Born to Run

A few months ago, I participated in a RunChat chat on Twitter - if you don't know RunChat is a twitter account that hosts chats on Sunday's and runners come together and chat about all things running - depending on the week there's specific topic. During this one week I participated in, it was all about books. Of the several screenshots I took from the chat to remember all the books, and the ones I've added to my goodreads want to read list, one book stood out to me - Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

Basically everything I know about running is a lie.

I feel like the runner I was before I read this book vs after I read this book are actually two different people. What I liked about this book is that it was a story of the author learning about the Hidden Tribe of super athletes - the Tarahumara - with a lot of history on running that I haven't read about before. So it was a nice balance of wow-new-running-infomation, everything-I-know-is-a-lie, and how-on-earth-will-this-story-end. So in one phrase I'd say I was having a running existential crisis.

Let's talk sneakers.

Now from the dawn of time we have been shown that if you get sneakers with X amount of support you will fly, never feel any sort of pain, will run faster due to how much support/bounce feedback and all that good stuff. And I am here to tell you that that is all a lie. Sneakers are actually the cause of most of our foot and knee injuries.

A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries. - Chapter 25, Born to Run

So now that we're all on the same page of having a running existential crisis, if you skimmed over that quote because wow that's a chunk of text: Your shoes are most likely causing you to be injured more than your actual running is. The book goes on to explain that the reason for this is because we've shielded our foot from their natural running bare-foot position by providing more and more support- when you try to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed, other things break (hi leg related injuries, how are you doing on this fine autumn afternoon).

The more I read the source for our injuries the more I realized my entire viewpoint of running is shaped by these mega corporations that actually aren't a magical fair god parent for my running. In fact, according to a study done in this book,  there is no evidence that running shoes help at all with injury prevention. 

on running - cloudswift sneaker on track, one foot up one down
my running children at the track, good times good times

The best shoes are actually the worst.

The way my head snapped when I read this line in the book you'd think I needed an ice pack for my neck. Let us all have a nice sit down for this running tea:

Runners wearing top-of-the-line-shoes are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap running shoes,... Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40... Wearer's of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g. more cushioning, 'pronation correction') are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).- 171-172, Born to Run

So basically for over twice the price, we get over twice the amount of running related injuries. You can imagine the math I was doing in my head for my sneakers I've had since I began running all those years back. What really stumped me was that as much as the latest Nike sneaker is shown as the best in the market, it is the best in the market but not technically the best for the sport.

The more protective cushion - hi hi hi Nike Zoom I'm looking at you - the worse it actually is for you. But then there's me - flat foot human - thinking about my shoes with extra support. I always need more support due to not having a regular arch in my foot like normal people do. And having that extra support definitely does help me bounce back on the ground like I'm on a puffy lil cloud of running heaven - so how does a shoe that I think helps me be bad for me?

The way I think of it is that the additional cushion being added doesn't allow for our natural foot to move the way that it was supposed to. And by stopping my foot from it's natural running movement -  flat foot and all, my foot would run differently barefoot vs living rent free in cushion-y sneakers-  the cushion surrounding it leads to potential long term injuries. It's a barrier from the actual ground my foot should be adjusting to running on.

So feels great in the moment of running but take the adrenaline out of the equation, give it a few months and you may be saying good morning to shin splints or a knee injury. I'd say that it's fair to say that all our running related injuries stem from our shoes are fixing a problem that doesn't exist which then creates a problem that very much exists in the form of knee injuries or even the dreaded shin splints. The more you support an area, the weaker it naturally becomes on its own without the protective cage of cushion.

Running should be Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.

This is easier said than done. There are some days when you really feel that run. If you're a runner you'll know the type of runs I'm talking about - the ones where you're doing a mathematical equation to see if there's a way to finish your run by skipping miles in between from the start to end. A run being easy doesn't mean slow, it just means an effort that is easy to give and you're not straining to give it. No huffing and puffing, just chilling in the run with the effort that is easy for you to maintain.

I would say all too often we tend to think of we should be running faster like XYZ person, and it's like uh no. You are your own person, run your run at your easy to maintain pace that the run calls for. That's not to say you shouldn't visualize yourself running faster - I definitely do this, visualizing how much faster future me will be because I am putting in the work to get there - but don't live in the comparison of what your 8 effort is compared to an actual Olympic athlete.

Sahara running on trail, trees around path, mask in hand
the most unphotogenic runner in motion is ready for her closeup

The feeling of a run being light is a feeling I didn't know I was chasing for a long time.

When the run doesn't feel like a run and you can just keep going - not caring about the miles and just being in tune with the run- that's the best feeling, and last week, that was me. I was just running my 4.5 mile run and I was just in one word: chilling. Like I was at a easy to maintain pace on that given day, and I just felt like I was in touch with my inner running self - not caring how far I have to go, or how many loops in front of my house I have until I hear the voice telling me I've completed the mile I was running [hi about 6 loops - 12 straight away's in front of my house makes 1 mile], just feeling like I was running for the sake of running not for the sake of a pace to meet.

And that's when smooth sailing enters the chat.

When the run feels easy, when your feet don't feel like you're dragging them to the end of the run and you feel light - that's when you find your rhythm. You are in tune with the ground you're bouncing off of, you are smooth sailing. And once you find your rhythm, the fourth component of a run - FAST - is in the rearview mirror. And you know what they say about rearview mirrors - things in the mirrors are closer than they appear. Once you have Easy, Light, Smooth down, you will be fast.

So once we get to that feeling of being in tune with our running selves, what about what we're fueling ourselves with?

Now let's talk about about Scott Jurek. If you've been under a rock like I have, he is an American Ultra-marathoner. He is a living legend - named one of the greatest runners of all time - he has finished first in nearly ALL of ultrarunning's elite events. Can you just compute that for a second - he has finished first in nearly all races he's raced in! But it wasn't always like that for him, he didn't use to be the fastest runner in high school, he'd be back at the pack, ringing in at last place. As someone who was a mid-pack runner for most of my high school and middle school running I don't know - it's just felt like this was a perfect reminder of no matter when you finish the race, you are still a runner and high school is not the be all end all of the athlete you were meant to be.

Let's get back to food.

During the book, there's a section where runners are stopping under a tree waiting for water. All the other runners pulled out a granola bar or some fast energy goos to fuel. Scott on the other hand took out some pita bread and hummus. The way my middle eastern head snapped at this specific part, I was like hold on did you say pita bread? Hummus? BREAD?

"I like real food," Scott said. "It's just as portable and you get real calories, not just a fast burn." - 191, Born to Run

He didn't always used to be like that though - he used to eat junk food all day every day - lunch for him was two McChickens and large fries. So what changed? Well he did some research on traditional endurance athletes. 

In his research he found more vegetarians than he thought he would - as a Nordic skier and cross-country runner in high school, his coaches always preached about lean meat to rebuild his muscles after a tough workout. In the beginning he wasn't sure why meatless diets were the key to a lot of history's great runners, but decided to do this lil experiment on himself - go vegetarian and see how it changed him and his running. Rather than packing Snickers or PowerBars during his long runs, he instead packed rice burritos, pita stuffed with hummus, Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread.

When he sprained his ankle he also didn't take ibuprofen and instead relied on wolfsbane and large portions of garlic and ginger.

The idea that rice and bread together to make rice burritos, and pita bread being such a staple for him in his running life was a bit mind-blowing to me - those are the two foods that for the most part are a no-go zone for runners. Bread is practically preached as avoid, and rice? I'm pretty sure swapping it for quinoa is a norm for most runners/people aiming to make healthier choices.

While going through this transformation a lot of people told him that he'd be weaker and wouldn't recover all that great in between workouts, get stress fractures or anemia. But the thing is they were all wrong - he actually felt a lot better during his runs because he was eating foods with more high-quality nutrients.

By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn't forced to carry or process any useless bulk. And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it's easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn't have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the animo acids necessary to build muscle from scratch. Like a Tarahumara runner, he's ready to go any distance, any time. - 192-193, Born to Run

I wouldn't say I eat processed things - I tend for the most part to snack on fruits, and eat vegetables with every meal. But the one thing I've actually avoided for most of my life was bread. I'd avoid it all costs - Pita Bread? Nope, I wouldn't eat it. It was only recently this year after about 8 years of being strict that I actually don't mind eating bread anymore. And here's Scott being a living legend all while eating a bit of Pita Bread on his runs too.

Sahara, in running rain coat with nike cap smiling head tilted away from camera; side profile
I call this the I-think-I-see-my-neighbors-car-moving-rowards-my-general-direction-act-casual / is that a neighbor walking as I'm taking a selfie

Throughout Born to Run I feel like there was a lot of unlearning from my end.

I did speak on diets in my post Counting Calories (spoiler alert: I do not believe in counting calories or dieting at all for that matter) - and I spoke on supplements/powders on how I'd need to do more research as personally I preferred naturally eating the food to be energized. (Not supplements in the sense that you're deficient in XYZ, supplements in the sense of instead of eating XYZ, I'll have this powder!) And, based on this book from Scott Jurek himself, this was the right decision. I don't have any plans to start taking supplements or energy goos - just to fuel myself with real food.

Would I ever try barefoot running?

And back my sneaker existential crisis - I would say I'd love to get to that stage of my running life to go barefoot running/like barefoot running with those specific shoes. But I also can't go cold turkey. My feet have been in running sneakers since the dawn of time, I can't chuck those to the wind and just run barefoot - hi potential injuries.  I'd have to ease myself slowly into barefoot running - the first step for me is to work on my arch that I don't have as a flat footed person. Yes, I am here to tell you what my foot specialist all those years back didn't tell me but this book did: it is possible for flat footed people to do certain exercises to have a normal arch in their foot.

In the book they mentioned Alan Webb, America's greatest miler. But he wasn't born with the so-called magical genes that made him great from the start. In high school he was a flat footed runner with terrible form, but his coach - what a literal golden human being - saw he had potential and worked with him to rebuild him to the runner that we now know as Alan Webb.

"I had injury problems early on, and it became apparent that my biomechanics could cause injury," Webb told me. "So we did foot-strengthening drills and special walks in bare feet." Bit by bit, Webb watched his feet transform before his eyes. "I was size twelve and flat-footed, and now I'm a nine or ten. As the muscles in my feet got stronger, my arch got higher." Because of the barefoot drills, Webb also cut down on his injuries allowing him to handle the kind of heavy training that would lead to his U.S. record for the mile and the fastest 1,500-meter time in the world for the year 2007.- 175, Born to Run

I actually never knew that it was possible to strengthen your feet with barefoot drills to the point of your foot having an arch and as a result going down a few shoe sizes. That was literally just absolutely mind-blowing to read, and is the first step I will be doing in my ~arch journey~ from flat-foot (literally no arch all) to having an arch. I've been taking a look at specific exercises to do and I'm excited to put it to work to see how what I thought was impossible can actually happen.

Sahara, bright orange long sleeve shirt, looking to side; side profile in image
a ongoing saga: is that a neighbor watching me

Now, let's talk about sneakers on more time and one specific thing that mega corporations aren't truthful about.

Sneakers. Now, we've all know the cycle of running so much in one shoe that the support is dwindling thin, you have holes at the bottom of your shoes, you've run 400+ miles in them, so that obviously means it's time for an upgrade right? That's something I've written about in my own How to Avoid Shin Splints post as well. Wrong. Here's the funny thing: the more cushioned the shoe the less protection it provides for your feet.

In the book it discussed a study that was done that reported that as shoes wore down and their cushioning thinned, runners gained more foot control - as the cushioning of the shoe hardened to literal nothing, runner's feet stabilized and became less wobbly. And as I was reading this, it did make sense when it was written out. For example, you know when you get a new shoe and you have to 'break it in' - well why would you have to break it in if it's perfect as is? You breaking it in wears down the cushion of the shoe therefore making it more comfortable for you when there is less cushion.

At McGill University in Montreal, Steven Robbins, M.D., and Edward Waked, Ph.D., performed a series of tests on gymnasts. They found that the thicker the landing mat, the harder the gymnasts stuck their landings. Instinctively, the gymnasts were searching for stability. When they sensed a soft surface underfoot, they slapped down hard to ensure balance.

Runners do the same thing, Robbins and Waked found: just the way your arms automatically fly up when you slip on ice, your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot. When you run on cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.

"We conclude that balance and vertical impact are closely related," the McGill docs wrote. "According to our findings, currently available sports shoes... they are too soft and thick, and should be redesigned if they are to protect humans performing sports."- 173-174, Born to Run

So if you're like me and starting to think maybe we should just toss our cushioned shoes into the wind and go cold turkey into low support/bare foot running - I am here to tell you not to do that. Your foot has been in a protected environment for the entire duration that you've been in this sport, you can't just expect your foot to adapt to the ground that it's never felt before.

My plan personally to make my way to bare foot running includes foot exercises and drills to make the arch in my foot bless my flat footed existence, run in my current Cloudswift sneaker for longer than the designated 400+ miles, and slowly transition into lesser cushioned shoes. At the moment I also have the Cloud X for daily wear, so my plan is to transition from the cushion-y Cloudswift to Cloud X, and then from Cloud X to transition to an even flatter running shoe until finally making my way to Vibram Five-Finger's shoes.

A long process I know, but I can't jump from A to Z unless I want to be out of running for like my entire existence.

Sahara smiling at camera; trees behind
would you look at that! I eventually look directly to the camera to smile, love a good head tilt

I want to leave you with this quote:

Know why people run marathons? he told Dr. Bramble. Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human - which means it's a superpower all humans possess.- 239, Born to Run

There's a lot I didn't discuss from the book - right after the above section they then discuss why so many people hate and some incredible data to support why, if it's possible for a human being to run down an antelope, long distance greats, and most importantly the Tarahumara tribe who never stopped running like it's their bread and butter that makes life click into place.


"The Tarahumara aren't great runners... they're great athletes, and those two things are very different." Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing- moving straight ahead at a steady speed- and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery. Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He's strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt.

"Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient," Eric explained. Follow the same daily routine, and your musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenges- leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting - and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action. - 211, Born to Run

If you made it this far: THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed my novella on the literal novel. Have you learned something new? Are you planning to make any running related changes? Let's chat!

sahara end logo


  1. GIRLL this was sooo good omg you did an absolute AMAZING job spilling the tea and dispelling myths, so much information that I'm processing, it's crazy! SIDE NOTE I love your voice in your pieces like your personality and metaphors/imagery really shines through, and WE LOVE TO SEE IT. I feel like I'm going to have to show my brother this post, he's not a reader so I guess I'll just summarize it for him haha he loves playing basketball which is basically running all the time and wears such expensive shoes, I had NO IDEA that cushions were actually harming us and giving more injuries than cheaper less cushion options, that's insane! Once again proves how our society is just business and money (I mean what else is new), all they care about is cheating and lying to people to get what they want, it's absolutely ridiculous! The excitement I felt when you said PITA AND HUMMUS, lol my parents—as per usual—made like 5 containers of homemade hummus, and I'm excited to eat it today hehhe. So inspiring about what you said about training to run barefoot eventually, you out here killing it with your goals and I LOVE to see the determination. I just might run today because now I'm so inspired haha. Good luck with your arch journey love! Such an amazing post <3

    -Love, Carina

    1. THANK YOU THANK YOU - the tea was hot! like I am convinced the author just did some sort of Harry Potter spell turning hot boiling tea into a binded book full of running tea. AHHH YOU'RE SO SWEET - that literally means so much, I try to write exactly how I would speak to a friend about it by adding a dash of my personality everywhere, to think way back at the start of my blogging journey my blogging voice was very much english essay 101 whew it's been a journey getting my voice/personality written in a way that's me me!

      HAHA - I was the same bringing all this sneaker information to my siblings, summarizing every thing that we know is a lie and it's like so !! to think that the very sneakers that are marketed as the best for X is actually not the best for you at all, it's like the author just punched through the fourth wall and we're all in The Truman Show not realizing we're on The Truman Show.

      The part where it said more cushion was actually bad for us I swear I had an existential crisis because I have shoes with extra support on top of the support that usual normal sneakers since that's what I was told I had to have as a flat-foot person so I was just like humana humana humana. The cheaper the shoes the better they are for you!!! LIKE WHO KNEW THAT WOULD BE WHAT THE DATA TOLD US

      Yep yep yep - it's like they know it's a lie (shoes made for running when we should be more leaning towards something like barefoot running) but still just plaster it up on billboards which we then see and buy - and we won't know the running truth unless we picked up this/read some other study on the depths of the internet. All a money making machine!

      YAASSSSSS Pita and Hummus make the world go round, especially homemade hummus like what more can we want from life that pita and hummus can't answer for us haha!

      AHH thank you so much!!! I literally cannot wait to get to the point where I can do barefoot running, definitely going to take a while to get to that point from my arch journey to slowly decreasing the support in my sneakers but I'll get there!!! Thank you so so much for reading Carina, it means the world!!!

  2. I'm not a runner at ALL but I found this interesting. Especially the bit about the shoes! WHAT? I think EVERYONE assumes that more padded / cushioned sneakers are better for you when you run. I can't believe that's not the case. I really want to try and start running. It doesn't come easily to me and I DEFINITELY don't feel free and easy when I do it! x

    1. That was the part that really threw me off as well!! We're told that the more padded/cushioned a shoe is the better it is for your run but then this book really came to shatter the glass ceiling.

      Running really is the best sport, and I promise I'm not just saying that because I'm a runner haha, it's one of the only sports where all you need is yourself + a spot to run whether that be in place or outside, no extra equipment! :)

  3. That bit about the best shoes not being the best shoes was fascinating to me! That is something I would never have taken into thought without reading this, so I loved learning something new.

    I have gone barefoot outside a lot and, on a nice trail, I would definitely go barefoot. I love that feeling of connecting with the earth though I am not at the point yet where running feels light and I can go forever!
    Thanks so much for sharing this. :)

    1. Yes! That was really mind-boggling to me, that the most expensive shoes are the ones that may be causing the common injuries rather than cheaper ones that we tend not to give a second glance as we equate more money to being a better shoe.

      Really!!! That's amazing to hear! I've never gone barefoot running/outside on a trail, I can imagine it feels super interesting at first, but definitely the best option!

  4. This was an interesting post and so detailed. I don’t usually like running but then I ended up injuring my knee and now at the moment until I have surgery I cannot run. But I do like to run freely as fun not just for sporting. Thank you for sharing your tips and your experience.

    Lauren |

    1. Thank you!! I really didn't want to leave anything out so it ended up being a bit of a novella of a blog post haha. Ahh, fingers cross your surgery for your knee goes well when you have it!

      I feel like that's the best sort of running - just running just for the sake of running!

      Thank you so much for reading!

  5. This is such an informative post! I appreciate all the detail you've provided. Definitely great food for thought when thinking of footwear for runners and long distance walkers.

    1. Thank you so much - I'm so glad to hear you found it informative! The book definitely gives a lot to think about what type of footwear for runners/walker everywhere to use for sure.

      Thank you so much for reading!

  6. I think this just blew my mind! I've just started running again but been getting seriously bad cramp in both feet and even just yesterday I told my mum it couldn't be my trainers because they were the "right" type and really supportive etc... Now I'm wondering if that is EXACTLY the problem. This book sounds incredible - amazing post!

    1. AH most definitely think so!! I feel like it was never staring me straight in the face that sneakers are the cause for majority of running discomfort, especially since companies everywhere tell us the very opposite for the best running sneakers - this book really was an absolute eye opener.

      Especially with 'breaking in' new sneakers, it's like if the amount of support they have is what we need then why do we need to break them in - wear the support down a bit - to feel comfortable running?

      Thank you so much for reading, here's to happy running with no discomfort! :)

  7. Oooh! It is great that there is a chat group about running! It helps runners around the world get some tips and share some exciting stories. It is interesting when you learn a whole different perspective on the things you love. It is so important to have the right sneakers. Bad posture and even bad shoes can hold you back. I don't really pay too much attention to hype shoes. I am more about functionality in time like this.

    Oooh the food that you eat is so important. I am glad that you found a group that taught you the proper care and diet. I have seen people doing barefoot running and that is a whole different vibe. I don't even trust outside to be clean as it is. Though, I have seen people with close to barefoot shoes.

    I learned so much from this blog post. You're doing great!!

    Nancy ✨

    1. It's really a great twitter chat for running - all runners coming together to chat all things running. It's super fun to take part in and chat to other runners.

      Bad posture is also super important when running - one of the things that's always a bit of a cue for me is if my shoulders are slouched forward, if they are that means I'm not getting enough air in while running which then negatively impacts my running in general!

      True true with barefoot running - how clean is the outdoors. I think finding a bit of grass as a starting point to try it is good before swapping over to wearing Five Fingers that are the shape of the foot with no added anything.

      Thank you so much!! So glad to hear you enjoyed reading!

  8. This is funny because I don't run, I walk briskly but I did like hearing about cost versus injury in shoes. Thanks so much.

    1. Glad to hear you found it interesting to read! That was one part that was also super surprising for me to read, the more money a shoe is the more injuries you're likely to get from it.

      Thank you so much for reading!

  9. I've never been able to achieve the runner's "high" but I have through working out - or at least something similar. Exercise is a great love!

    1. Exercise is amazing - especially that feeling of completing a workout, and cooling off from it, best feeling!

      Thank you so much for reading!

  10. Thank you for sharing such an interesting and insightful post! I don't run because of a knee injury, but I still do low impact exercise and so much of this is helpful. Especially the information on shoes! I have flat feet too, and all I have ever bought are the popular brands like Nike because they market shoes with extra support. I definitely have some shopping to do. I also had no idea you could run barefoot, that's something to look into too!

    Great post and lovely photos, I really enjoyed reading this :)

    Anika |

    1. Thank you so much for reading!! Glad to hear that you're able to do low impact exercises, still a great way to get a workout in for the day!

      AHHH FLAT FOOT UNITE - I'm the same!! Always bought Nike and now as of recent On Running sneaker that were marketed as great stability running sneakers especially as a flat footed person - this book really opened my eyes to what I should be wearing for a run, especially with the statistics of more expensive vs cheaper running shoes with relation to how many injuries you get. I'm really looking forward to transition to barefoot running/wearing five fingers shoes sometime soon!

      Thank you so much for reading, I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed reading!!