Sunday, October 31, 2010

The cave runners

Perhaps I should be grateful that it took a full thirty-three years before I started getting ambulatory aids for my birthday. This year, when I unwrapped the long, triangular box from my wife Kara, I found a pair of canes inside. Sure, you could get into semantics, as Kara did, and point out that they’re actually called “trekking poles,” but I know a cane when I see one.

It was actually quite a thoughtful gift, since I have recently developed a habit of falling down and smashing my face in the woods. The reader(s) of this column might recall that I documented such an incident from this past summer, during which I planted my face so hard that when I hiked by that same spot a few weeks later, tiny versions of my face were sprouting from the earth.

The trauma of that episode was enough to make me consider taking up a different pastime, like running, a form of exercise that I had only previously considered when late for trains.

My sister-in-law Jill and her husband Kris visited us for a weekend shortly after my cranial cracking in the woods, and on that Saturday morning they both sat in our living room in their running clothes, strapping foot-shaped gloves onto their feet.

“What are those things?” I asked.

“Barefoot shoes,” Kris replied. Before that moment, I didn’t realize that joggers could get the foot protection they needed from a pair of oxymorons.

Each barefoot shoe had a thin rubber sole and five separate little toes. According to Jill and Kris, the extra padding in regular running shoes makes people run contrary to the way we were designed to run, with too much force being applied to our heels.

“My knees were killing me in my old shoes. I had to stop running. Now I’m back to three miles a day with no pain,” Kris said.

Apparently, traditional running shoes contribute to many foot and knee problems, as well as causing slower times for many runners. Who knew that running shoes were the reason people were getting slower? I would have guessed that it had more to do with all the stuffed-crust pizza. Blaming running shoes for people getting slower seems like blaming dye packs for banks getting robbed.

“The barefoot shoes make you run more flat-footed, like a caveman,” Kris said.

I can understand how you’d run more gingerly if there was a fair chance you might step on a saber-toothed tiger.

The shoes looked cool enough, and the theory sounded convincing enough, that a sort of temporary insanity settled over me, the kind of mental state that a person might enter before ordering a Bowflex.

“Maybe I’ll start liking an activity I’ve detested my entire life if I spend $100 on caveman shoes,” I thought.

But of course, that idea is ridiculous. If I tried to run three miles, there would be massive amounts of pain, phlegm and tears, which wouldn't be good at all, except maybe as a name for a heavy metal band. Besides, I don't have anywhere near the willpower required to become a jogging, healthy person. My idea of a diet is ordering Sprite because it doesn’t have brown in it.

So we'll leave the barefoot running to Kris, Jill and their Paleolithic compadres. I'll be busy hobbling around the woods with my dual canes, trying not to give Kara any cause to invest in a walker for my next birthday.

Hopefully, being able to use all four limbs, like an ape, will help. You hardly ever see a gorilla do a faceplant. And even though gorillas are already barefoot, you also don't catch them jogging around too often, probably on account of how they look in Lycra.

You can paint Mike Todd's cave at


  1. There's too much brown in this chocolate ice cream, I think I'll be healthy today and switch to cookie dough ice cream.

  2. See these love handles? That's what brown did for me.

  3. I don't see any love handles in your profile pic. Maybe you should change it so we could take a look.

  4. The barefoot shoes sound great, and that post made me laugh out loud. Hope it's included in the next book...

  5. Speaking of cave runners - can we all go to Howe Caverns?