"Shoe Tips for Running of the Bulls", Herald Review June 16, 2015

Since the 14th century, the quiet town of Pamplona, located in northern Spain, explodes with excitement from July 6 to July 14. More than a 1.5 million tourists flock to the San Fermin Festival each year to join the weeklong celebration. It’s a nonstop street party filled with parades, music, dancing, fireworks, drinking, bullfights and the running of the bulls.

Some people recognize the Running of the Bulls as an extreme sport. By definition, it falls within this classification because it is extremely hazardous, incredibly difficult, and not in the mainstream of sports. Thousands of thrill-seekers from all over the globe attend this famous event. Although the exact number of runners is unknown, it is estimated there are 20,000 runners each year. During the festival, there are eight runs and as many as 2,000 to 4,000 runners per run. In addition to the dangers of getting mauled by a bull, runners have to contend with overcrowded conditions, slippery conditions, difficult terrain, and limited running space.

At 8 each morning, the town is filled with roaring screams and cheers from the spectators on top of the building rooftops, in balconies and along crowded streets and alleys. Thousands of runners fill the Town Hall Square as they begin the race of their life.

The goal of every runner is obvious; sprint ahead of the bulls in a 900-plus-yard dash through the narrow cobblestone streets to the arena without getting mauled by a massive bull that weighs more than 1,400 pounds.

Most runners make it to the arena unscathed, but hundreds do not. Although there have been many casualties and countless injuries over the past 100 years, runners keep coming back to push their luck against all odds.

Daily newspapers report injury counts like Vegas does after an NFL game. The number of runners who were gored, kicked, trampled and hospitalized is published just like a postgame stats report. Street condition reports are also described similar to the field condition reports prior to a major league sporting game.

It’s obvious that Pamplona officials are unwilling to stop the event. Local authorities blame a lot of the problems on unsafe runners who don’t know what they are doing. In a symbolic effort to make things safer, there are published guidelines for runners that appear to be bizarre and ridiculous. There are even fines for runners who are drunk or wearing sandals instead of running shoes.

From a practical viewpoint, I can agree with the first fine for certain. If it’s not a good idea to drive when you’re drunk, it’s not a good idea to run either, especially if you are trying to run from a stampede of raging bulls.

From a podiatry viewpoint, I can also agree with the second fine for not wearing the appropriate running shoes. Although there is not a running shoe on the market designed to withstand the crushing impact of a 1,400-pound bull, or prevent a bull’s horn from piercing your foot, there are several shoes that are appropriate for the competition. I’m not kidding!

The best trail running shoes for men would have to be sturdy, flexible, lightweight and provide added traction and support. Several trail running shoes offer these qualities.

Of course, there are a lot of other hometown rules that you should pay attention to, but the best advice is to get out of the race and watch from the rooftops.

If you plan on running with the bulls in the future, don’t hesitate to visit the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois in Springfield or Decatur to get your feet in proper condition for the race. Visit myfootandanklecenter.com to get some tips on shoe gear, too. It’s always a good idea to select the right shoes that are well-suited for the occasion.