This past Wednesday, I was invited to the Running Fit world headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI. Running Fit is an excellent running store with seven locations around Michigan. Also, they direct A TON of races, including the Dances With Dirt series and the Woodstock Trail Running Festival.
Anyway, Running Fit was kicking off their new running form education clinics with a panel discussion about barefoot and minimalist shoe running. They are taking the plunge and offering some excellent resources to help teach runners how to run with good form. I was part of the barefoot/minimalist panel along with a physical therapist and a New Balance sales rep.
The discussion and audience questions were excellent. We had great dialogue and hopefully helped more people understand the ins and outs of barefoot and minimalist shoe running.
Here are two of the videos from the event (I will post the rest as soon as they are available):
I like hearing other people’s opinions on matters, especially those that are different than my own. One particular question and subsequent answer fit that category.
An shoe store employee asked how she should handle the following situation:
A complete novice runner is interested in running a 5k in a few months. They have absolutely no running experience. As a store employee, do you place them in a minimalist shoe or do you fit them in a traditional running shoe using the common fitting techniques (like the wet test?)
I did not answer first, but immediately knew my answer- put them in the minimalist shoe and teach them good technique. Simple, right?
The other two panel members answered. Their answer was basically along the lines of “Assess the runner’s history. If they have good form and seem willing to take the time to learn, put them in the minimalist shoe. If they do not have good form or aren’t interested in taking running seriously, put them in the cushioned trainer.”
I was a little shocked by their answer. I don’t remember exactly how I responded, but I disagreed. As a teacher, the idea of not teaching didn’t even occur to me. I never considered this situation from the shoe fitter’s perspective. I started considering what I would really do if I were to sell shoes to someone that clearly had no interest in taking the time to learn good form.
I’ve worked many odd jobs that would place me in a similar predicament. If I were the shoe store employee, I think I would do the same. I’d give them the “comfy” shoe and send them on their way. I’d probably at least attempt to convince them to learn good form and opt for the minimalist shoe, but I certainly wouldn’t waste a tremendous amount of time persuading the customer.
That brings up the dilemma- if there’s growing evidence that “natural” running form is superior, do we continue any other course of action? As a barefoot running educator, my answer is easy. For others in the running industry, the answer gets much more complex.
With a little imagination, this is the exact same issue facing the medical community- use the simple fix that results in apparent temporary results, or opt for a more time-consuming long-term solution that the patient/customer is less likely to follow?
What do you think? What IS a good solution to this issue? Leave your thoughts in the comments.