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Teaching Barefoot Running

Posted by on Nov 17, 2009 | 4 Comments

Since I finished Hallucination, I’ve thought a lot about how new barefoot runners learn. Part of this fascination came from talking with other runners running the Woodstock races. I was shocked at the number of runners that had purchased and began training in Vibrams (the minimalist shoes I wore for the 100 miler). Most of the conversations revolved around them asking me for advice on transitioning to minimalist shoes. I began to realize there was a genuine need for more educational resources for new barefoot and minimalist shoe runners. This realization has been reinforced by my participation in the Runner’s World barefoot Forum. Many new barefoot and minimalist shoe runners were asking the same basic questions despite the many resources available on the web. Teaching is my profession. I get great joy out of educating others. I decided to begin actively teaching barefoot running as a coach and clinic director.

At first, the clinic idea seemed like a pipe dream. Would I really be able to find enough people interested in barefoot running to hold a clinic? There are other clinics available throughout the country. Ken Bob Saxton holds clinics in Southern California. Barefoot Ted McDonald holds clinics in Seattle (and a few other places on the West Coast). Jessica Lee and Michael Sandler started a barefoot running school in Boulder, Colorado (runBARE). Clearly others were finding enough runners to populate the clinics. Why wouldn’t the clinic idea succeed here in West Michigan? The first order of business- finding a place to hold the clinic. That was easy enough. The next step- publicizing the clinic. I was lucky enough to get Gazelle Sports, a local running store, to hang a flyer in their stores. Our local Crossfit gym (Crossfit Grand Rapids) was also willing to publicize the clinic. I’m a huge fan of Crossfit as an ideal workout for runners and plan to recommend it to all clinic attendees. I was also able to contact the physical therapists of PT360. Scott Hadley and Adam Fujita had been recommending barefoot running to their patients from some time, and were interested in developing a barefoot running club in Grand Rapids. They are also working on an exercise routine to help injured runners. I was overjoyed to find all these wonderful contacts! As it turns out, the barefoot running scene in Grand Rapids may grow much faster than I anticipated!

As it stands today, I have one clinic scheduled (see the flyer here). I am planning on holding more starting in February. The winter months can make barefoot or even minimalist shoe running VERY difficult in West Michigan. My hope is to begin networking now. By spring, we’ll have enough barefoot runners to begin events such as group runs and coordinated races. The future for barefoot running is bright!

Shameless plug for my barefoot running book “The Barefoot Running Guide”- it’s available in ebook form for $10 here. I am working on a printed version.

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  1. Jason Robillard
    November 25, 2009

    I agree Matt! As barefoot running increases in popularity, there's a greater need for hands-on instruction. I find about half of all new barefoot runners seem to intuitively "get it" and have no problems learning how to do it. The other half do have some issues that are difficult to resolve via forums and other such communication.

    It is VERY nice to finally have other barefoot runners running races… or even having the greater running community be more accepting. We've become very chic. 🙂

  2. Zataod
    November 24, 2009

    Jason — I'm glad that you are doing this. I know there's a certain appeal to learning by the trial and error method, but I'm sure learning by trial and error is a lot slower than learning from an experienced runner who has already found the way to excellent running form.

    If barefoot running can take off in a tiny place like Boulder, why not Grand Rapids?

    I've noticed this year in the races I've run, there is less of a shocked reaction from people, and more of a pleasant curiosity about barefoot running. I'm surprised by the number of people who start asking me questions and tell me that they read an article about barefoot running or saw something on the local news.

    And for the first time this past Sunday, I saw another barefoot runner in a race.

  3. Donald
    November 17, 2009

    Sounds great. Good luck with it!