Running Tips: Minimalism (see: Barefoot Running)

I'm reading Born to Run because, well everyone who runs or has run for quite some time seems to have read it. I get questions all the time about barefoot running. Of the people that ask to try on "minimalist" shoes at Fleet Feet, about 90% of them ask if I've read this infamous book that has caused so many to ditch there shoes.

The basic premise? Get back to the way we were meant to run by taking off those bulky blocks of foam on your feet.

Will it work? Probably not. However, that being said I think there's a lot to be learned from the book (the main reason I'm reading it) and I am for certain that a happy balance of running barefoot as well as running in a well fitted shoe for your foot will result in a stronger runner. No doubt.

There's a great article by some dude that runs a shoe fitting store on his take: Check it out. And he sums up a good bit of my feelings on the barefoot subject well. "Running shoes are tools; they aren't magic bullets." Meaning that they won't solve all your problems, but when you get the right shoe for you it'll make you a more efficient well balanced runner. If you've been following the Running Tips posts you'll remember I talked about running barefoot to help work on your form (check out the "strides" drill).

So what's the approach?

Get in the right shoe. A majority of people are in a shoe with too much support or too little so find the one right for you. Secondly, supplement your training with barefoot strides and if possible some short mileage. I even think it's possible to work in a good bit of mileage barefoot, however a fairly big note of caution: DON'T TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES AND GO TRAIN NORMALLY. I think even purist barefoot advocates will tell you this. But like the author of the article above states: "most every runner will benefit from sprinkling small doses of barefoot or almost barefoot running into his or her training."

There's a lot of discussion to be had on the subject so share your thoughts in the comments section. I hope to blog further on "minimalist" running the more I learn. And happy running!



Revolu said...

From Jeffrey Morris via Facebook:

I think you make good points in your blog post on minimalism. My biggest quarrel with the barefoot and minimalist community is that they take one aspect of the various minimalist running cultures (such as the Tarahumara in Mexico, or ) i.e. their lack of bulky shoes (the Tarahumara run with little more than string and rubber wrapped around their foot), but they say nothing about the other cultural aspects that would pertain to running.

For example, the Tarahumara typically run with a jug of tequila strapped to their back. I don't see the minimalist/barefoot community boozing it up before, or even during their run. In fact, if you would tell one that drinking tequila during a run, then you would be given a stern look and probably mocked. However, that does not negate the fact that it is just as important to the Tarahumara running culture as their footwear.

If I were to race Ryan Hall and I were wearing minimalist shoes, or racing flats and he was wearing combat boots, then he would still beat me. Footwear is important, but so too is training, and a balance therein.

With that said, I've done barefoot running in Boone. I understand the benefits of running shoeless, but there is also an inherit risk that makes barefoot running absurd to those who spend maybe 120 minutes a week running (which is the vast majority of runners).

Revolu said...

From Jessica Heckert via Facebook:

So my thoughts on running barefoot, maybe if you grew up barefoot and ran in grass or sand , it might be a good situation. However, seeing that my feet and body have formed and adapted in shoes and all the really hard stuff that covers the ground these days in most places, I can't even think that the band wagon of barefoot running is a logical place to be for anyone who puts in more than about 5 miles a week. If I spend too much time barefoot around the house my feet hurt somewhat. In conclusion... nothing tops a well fitting and well designed pair of running shoes.

Revolu said...

From Adam Mull via Facebook:

Jessica, you answered your own argument. Your feet hurt even in your house because your body is so used to wearing shoes. Shoes are ruining our given bodies. Also, barefoot running doesn't have to be TOTALLY barefoot. Wear some Nike Frees, or some Five Fingers. Your legs and feet will feel much better.

Revolu said...

@RobertjPetro via Twitter:

just finished the book. would like to run barefoot but its not practical. five fingers maybe a solution.