Things are a’ changin!’ As the barefoot/minimalist shoe running movement matures and expands, several important things are happening which will invariably shape the future.
First, the type of person experimenting with natural running is changing. Back in the day, the early adopters spent considerable time doing research to master the skills required to successfully transition. Today’s new barefoot/minimalist shoe runner (the beginnings of the early majority) isn’t as concerned with expensive research. They rarely seek out external advice on websites, in books, or from “experts.”
Second, the people that currently teach barefoot/minimalist shoe running are facing an ever-growing pool of competition. A few years ago, there were probably about a half-dozen of us teaching clinics. Today, there are at least several dozen individuals and institutions teaching some form of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.
Under normal circumstances, having more teachers is a good thing. Unfortunately there’s one serious drawback- the increasing competition is forcing barefoot and minimalist shoe teachers to differentiate their approach, even if what they used previously worked exceptionally well. When trying to etch out their own corner of the teaching market, all seem to be taking the “more is more” approach and making their teaching progressively more complex.
This move towards complexity causes a serious problem given the newly-developing pool of new BFR/MR runners: Information overload. With the early adopters, too much information wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. By virtue of their personality, they were well-prepared to handle excessive incoming information, use the useful stuff, discard the unnecessary, and blaze their own path.
This next cohort of BFR/MR runners, in many cases, does not possess this ability to filter. This is going to cause great confusion and frustration among this crowd.
Barefoot running is inherently a pretty simple activity on the surface. If you delve into the fine biomechanical details, it can become extremely complex. I see too many barefoot proponents heading down a path of introducing that complexity for no apparent reason other than separating themselves from the others that are doing the same thing.
I’m taking the opposite approach. The next generation of barefoot runners aren’t interested in learning every conceivable detail. They are not interested in spending months, weeks, or even days trying to perfect a new way to run. They want simple directions that they can implement immediately to make running fun again. Furthermore, they want something they can share with their running friends.
My newest clinic format was designed with this very idea as the guiding principle. The idea was originally created by Jon Sanregret, a friend and Merrell rep. He distilled barefoot running form to its simplest elements, then packaged it in a quick, fun package. The entire clinic can take as little as 30 minutes, gives the opportunity for individual feedback, and can easily be shared.
We’ve tested the new format several times with non-English speaking international crowds with great success. Jon has also used the format for a series of clinics at various retailers. I should be rolling it out publicly in the next few weeks- stay tuned for the schedule.
As soon as I get the clinic on video, I’ll share it here.
What do you think? Is the barefoot running movement unnecessarily heading toward excessive complexity?