Tag Archives: running

Dragging the Army into the 21st century (in running shoes, of course)

I stopped by my unit earlier in the week and one of the full-timers gave me this article from a recent Army Times.  It seems enough people in the military are starting to use running shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers that I have so often raved about, that the military has decided it needs an ‘official position’ on the shoes.  I suspect this is because traditionalists think they’re ‘weird’ and somehow ‘unmilitary’ (unlike those Nikes or Asics which ooze warrior spirit).  Predictably, every service is coming up with its own rules:

Marine Corps leaders say no problem. Navy leaders say no way. Top Air Force leaders have cleared them for takeoff…

And embodying the contradictions that define the Army…

The sergeant major of the Army is thinking about training for his next marathon in them, but Army officials have banned them from the PT test…

Unit commanders have the authority to (dis)allow them in unit physical training but they can’t be used in the physical fitness test.  Why?

…worries they might give some soldiers an unfair advantage.

C’mon guys.  They aren’t ACME rocket shoes or have springs in them.  Saying these things would give you an unfair advantage is just stupid.  Since they’re designed to replicate barefoot running (and really all they do is provide a thin layer of rubber under your foot to protect it from abrasions and punctures) what the Army is really saying is that they want to maintain the disadvantage of making soldiers more susceptible to injury and poorer performance by requiring the use of traditional running shoes.  I think this was the same dopey argument used in opposing the use of running shoes in the first place and defending the use of combat boots in physical fitness training.  Hey, but don’t take my word for it:

Down at Kandahar, however, military doctors are encouraging their use and even prescribing them for recovering runners.

“VFFs are the best thing out there for rehabilitating lower extremity injuries,” says Navy doctor and physical therapist Lt. Cmdr. John Mahoney at Kandahar.

There are a couple of us at my unit that use these and we’ve accepted the scorn ‘traditionalists’ throw our way.  One particularly sweet moment was when a few of us were leaving the base gym while some SF soldiers were there.  One stopped me to talk about the Five Fingers and mentioned how much he loved them.

Whoa…two seconds later, guys who were suggesting that my shoes could guarantee me entry in the San Francisco Gay Pride parade were suddenly agreeing at how cool they were and how they needed to get a pair. In short, the same thing the commander above noticed:

“Once Navy SEALs start wearing them, everybody in Virginia Beach wants to wear them,” he says.

I get the fact that my rather scrawny physique doesn’t exactly exude credibility when it comes to physical fitness issues but give me some credit here.

Anyway, I haven’t run in traditional running shoes for well over a year now and was hoping to use my five fingers on my PT test next month.  Well, nertz to that, I guess.  That might make things a bit difficult since you do have to change the way you run when you switch back to running shoes.  Oh well, at least I’ll have a built in excuse if my running time isn’t any good.

Reading and listening

Three books I’d like to quickly mention…

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: I saw McDougall on the Daily Show and heard about the Tarahumara while watching the show Last Man Standing.  This book came out during my fascination with my Vibram Five fingers (which I still think are amazing) and so may have been the target demographic for the book.  The author writes for Men’s Health and other magazines and you can definitely tell that from his writing style.  If you’re not a running enthusiast (not necessarily a hard core fanatic, just someone who enjoys running) the book might not appeal to you which is a shame because it goes off on two rather lengthy tangents that I think have a much wider appeal.  First, a discussion of how the running shoe-industrial complex came into being and has really bamboozled almost everyone with no proof that they improve a runner’s performance or prevent injury.  Secondly, is a great discussion about human evolution and an argument that humans have literally evolved to be running creatures.  Not running predators like cheetahs or wolves but rather persistence hunters.

John Dies @ the End by David Wong:  I picked this up on a whim and am very glad I did.  This book really defies any sort of summation but it is a horror-humor mix.  Allow me to quote one passage from the book to give you a feel for it:

A group of men carrying what had to be rifles stood around the vehicle, and John immediately reached out and punched the switch to kill his headlights.  Then it occurred to him that the lights suddenly going off might have been more noticeable.  So he punched them back on, thought he saw two of the men turn toward him, and then quickly turned the lights back off again.  Now he felt the stobing of his headlights was almost impossible not to notice; in fact, all of the men seemed to be looking up the hill at him.  The group might have either pursued him or raised their rifles to perforate his windshield had a gorilla riding a giant crab not leapt out of the woods and eaten two of them.

Dear readers, no amount of context would explain that paragraph.  The whole book makes you feel a bit disoriented like you’re just a bit thick and not getting it but its enjoyable enough to wait what passes for answers and resolution.  It elicited a dozen or so laughs out loud and a bunch of smirks so check it out if you want some light entertainment.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman:  I’ve collected a small library of vegetarian cookbooks since going to the dark side way back in 1997 but this may allow me to throw all of them away.  It’s absolutely brilliant covering all the cooking basics, ideas for altering recipes and addressing all those vegetables you see in the supermarket and have no idea what to do with them.  The author assumes no cooking skill on the part (hence the instructions for making a green salad) but don’t assume the simple recipes are tasteless or boring.  I’ve done 5 or so meals out of this book so far (it’s massive at 800-900 pages) and each has been a hit.  In fact, I’ve officially made my wife a fan of cauliflower, something she swore she didn’t like at all.