This last weekend, I had the opportunity to hang out with The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, Christian Peterson. You probably know him as the eight foot caped superhero that oozes awesomeness from every pore. At some point, we discussed the methods used to teach barefoot running. There’s a good chance this occurred after several beers as the exact nature of the conversation is a little fuzzy.
At any rate, Christian is a vocal critic of the methods used to teach barefoot running. He believes there’s too much focus on specific methods and techniques, and not enough emphasis on listening to your own body (e.g.- start by taking off your shoes.)
I completely agree.
Over the last six months or so, I’ve analyzed my own methods. I found I was moving in a direction toward complexity. That inspired me to help Merrell develop a simplified teaching method, which resulted in Jon Sanregret’s “ABC” method.
Interestingly, Christian seemed surprised that I was critical of my own prior methods. I always assumed all of us go through a process of self-reflection and improvement. The moment we stop trying to improve is the moment we stop progressing. I’m finding there aren’t a lot of people that do this. That’s too bad. It shouldn’t be a big deal to admit you were wrong and take steps to correct course.
Anyway, even though the ABC method is simple and easy to understand, I don’t think it should be the first thing people try. If someone wants to learn to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, the first step should be to actually go barefoot for awhile.
For a large chunk of the population, this will be sufficient to learn good form. Even if a new runner needs more guidance via something like the ABC’s, developing the body awareness from being barefoot is invaluable to fully capitalizing on the lessons.
So how should an aspiring barefoot or minimalist shoe runner start? This is my latest recommendation:
- Take off your shoes. Spend time walking barefoot. After about two weeks, add in a little running every other day. The key- listen to your body. Repeat what feels good. Stop what doesn’t. This step is about feeling, not thinking.
- If you’re not feeling it after a few weeks, try a simple “how to” method. Of course, I recommend the ABC’s. Practice those three points for a few weeks while still listening to your body.
- If you still can’t get it after the first two steps, you’re probably one of those folks that has a difficult time interpreting the signals from your body. We’ll try another simple method- mimicry. Go to YouTube. Search for “barefoot running.” Watch a few people actually run barefoot. Mimic what they do. The key- you’re still not thinking too much.
- If you still can’t get it, maybe you need to think a little more. We all have different learning styles, don’t sweat it. Do some reading about barefoot running. I always recommend the free route first, so download the pdf version of my book here. If you want a dead tree version, I’d recommend Ken Bob’s book first, then mine. Ken Bob’s pictures are in color.
- If all that still doesn’t help, I’d recommend getting some help from other barefoot runners. Going with the “free first” theme, I’d recommend checking to see if there’s a local chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society in your area. If not, try doing a Google search with your city and “barefoot running.” Odds are pretty good there’s at least a few barefoot runners in your neighborhood. If all else fails, try contacting a barefoot running coach. The BRS can help with this, too.
There you have it- my latest “flow chart” of the progression of barefoot running. Thoughts? Additions? Complaints?