires the use of muscles and bones that may not have been used all that much when wearing sneakers. I must tell you, though, that after a month of use I can feel various parts of my body coming to life via soreness or simple usage. My calves and butt (tmi, right?) are getting more use but I feel stronger. My running pace is quicker even though it doesn’t feel that way. Put simply, it’s a really cool experience to run pseudo-barefooted or, dare I say, more natural according to our body’s biological makeup. As I recall McDougall’s book and the Tarahumara I think, “No wonder those guys are able to run the way that they do.”
All of this prompts me to meditate upon the creation story found in Genesis. We Christians believe that this world was created by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We believe that God’s creation is good, that it was no accident but intentional and purposeful, that there’s a rhyme and a reason to its ebbing and flowing. Yet, we also believe that we rejected God’s ways and provision to go our own way. As a result, God’s good creation was perverted and taken captive by sin. As an example: before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they didn’t need clothes but after they ate of the fruit they needed clothes because they now “knew” that they were naked. Thus, God must make clothes for them and where do the clothes from? The skins of another animal. The captivity of sin results in death and in methods and means that, initially, were not needed because “it was good”. No wonder Paul tells us that the creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now. Due to the fallenness of this world, we humans are often improving upon it in good ways but our efforts can also be destructive as the narrative of Genesis attests to.
As I run in my Vibram Five Fingers I am prompted to ponder the creation story and wonder anew at God’s good creation. Running pseudo barefoot reminds me that God was no dummy, that his creation was good and is good. There are differences, of course, pre and post Fall, but its goodness is still there despite what we might to do it or it may do to us. Ultimately, it’s a reminder of this good creation and the futility that it has been subjected to and will one day be freed from.