Barefoot Running Goes Viral: The Most Compelling Story in the Running World Since Bowerman’s Waffle Iron
We are on the precipice of something big.
Barefoot and minimalist shoe running (BFR/MR) has survived as a tiny niche within the running world for a number of years. Over the last year, the movement started gaining some serious traction. As of today, it constitutes 7% of the industry. When I was this figure, I started getting excited. Why?
This places BFR/MR on the cusp of the great chasm of product innovation. The chasm is usually viewed as a major tipping point of newly-introduced disruptive ideas. It marks the point between the innovators and early adopters and the early majority. It marks the point where an idea goes viral.
BFR/MR is certainly a disruptive idea. It directly conflicts the ideas developed over the last 30 years in the running industry. It rejects the silly ideas that humans need a pillowy wedge under their heel. It rejects the idea that all of us are “biomechanically-flawed” and need some sort of rubbery technology to “correct” us before we can engage in physical activity. BFR/MR empowers us to capitalize on the innate ability residing within each of us. It allows us to take responsibility for our own development as physical beings instead of relying on some foreign product that makes over-hyped claims of improved performance. It turns the act of physical movement into something personal and sensual; something to be enjoyed. It’s not about mindlessly and painfully plowing towards some arbitrary time or distance goal. It’s about opening yourself up to the inherent joys of movement within your environment. It’s about taking a step back and enjoying the journey.
Us innovators and early adopters, by definition includes everyone reading this right now, have recognized the wonderful benefits of BFR/MR. This is obvious when I hear your stories, read our forums, or read your blogs. This is a powerful experience that is spreading like wildfire.
Which brings us to this chasm. This is a major tipping point. Within the next few months, the general public is going to be introduced to these ideas on an accelerated basis. Most of us take the ideas and values of the BFR/MR community for granted. We forget that the vast majority of the public probably hasn’t heard of BFR/MR. This opens up an incredible opportunity and also gives us a tremendous responsibility. The next wave of people interested in BFR/MR is going to be fundamentally different.
First, the new wave will not actively seek out information. There’s a wealth of information available on the Internet… but you have to search for it. It’s easy to find if only you look. We can no longer assume this new wave will look. It’s the nature of the early majority. They will come into the movement because others are doing it, not because of an innate curiosity.
Second, they will make a lot of mistakes. They will run with bad form. They will do too much too soon. They will make every mistake imaginable.
Third, they will not be informed consumers. They will not have participated in the discussions of what constitutes a good minimalist shoe. They will buy the Fila Skeletoes instead of Vibrams even though it is an obviously-shitty knockoff. At some point, I’m sure Sketchers will jump on the bandwagon, produce a seriously inferior product, get some fading Hollywood starlet or retired sports legend (Joe Montana, you should be ashamed) to peddle the crap, and give the entire movement a bad name.
As a community, I a calling on all of us to take a little slice of responsibility to help bridge this chasm and usher in the new early majority wave. If we do this correctly, we can make a lasting positive impact on the lives of an entire generation of runners. This is our opportunity to make a HUGE dent in the universe.
How can we do this? You don’t have to become a blogger or barefoot running coach. However, if you ARE interested, by all means do it! Your contribution can be much smaller but still have an amazing impact. This is what I need all of you to do:
1. Be a good ambassador. In a race, on a training run, or anywhere in public, have fun and be polite. Smile. If someone asks you a question, take a second and give them an answer. There will be A LOT of questions. Many of those questions will be repeated again and again. Just remember- each person asking a question is exactly where you were at some point in the past. What we do is inherently fun… put that on display.
2. Be a good role model for your peer groups. If you have friends that run and they show interest, teach them the basics. Good form really comes down to a few simple elements. Good Form Running explains it in a short, sweet package, as does this vid from Merrell. This is one of the ideas I talked about in yesterday’s post. It is best to keep it very simple so the people you teach can become teachers themselves.
3. Help new BFR/MRs understand what minimalist shoes are, how to properly select them, and how to avoid the poor-quality knock-offs. We discuss shoes ad nauseum on the forums and probably take this for granted. Just remember- the new wave doesn’t have the luxury of the community dialogue.
4. Support your local running stores that support the minimalist movement. They are the single best conduits for disseminating running form education. Some have already started teaching about good running form. If not, be proactive and email the owner. Help convince them of the value of teaching people how to run correctly. If they do not carry your favorite minimalist shoes, add that to the email, too.
In the very near future, that chasm is going to be crossed. When this happens, we will see a flood of new friends entering our community. Each one of us has the power to make a lasting impact on their life as a physically-active individual. There’s a pretty good probability everyone reading this right now has experienced the positive impact of BFR/MR on their life. We can share that experience if we are ready.
Who’s with me?