One of my goals for teaching barefoot running is to completely redefine the way the running world approaches running form. I want every runner to learn good form BEFORE selecting shoes. With any luck, this will cause the modern cushioned, motion control running shoe to go extinct. The key- convince enough people to learn and subsequently teach good form so this idea reaches critical mass. Once this happens, there will be no need to do what I do. And I will be happy.
This are the means to that end:
- Get all current runners to critically evaluate their running form. If they overstride with a heavy heel strike, I want them to change to a natural midfoot strike with a faster cadence and shorter stride (i.e.- natural running form.) This evaluation and change, ideally, should be an internally-motivated process.
- Convince retailers to start teaching running form, including big-box stores that churn out foot coffins without regard for the impact the shoes may have on the health of the customer. Specialized running stores are already beginning to do this with good success. The trick is to spread that idea to the big boys. Shoe salespeople are often viewed as experts, yet rarely know anything about the pros and cons of different types of running gait.
- Convince ALL manufacturers to begin teaching good running form and deep-six their cushioned, motion-control product lines. Okay, this one is a stretch. Some companies get it already do this or are in the process of doing this. Hopefully every one of these ideas will help change the market to the point where this will become a reality. A guy can dream, can’t he?
- Kill the “wet test” and the idea that pronation is unnatural. The wet test is the single dumbest idea in the running industry. I challenge anyone to find a single bit of data supporting its validity. Along the same lines, I want to dispel the idea that pronation is something to be controlled.
- Spread the word about natural running form throughout non-running grassroots organizations. The idea is to plant a seed that there is a proper way to run among potential new runners. If and when they decide to take up running, they will seek out some basic instruction on good form. The consumer will go into the shoe-shopping experience armed with some basic information that will allow them to make an informed decision.
- Teach people how to take responsibility for their own shoe purchasing decisions and not rely on “experts.” If a runner decides to use minimalist shoes, it is important they understand the idea that they have to find the shoe that works for their own individual preferences, anatomy, and physiology. I cannot give an accurate recommendation. Retailers also cannot give accurate recommendations. Manufacturers and marketers cannot give accurate recommendations. People have to learn what qualities make a good shoe, what characteristics they require for the conditions they run, and determine which shoe fits their needs the best. Shoes are tools, and we have to take responsibility for choosing the tool that works best for our own unique needs.
- Create an army of natural running form teachers. Good form is deceptively simple. The vast majority of the population does not need a specialized coach to learn good form. They can learn in a matter of minutes, then spread the word to their peer groups. The best persuasion tool is a personal success story from a close friend. If one person learns good form and has success, they should be equipped to be able to teach the same ideas to their friends.
- Convince parents to stop putting kids in raised-heel restrictive shoes and encourage barefootedness. This is a basic idea- the whole reason we have to teach natural form is at some point we learned how to run incorrectly. Take kids out of foot coffins and they intuitively run with good form. Keep them out of foot coffins and there’s no need for us to teach good form. I welcome that day! [edit- check out Donald's excellent article on minimalist offerings for kids here]
- Promote the idea that your bare feet are the best tools you have to learn good form. This idea is lifted from Ken Bob, but is incredibly important. Even if you have absolutely no intention on running barefoot, using the tactile sensations of your skin on the ground is the single most efficient way to learn good form in the most efficient way possible. Once that happens, then you can move to minimalist shoes if desired.
As much as I love doing what I do, success will be defined by making myself obsolete. That should be the goal of every coach and teacher… and I welcome that day!