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Cautionary Tale for Barefoot Runners: Don’t Become an Apple Whack Job

Posted by on Jan 4, 2012 | 73 Comments

Years ago in my undergrad days, I had a professor that was madly in love with everything Apple.  She wore a Steve and Steve shirt to class the first day.  She refused to teach in a lab that was not outfitted with Macs.  She owned every Apple product produced since 1983.  She had the Apple logo tattooed on her calf.  She sent emails to Stave Jobs once a month.  She once kicked a kid out of class (this was a fairly big university) for bringing a PC laptop to class.  Every story she told involved Apple is some way.  She defined herself through her allegiance to this one single company.

As you could probably guess, she was a laughing stock to 95% of the students she encountered.  Everything she talked about was in some way related to Apple, and it was annoying as Hell to the vast majority of her students.  Of course, there was always one student that greed completely.  Their enthusiastic feedback just fueled the fire.  She had no perception of the effect she was having on the wider class; she was singularly focused on the lone source of affirmation.

To this day, I refuse to buy a Mac because of her crazy fanaticism.  I recently had a discussion with some former classmates… they also did not buy Apple products because of her.  I’m convinced Microsoft has prospered due to crazy ass people like her… the fanatics do more to turn people off than even the harshest critics.

So what does this have to do with barefoot runners?

Simple- as the ideas behind barefoot and natural running spread, the nature of the population that comes in contact with us changes.  I like to use the diffusion of technology curve to describe the barefoot running movement:

The “Innovators” are the people that have been barefoot running for a long time and/or the people that have worked to advance our knowledge base and teach others.  These were the people that took the biggest risks in the beginning- well before the “Born to Run” popularity spike.  By their very nature, the Innovators are visionaries.  They see potential where nothing exists.  They are risk-takers.  Most of all, they have the uncanny ability to completely ignore societal norms and expectations.  This is what gives them the freedom to be Innovators.

The “Early Adopters” are the people that follow the “Innovators.”  This group looks up to the Innovators to learn and as a source of inspiration.  The Early Adopters have some of the same qualities of the Innovators, but may not be quite as courageous to buck trends.  They’re not going to do much innovation, but they will take obscure ideas and run with them.  They don’t need to follow a crowd; they’re more than happy to follow individuals or small groups.  They closely follow the Innovators and develop close ties with their “mentors.”  They tend to be the type of people that research and experiment with new ideas.  This group represents the vast majority of barefoot runners we see today- they started before the idea of barefoot and natural running entered the consciousness of the wider running community.

The “Early Majority” is a much different group.  They don’t try something until there’s some supporting evidence.  That evidence may come in the form of science, adoption by large groups, marketing and advertisement, they know several friends that have tried it… whatever.  They are aware of emerging trends and will do some research and experimentation, but are much less willing to go against societal norms.  This group is critically important because the Early Majority determines if a trend lives or dies.  If they pick up an idea, it hits critical mass, crosses a tipping point, and spreads through the rest of the population.  If they reject an idea, it dies.

My premise is simple- understanding how the Early Majority thinks is critical to spreading the ideas of barefoot and natural running.  How my fellow classmates and I viewed our crazy computer teacher can give us some very good clues… well, at least one critically important clue:

The Early Majority does not view Innovators in the same way as the Early Adopters. 

The Innovators typically have a great deal of passion.  Their lives are tied to the idea.  They have strong opinions that typically diverge from the widely accepted ideas of the wider society.  They are a little bit fanatical.

The Early Adopters LOVE this!  It is what inspired them to take the leap in the first place.  It causes them to place the Innovators on a pedestal and give them an endless stream of positive regard.  That flow of positive feedback fuels the Innovators’ fanaticism to the point where they begin to disregard how the wider society views them.  This lack of self-awareness creates an “us versus them” dynamic that attracts more Early Adopters.

This creation of a small, loyal group of “followers” allows movements to grow to the point just below the tipping point between the Early Adopters and Early Majority.  Some ideas pass that critical threshold; some do not.  One of the determining factors has to do with the perceived fanaticism of the group made up of the Early Adopters and Innovators.

If the Early Majority see the idea as something that will fit within their world view, they will likely test it out.  If they like it, the idea spreads farther.  If the Early Majority are turned off by the fanaticism of the Early Adopters and Innovators, they’ll ignore the idea and it is forever relegated to the few that are willing playing the “outcast” role.

So… my old college professor was an Apple fanatic.  She was a true Innovator- she owned every single product Apple ever produced.  She attracted a small number of people that were open to her message.  However, she turned off countless others with the same message.  In short:

The Early Adopters see the Innovators as crazy geniuses.

The Early Majority sees the Innovators as crazy idiots.

Same behaviors… different perceptions.

How does this pertain to barefoot and natural running?  You probably guessed where I’m going with this.  If our goal is to spread the idea (that’s my goal, by the way), we have to be cognizant of how we are perceived by the Early Majority.

I spend a lot of time observing other people’s behaviors (psychology background + personality flaw = spending wayyyy too much time observing, assessing, and predicting others’ behaviors.)  There are a lot of people that LOVE the barefoot running community.  They contribute to the forums regularly.  They join groups.  The put the word “barefoot’ before their name.  Their Facebook profile includes a pic of bare feet (or feet in barefoot shoes.)  This group is the Innovators and Early Adopters.  This is our community.

There are also people that express curiosity about barefoot running.  This group is fundamentally different than the people that expressed interest a year or two ago- they’re the Early Adopters.  They’ve heard of barefoot running somewhere.  Their source was reliable enough to convince them that this idea is something a lot of people are trying successfully.  They’re testing the waters.  Based on my observations, the water is pretty chilly.

When I was running in the Across the Years 72 hour race this last weekend, I ran the first 20 miles barefoot.  The course was mostly gravel and the sensation started to get annoying.  I made the decision to put on some shoes.  What happened next was fascinating.  Over the course of four or five hours, about twelve people initiated a conversation about barefoot running.  NONE approached me when I was barefoot.

The moment it happened, that incongruency stood out like a sore thumb, so I asked a few of them about it.  Their response wasn’t too surprising.  They didn’t talk to me before because they expected me to be a barefoot fanatic that would condemn them for running in shoes despite the rough gravel.

All of the people I talked to knew at least something about the movement and many actually had experimented with minimalist shoes… er, I mean barefoot shoes.  Yet they were incredibly skeptical because of their perception of barefoot runners.

In short, their limited exposure to barefoot runners made them gun-shy about seeking out information or advice from barefoot runners.

We’re limiting our influence with the wider running community that makes up the Early Majority based on their perception of our fanaticism.  This is a major issue to anyone interested in spreading this idea.  If we’re going to engage the next wave of potential barefoot and natural runners, we need to be aware of our image.  The hard-core fanatical schtick is great when playing to the Early Adopter crowd.  The Early Majority is a different story- not only is it a flop, it may actually turn people away from the idea of barefoot running.

The “barefoot shoes” issue is a good example.  It’s a term the Early Majority has adopted.  Some people in the barefoot community understand this, accept it, and have decided to use it to their advantage.  Others have rejected it for a variety of reasons.  That inability to see the big picture is probably a pretty reliable predictor of the people that will help influence the Early Majority to accept the idea of barefoot and natural running versus those that will turn people off to the idea of barefoot and natural running.  I’m hoping more people fall in the former group.  If too many of us fall in the latter group, our movement will die.

So… what should be our plan of action?  How do Innovators and the Early Adopters adapt to this new wave of interested converts?  It’s pretty simple; all it takes is a basic understanding of the rationale behind people’s reasons for exploring barefoot and natural running.

1. Be skeptical of your own beliefs, no matter how strong.  This is a biggie.  For a long time, many of us automatically rejected the use of shoes for any reason.  Some have stuck to that belief.  Others have actually tried it, found shoes are required in some conditions, and changed their beliefs accordingly.  The Early Adopters may see this as blasphemy because they automatically assume the Innovators are all-knowing… but that’s okay.  The Early Adopters will eventually come around once they gain more experience.

2. Know your audience; learn to pick up on subtle cues.  When conversing, learn to recognize the difference between the Early Adopters (who will likely agree with you) and Early Majority (which may disagree with you, but are still interested.)  The Early Majority is looking for a convincing argument.  You have to create a bridge between YOUR world view and THEIR world view… not hammer YOUR world view into their skull.  That means openly admitting some of your points may be wrong.

3. Accept that we’re all different and there may be more than one solution.  This has been a big one for me personally.  For a very long time, I actively fought people wearing shoes while learning to run with good form.  I still believe starting barefoot is best for the VAST majority of people, but I concede it is possible to learn with shoes.  There are disadvantages, which I convey, but I don’t condone people for doing it.  After all, they’re still learning good form, which is my ultimate goal.

4. Avoid dogma.  Several of the people I talked to at Across the Years talked about things they’d heard from barefoot runners.  The phrases were predictable… they were the dogmatic statements that we repeat without much critical though.  The idea behind the statements make sense; they’re the basics we use to teach others.  However, when repeated out of context they sound like crazy rants from fanatics.  Dogma invigorates the Early Adopters.  Dogma turns off the Early Majority.  Know your audience before opening your mouth.

Following these four easy steps will help make barefoot runners more appealing to the Early Majority, which will help assure the survival of our movement.  If we really want to spread this idea, we have to understand our changing audience and adopt accordingly.

What are your thoughts?  Innovators and Early Adopters?  What about those of you in the Early Majority?  If you just started barefoot or natural running recently, how do you view the barefoot running community? 

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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73 Comments

  1. Brandon Mulnix
    January 11, 2012

    When it comes to any movement or belief there is a number of differnt types of people. There are those people that sit around and think about it, write about it, and analyze it. There are others who see it, believe it, and then share it. Not being an analyzer of anything I have been a sharer. Preaching the good word I believe to be true. Thankfully I have only ticked off a small majority of the population around me. Being a beliver in the barefoot movement has also tought me that I must believe in myself. If I don’t understand exactly what I believe, I shouldn’t be sharing it. Too often that is the case. We know the “Barefoot Slang” and throw it around at races to sound cool. I am guilty as charged.

    Your post is interesting and relates well with your misconceptions post. I wonder if leaving the ultra conservitive North is having an effect on your acceptance of the ways of others.

    I will do my best not to be a Barefoot A-Hole, and put on my WWBJD braclet the next time I am out running a race barefoot.

  2. Barefoot Running University » 15 Myths About Barefoot Running: What My Experiences Have Taught Me
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    [...] from my post last week about some shoe industry misconceptions and my post a few days ago about the changing nature of our audience.  I’ve been thinking about the various things I’ve learned on my barefoot [...]

  3. Apple’s Cool Factor Waning? – JailBake
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  5. Barefoot…for Jesus « marcdriesenga
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  6. Apple's Cool Factor Waning?
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  7. chrisdonkey
    January 6, 2012

    Great article. got me thinking about my own position. Im not sure where i fall! Is it still to early to have early majority? I know in Ireland there is currently very few doing this. So i reckon i might be seen as a fanatic here. Even though i wear barefoot shoes. Still, i am completely flexible on the matter and the second i feel arthritis hit me toes, im putting shoes back on.

  8. Moron “Barefoot Shoes” « The Running Barefoot
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  9. Ken Bob Saxton
    January 5, 2012

    So, you’re saying I should start wearing minimalist… I mean “barefoot” shoes, despite that for the past 50 years, I have never actually needed any foot protection (other than for social acceptance or to conform with rules and regulations)…

    I will admit that if I had decided to run the 100 mile Born to Run Ultra Marathon, instead of just the 10 mile event I ran barefoot, I might have wanted some sort of protection… but then the rest of my body wasn’t ready for that anyway, and I even told people on that course that I understood why only one person (not me) actually ran more than the single 10 mile loop literally barefoot… though Micha True’s dog did run over 20 miles barefoot on that gravelly course…

    Yes, I may not be accepted as normal, but then I never was, even when I tried. Yes, I realize that I do think differently than most people – in philosophy classes only a small percentage of the class understood simple logic, so it’s no surprise that most people don’t get my reasoning. That’s because it actually is based on reason, not on trying to make an idea popular.

    And my ideas never were popular until barefoot running began to become popular – but, again, not because I decided to compromise my ideas and reasoning. But because the whole reason that barefoot running (true barefoot running) has helped people become better runners, is because it makes sense. And even for those who don’t get the logic about the importance of immediate feedback, they do get that it actually works (if they try true barefooting). Those who accept the watered down version of the reasoning, often end up with sore calves and stress fractures, and wonder why they can’t run ultra marathons even though the bought the “barefoot shoes”?

    The logic is simple, and I’m not the person to sell it to those of you who don’t grok the reasoning behind it: If it hurts your bare soles to run for SHORT distances on gravel, then those same stresses and strains are affecting the rest of your body as well. Learn to run in a way that doesn’t hurt the soles, and you have reduced or eliminated the stresses and strains that injure the rest of the body.

    Block those pains so that you don’t need to change the way you run, and the rest of the body will likely suffer. If you try barefoot running in barefoot shoes, without giving true barefooting a chance, then it’s unlikely you’ll get the same benefit, and in the long run, I suspect these people will become the biggest (and most effective) opponents to barefoot running, because so many “educators” are willing to compromise the message that “barefoot shoes” are not the same as barefoot feet. And even if we don’t say that directly, just by accepting and especially propagating the term, we are implying that they are the same thing.

    I’ve never pretended to be an avid “Ultra-Marathoner” … well maybe a little bit when I completed one mountainous trail 50K … And I accept that there aren’t many people who can run ultra marathons, especially on trails, barefoot … but then, there aren’t many people who do run ultra-marathons, with or without shoes. And probably not many of those who rarely get blisters or other injuries from running.

    But when I ran that one 50K trail run, about 15 miles or more on gravely service roads, it wasn’t my feet that suffered. I was simply exhausted, so much so that the following day when I raced an 8K road race, I ran almost a minute per mile slower than normal (though it was a personal record because I had never before run an 8K race).

    Anyway, despite my astounding and fantastic imagination and creativity, I’ve never gone into advertising and marketing, because I just can’t “sell” something that I don’t believe in – and I don’t believe most people (not necessarily runners – but those are different animals altogether, even those who aren’t ultra-runners) believe that the fact that an ultra-runner can run barefoot (or in barefoot shoes part of the time) has anything to do with their lives or goals.

    For the distances and terrains the majority of people will ever run (and my target audience has never been people who are already running marathons or further, unless they’re regularly injured from running), bare feet will suffice just fine (except in cold weather – which is why I live in Southern California.

    In fact, had I not chosen to run barefoot myself, and eventually, nearly exclusively barefoot, you never would have heard of me, and I probably wouldn’t even be a runner.

    The only reason I began a website was to help answer the multitude of questions people were asking me about barefoot running, so much so that I would spend hours after finishing a race just talking with people about my experiences and how it works… and since then, I’ve learned exponentially more by sharing and listening to others.

    The fact that I couldn’t run very far, very often in shoes, without getting blisters, may have had more to do, as one comment about my experience with shoes pointed out “his shoes probably didn’t fit”, than with the deceptive nature of footwear in general (which wasn’t an issue with me, since I was already running barefoot much of the time. But, even if I had shoes that were the “right” size when I ran my first marathon (and only shod marathon) in 1987 with shoes, there simply wasn’t any running shoes available at that time shaped like an un-deformed human foot (ones which aren’t pointy with the toes all squished together in the front from constant shoe wearing). Well perhaps there were, but I didn’t feel like spending the rest of my life searching for them, not when I was able to complete another 77 marathons barefoot, which is not a testament to my being especially durable, it had more to do with the fact that I wouldn’t do anything for that distance more than once, unless I could do it without extreme pain and suffering!

    So yeah, I won’t be reaching most of the people with the message they want to hear. But I’ll still be around when people find out that “barefoot shoes” are not the same thing as barefoot feet, and will not, can not give them the same message as a bare sole, because that, after all, is their purpose, to block the painful message that you aren’t running as gently as you could be.

    I may seem dogmatic about it, but I’ve tested these ideas for over 50 years, and continue to test, analyze, and refine these ideas. And for more than a decade I’ve seen and shared with and discussed these issues with thousands (before “barefoot” running became “popular”) of people who could not, would not, were bored, or pained with running in footwear, discover that they could actually run more than a mile or two more comfortably barefoot.

    For these people who never considered themselves runners before (and most Americans don’t consider themselves runners now) running a few miles a few days a week is more than they ever dreamed they would ENJOY! And it’s enough to help them stay healthy!

    After all, it wasn’t from running a few miles a few times a week that helped people become aware of barefoot running in the first place. It was because I was racing barefoot, and it was the races where people asked me the most questions, and prompted me to start the original Running Barefoot website to answer the questions I was getting, and it was the races and the website which got media’s attention about barefoot running, and ultimately, Ted McDonald, who intrigued Christopher McDougall enough to do some research and include a very compelling chapter in his book, Born to Run about barefoot running.

    My “success” may not seem like it’s keeping up with others who are getting contracts with shoe companies, and/or are better promoters than myself, but I still have a growing audience of people who are curious, and even if they don’t get my logic, they may get that true barefooting helps them learn exponentially more than “barefooting” in shoes.

    There’s room for all of us, and some will appear more successful at reaching the masses, because they get the media attention, sponsorships, and more people following them…

    But, just as “barefoot” shoes can be deceptive (as a term, and as tools)… so to can “success”.

    • Erik
      January 6, 2012

      As a long-time barefooter, I agree with you Ken–true barefooting is where it’s at–but I think you’ve missed Jason’s point. He’s advocating a little compromise in order to break down resistance to the greater truth that you, I, and many others have discovered and espouse. Whether or not this will be a successful strategy in the long-run remains to be seen. But the fact is most people have grave misperceptions about barefooting in general (I’ve experienced them for some thirty years), let alone running barefoot. Even you admitted to having doubts initially about the feasibility of running on hard, manmade surfaces. And I can tell you winter BFR isn’t as hard as it seems, and is possible about half the time for those of us with a decent tolerance for cold.

      The question is: what is the best way to get through to people with little or no idea about what BFR is all about? I myself have zero interest in evangelizing, and only have time to check in on one BFR site with any regularity (Jason’s). If people ask me about BFR, I tell them what I know, then refer them to Jason’s excellent primer. Your method is to set an example in races. Well, a lot of people, including myself, could care less about races. So how do you get through to the casual runner with little contact with the serious runner’s world? Jason has taken it upon himself to widen the appeal of barefoot running as he sees fit. He may be right, he may be wrong, but the landscape has changed considerably in the last few years–no matter what sort of proprietary rights you or I or any other long-term barefooter may claim–and adapting to it might not be a bad thing. I think we should withhold judgment for the time being.

    • Chris
      January 6, 2012

      “So, you’re saying I should start wearing minimalist… I mean “barefoot” shoes, despite that for the past 50 years, I have never actually needed any foot protection (other than for social acceptance or to conform with rules and regulations)…”

      I dont believe he is saying this. This article is not about what you or anyone else SHOULD or HAS TO do. Its about reaching out to people and teaching the benefits of good form and spreading that word. To use the article to vent from a very singular personal viewpoint such as this seems to do nothing but prove some of the points made in the article.

    • Rob
      January 6, 2012

      Again, I still maintain it’s all about where you live, what types of terrain you regularly run, what kind of weekly mileage you put in and if you race or not. We are all different. If all I wanted to do was simply run for my health by running a few miles every other day then I could totally see doing those miles barefoot or in huaraches or mocassins on nice, clean pavement or nice soft surfaces such as grass/dirt. And I suppose the vast majority of “runners” fall into this category, running for fitness/health a few days a week and may race some local 5/10k’s every now and then with perhaps the dream goal of finishing a marathon. I get it. But the barefoot approach is simply impractical for those who love running on rough surfaces, especially FAST, or for those who love to run long distances, yes, us ultramarathoners! I can see incorporating aspects of barefooting in training to help toughen up my feet, lower leg muscles and to improve my form. I get it. Just as wearing shoes is a tool to let me do the types of running I enjoy so to can be barefooting a tool to help improve other aspects of my running.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Ken Bob, we have different goals. You want to teach people about barefoot running. I want to teach people to run with good form using barefoot running. Different goal; different methods to reach said goals. It’s cool, both approaches will leave runners in a better position than where they started.

      As far as my motives, it should be clear my goal is to convince others to take an active role in teaching others (like this post: http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/2012/01/06/so-now-what-bringing-barefoot-running-to-the-masses/.) I don’t want to create a legion of followers, I want to create a legion of leaders. I don’t have all the answers and I freely admit that. Collectively all of us can benefit from open, honest discussion that will ultimately lead to a greater understanding of the world around us. In this context, this includes the best way to reach the running world beyond our small community.

  10. Rob
    January 5, 2012

    One of your best posts thus far! Kudos! I’d add that we are all an experiment of one; all have different reasons for running; all run on varieties of terrain and weather; impossible to fit everybody into one shoe or no shoe! Going sans shoes may not always practical for the types of running people do, i.e. hardcore trail running and racing; ultra distance etc… There are very real and valid reasons to wear shoes, protection! The best that the minimalist/barefoot shoe/barefoot community can do is to be helpful to those folks who may not be satisfied with their current results. That is, they’ve got bouts of reoccurring injuries for example. Then that is the time that helpful advice might be taken i.e. need to work on form, strengthening muscle imbalance etc… and this is why minimalist/barefoot shoes/barefooting will help… See what I mean? Nobody is likely to change if nothing is broken so don’t waste your breath!

  11. Ramzev
    January 5, 2012

    One problem I have always had is finding that good argument as to why I switched to BF.

    I don’t think it’s fair to try to convince someone using other people’s arguments (i.e. cavemen did it, it fixed what ailed me, etc.) when I either don’t subscribe to the argument or it does not apply to me.

    But then, maybe this is exactly what people need to hear, instead of a history or biology lesson, curious people just need to hear that it is comfortable and it doesn’t hurt and it’s fun.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Ram, I agree. When I’m actually trying to teach people (or persuade them), I take a very diplomatic approach. I’ve found if I can get them to try running barefoot, the vast majority fall in love with the feeling and will continue to do it on at least a prat-time basis. If I take an extreme stance, they don’t bother trying and usually end up back in foot coffins.

  12. krista
    January 4, 2012

    Great thoughts, Mr. Robillard! You are definitely using your mind-bending skills to analyze the masses here.

    As for myself, I’m similar to Jeff Gallup (commenter before me) in that I often mention how barefoot running has been an approach that has worked for me, but everyone is different. I encourage people not to listen to what I say, but to do their own homework and make their own decisions.

    As for all the innovator/early adopter fanaticism goes I think its interesting to watch what marketing does to that. I somewhat believe that many companies have the power to “create” their own markets and use small groups as leverage for their products. Its another angle that can be tweaked and even built upon.

    Interesting that you bring up “barefoot shoes” as an example, though. I will go out on a limb here to say that using the word “barefoot” could be misconstrued as almost a fanatical use of the term when referring to shoes, whereas the word “minimal” is more appropriately descriptive of the type of shoe they are. But the use of the term “barefoot” makes a direct connection with a certain group in its target market so its also smart marketing.

    Just my own two cents for whatever its worth (you know… given inflation and all. HA!)

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Thanks Krista. I think my “barefoot shoes” post was misinterpreted by pretty much everyone. The industry uses the term because they see the shoes as something that allows the same type of running barefoot runners use (what we like to call natural form.) The marketers use the term for the reasons you mentioned. The value to us as potential educators cannot be understated- “barefoot shoes” stimulates interest in barefoot running, which we can use to actually teach people about barefoot running when they wouldn’t normally be receptive to the message. Think of it as a Trojan Horse of sorts.

  13. Harold
    January 4, 2012

    Great post, I am one of the early majority. I am not quite ready to run down the road in nothing but my bare feet right now. I will not rule out that may happen as some point in the future. However, right now I am focusing on improving my form and using shoes to do it. My movement toward true barefoot running will be on a continuum and at the pace I am comfortable with.

    If I run into fanatical barefooters, as fanatical anything most anything it turns me off and pushes me away. That is why I am careful about the blogs I read and who I talk with when talking about running barefoot.

    This post is very timely and puts in great perspective how many potential barefoot runners may feel about some of the early adopters. You did a good job of capturing most of my concerns. Thank you.

  14. Mike W
    January 4, 2012

    Great post, we use the innovator-early adopter conversation at work all the time when we are trying to change things and use the premise outlined in your post as a reminder not to scare off those in the middle.

    I started experimenting with running barefoot last winter and was surprised by some of the zealotry that existed. I am one that believes that stronger feet are a good idea even when I wear shoes. I got some VFF’s last fall and am trying to continue to work in short distance runs.

    I firmly believe that if I keep working at it, my feet will get stronger, my form will improve and I will increase my odds of avoiding injury. I do think emphasizing a slow transition is a good idea especially for those of us who tend to embrace extremes fairly quickly.

    So glad to see you are mellowing just a wee bit as I think that approach will win over more people and not cause folks like me to step aside from the debate.

  15. Catburglar
    January 4, 2012

    I’m very glad to hear the idea of tolerance for the uninitiated – I’ve been interested in barefoot running for a while, but am one of those people who didn’t really think about making the switch until I read “Born to Run”. I read a number of blogs to decide how to begin, and was a bit disappointed to read over and over that running on grass was best for a beginner, and that using minimal shoes was going to make it harder for me to “learn proper form”, etc. But I live in a rural desert area with almost no grass, and I want to run on lovely, but very rough and gravelly rural roads that I think even the most hard-core barefoot runner would find a challenge.

    Finally I just went for it and bought some Five-fingers, but it took me longer than it should have, because I spent too much time wondering if I just lived in the wrong area for barefoot running. True barefoot may indeed be out, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get close to barefoot!

    So, good post. Just one minor matter; I think you mean ‘condemn’, not ‘condone’, in point #3. Thanks!

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Cat- I’ve been in a desert for a few months now… I can relate to the difficulty in running barefoot. I would advise against running on grass as a means of learning good form. The softness can hide bad form and you may develop bad habits.

      Keep up the good work!

      • Catburglar
        January 7, 2012

        Right, that’s right – grass is not the best surface. Thanks for reminding me. It was a relatively clear-from-pokey, sharp, pebbly, foot-spiking-stuff-surface, that’s firm, that I needed, and I can find the firm but not the clear! Anyway, thanks for the post and I’m glad you are promoting BF running and good form.

  16. Brian G
    January 4, 2012

    Jason, I absolutely agree with your post. Evangelizing about the benefits of barefoot running, even if in “barefoot shoes”, is necessary to spread the word to the masses. But Joe Public can be quite different in thinking and experience than us Innovators and Early Adopters so tailoring the message to fit the audience, using terminology and a context they’re comfortable with, is essential.

    *IF* you want to show someone the way of the truth keeping in mind who your audience is and your goals with them is required. Otherwise you end up being nothing more than an annoyance. And with a website name of Barefoot Running University I would guess that spreading the word to the masses is indeed your goal.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Brian- yeah, I’m a teacher at heart. I’m also a skeptic, which I have no problem applying to my own beliefs. I think it works well… I usually do a decent job of assessing the audience in the context of the big picture.

  17. Dave Robertson
    January 4, 2012

    For progression to the Early Adopter category, the Early Majority are looking for evidence, information & motivation to convince them that changing is a good idea.
    As you mention ‘The Early Majority is looking for a convincing argument.’

    This begs the question, Why isn’t it convincing?
    I think these are a few reasons why:

    1. Injuries – eg the Early Adopter completely sold on the idea of BF running but is injured due to poor transition strategies.
    2. Large shoe companies preserving the old paradigms; marketing traditional running shoes as safest & best.
    3. Mixed messages from medical, allied health fields on whether BF running should be used.

    There is so much talk of barefoot running right now that most runners can’t help but by interested in it in some way.

    Jason, your advice to sum up where a person fits into the classification scheme and tailor your BF running ‘sales pitch’ accordingly, is spot on.

    Thanks for a great article as part of today’s BRU class on Barefoot Running Sociology!

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Dave- your points are correct. The challenge we face is confronting these challenges. Barefoot running won’t make you bullet-proof, but will likely reduce the likelihood of most injuries. Large shoe companies are beginning to waver… well, most are. And the medical community is having good, relevant discussions these days. Things are aligning, and it’s important we be in a position to share our experiences to facilitate that process.

  18. Mitch
    January 4, 2012

    Everyone knows advertising works, you want something you don’t need, cause it makes you look better, feel better, smell better, whatever. We all have bought into an idea, that is why there is such a thing as brand loyalty. The apple girl just took it to the next level. Same goes for the running groups preaching buy new sneakers every 6 months because people will give into that, whether they need to or not. Just goes to show we should be independent thinkers, in a society where everything is flashed in our faces, we need to think for ourselves. My year old sneakers do a good job. Over consumption is what have. If going to the grocery store gives you anxiety because there are too many chooses of cereal then that is my point. Other countries simply do not have the chooses we have. Back to sneakers, running is hard on our joints no matter what high end sneakers we run in. It is okay to think outside the box, that is what makes change.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Mitch- couldn’t agree more!

  19. Antonio Aguirre
    January 4, 2012

    Why spread the idea? Does having a broader support among the people make the idea worthier? Why create a “community” around an idea? Do we need thousands of people running barefoot to justify us? Is it just because we feel ashamed when people gaze us as we run barefoot and we need those thousands of people to support us?
    I took the risk of barefoot running on a small southern spanish town where people still thinking I’m crazy for doing it. I don’t mind anyway. I did it because I felt it was the natural thing, and it makes me proud whenever I think what I did.
    I don’t need a “community” to back me up.
    I’m not a priest who must spread its god’s word.
    Do they think Sketchers can improve what nature has been designing for thousand of years… Ok, I’ll let them think it… He who laughs last laughs the loudest…

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      antonio- it’s not about building a community to rationalize or affirm our decisions. It’s about teaching others that there’s a better way to run which will make physical movement more intrinsically enjoyable.

  20. christopher drozd
    January 4, 2012

    While I normally steer clear of fanatics, be they technological, religious, diet-centric, etc., I would point out that Apple Computer is today one of the most successful companies there is, Christianity took hold and became a major world religion, and low-carb has become mainstream just as low fat had some years before. While I make a very strong case for barefoot running in the “Runnin’ Nekkid” chapter of my book, “Fitness Straight-Up– How to be a better athlete, or at least look like one “(available on Amazon.com, and the iBookstore) I recognize that the belief that shoes are necessary is so well ingrained I don’t consider converting everyone, or even most. Shoes are emblematic of a civilized society– they’re not going anywhere. In fact, that there are “barefoot shoes” is probably indicative that most people are willing to accept only a limited amount of exposure and difference in their choices and behavior. At least for the time being. That’s to be expected. That’s normal.

    Now, as a coach I teach Pose Method running to my athletes, whether they will choose to run exclusively barefooted or not. The thing they get from using this Method is a way to run in harmony with Nature and the physics that shaped their bodies and determined their movements. While barefoot certainly allows greater perception and utilization of the the foot and leg structures, plenty of people run very well in shoes. That’s OK with me.

    There are ingrained “skeptics” though. Those people who recoil from trends, new ideas, and those things that in some way threaten their world-view. Some will “try on” the new idea without really investigating it, and then denounce it. They don’t really want change; they want to shoot holes in others’ innovations. Some live for the satisfaction of rightly or wrongly discrediting visionaries. If the idea is sound, like Apple Computer, or Barefoot running the idea will ultimately prevail. Remember Sir Isaac Newton’s ideas weren’t accepted at first. Such is the way of the world: Thesis>> Anti-thesis>> Synthesis.

    Again, while fanatics turn me off I think their commitment to their ideal is essential to get the ball rolling, and to keep it rolling. No luke warm water is ever going to boil an egg, and no diluted philosophical or behavioral stance is ever going to convince anyone to change their beliefs, or run without shoes. So, my statements about Barefoot are straightforward and pure, and I make those statements as much with my example as I do with my words. I’m consistent, and have been for over a decade with regard to running form and minimal or no footwear. Naturally, this put me out on the fringe, but these days I’m a little closer to the center even though I haven’t moved.

    All I can say is stand your ground, run your truth, and let the world decide for themselves by your results.

    I bought Apple stock back in ’97 or so when the mainstream was saying they were finished. After trading a Windows machine for a Mac I realized that conventional wisdom, as usual, was dead wrong. Hmm, $12 to $413: even with those legions of anti-fanatic fanatics not buying Apple products, Apple prospers.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Well-said, Christopher. The thesis -> antithesis -> synthesis statement is spot-on. I feel that the greater running community is looking at barefoot running through a lens of greater acceptance, and we can capitalize on that to share the benefits. Once we do that, it’s up to the individual to decide a course of action. It’s a much better scenario than us shouting from the sidelines as we’ve done for years.

  21. Kit
    January 4, 2012

    This is a really well written post. I found myself enjoying it more for the barefooting aspect rather than the running.

    I feel that a lot of the fanaticism I have seen on SBL can be summed up in this post, with people who feel they have been mistreated by shoes quickly becoming Early Adopters and in turn zealots who condemn the shoe in all its forms, regardless of the reason.

    I fear that barefoot running may not be defeated because of zealots in the bfr community but by zealots in the SBL, especially when we have entire threads nit-picking a persons claims to barefooting when evidence suggests otherwise.

    Initially I thought it was elitism but after reading this I realise that it is indeed a form of fanaticism. And it worries the hell out of me!

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      I have mixed feelings about the SBL. I like that they fight government entities, but balk at condemning small businesses (it’s my slightly libertarian leanings.) I DO like that their preferred method is changing minds by dispelling myths. Ultimately I think that is the best approach to increasing acceptance of being barefoot.

  22. Bob (Downtown Runner)
    January 4, 2012

    Jason,

    Great Post! As others have said your description of the various types of people is spot on. I’m an Early Adopter and I completely agree with your comments about being careful about how we talk and act when we’re around “Barecurious” people. I deal with this just about every day at the bus stop, on the subway train, or in the elevator since I wear VFF’s all day.

    It has been interesting as time goes on to see the how the kinds of questions have changed. It used to be “what are those”? “they look silly, why do you wear those”? Now it is much more “are those comfortable”? “Are they warm enough for the winter”? “Someone in my department has those, do you like them too”?

    So I agree with your analysis on this completely…… But I still think calling them “barefoot shoes” is a bad idea…..

    :)

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Bob, I’m glad you noticed a difference in the questions you’ve received. That’s one of my main points- the people that are barefoot curious today are fundamentally different than the people we encountered even last year. That trend will continue. Failure to recognize that will result is us becoming increasingly irrelevant. We have valuable knowledge; this is a golden opportunity to share said knowledge.

  23. Kai Keliikuli
    January 4, 2012

    Great Post Jason! I run a lot in minimalist shoes but when people ask if I’m a minimalist I reply that I’m a hedonist. I run in minimalist shoes because it feels better, and I get injured less, period. They’re more open to what I have to say about barefoot running and minimalist running when I put it that way

  24. Mamarunsbarefoot
    January 4, 2012

    I try not to be IN THEIR FACE, but sometimes I can be passionate and frankly if they open the door well I’m gonna run through it. :)

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Katie, your approach is perfect. ;-)

  25. barefootCourier
    January 4, 2012

    My guess is that its whatever the marketing powers do to influence understanding of minimalist. Theres no $ to be made from barefoot other than through education and training. Minimalist however seems to be making marketing departments salivate.

    Perhaps the analogy of Apple applies to Minimalist, though there is a greater chance of a bad outcome for the poor runner if they don’t read the user guide.

    The challenge for the early converts is to correct misguided users whilst not preaching and continuing to be open-minded.

    Barefoot Running

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Agreed- that IS the crux of our challenge. I think there are a lot of people out there doing just that. My goal of this post is to hopefully persuade others of the value of educating about barefoot running AND being open-minded enough to understand the audience.

  26. Sandi Brown
    January 4, 2012

    This is a great read. The concepts you mentioned here are applicable to so many areas of beliefs and ideologies.

    As I was reading it, I noticed maybe the “14th paragraph” (the one right above: “So… my old college professor was an Apple fanatic.”) should be about Early Majority instead of Early Adopters?

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Thanks for catching that, Sandi. As you can tell, I’m not much for editing. :-)

  27. Rick
    January 4, 2012

    A epic post Jason!! Thanks!!

  28. Dan Fairbanks
    January 4, 2012

    Great article, Jason. Being a zealot can be a huge turn off to many people, but being enthusiastic about your own experiences can be very inspiring. If you have had a great experience running barefoot or in barefoot shoes, be enthusiastic about it and others will be inspired and follow.

    In fact your example of Apple is perfect, but I had the opposite experience, but it further proves your point. I was indifferent to Apple 5 years ago, but in 2008 some of my good friends were enthusiastic about Apple computers and encouraged me to try it. I had never seen anyone else that enthusiastic about PC’s, so naturally I was very curious what made them so enthusiastic, especially considering these were friends that I admired and trusted (They weren’t zealots like your college professor). So I bought a MacBook Pro and over a few months I learned of my own experience why my friends were so enthusiastic, Apple does make better products, and I have only bought apple products since.

    My point, just like yours, is that as barefoot shoe runners we have to be aware about how we are perceived by others. If we are perceived by others as fanatical zealots then we will turn people away, but if we are naturally enthusiastic and speak from our own experience, then people will be curious and want to try it themselves. Additionally, I think one of the best ways to have influence with others is to let them start the conversation and ask all the questions and let your enthusiasm come out in the way that you answer the questions.

    Eventually as the early majority does start adopting this then they will influence their friends in the right way and this movement will grow and people will run with better form, more efficiently, with less injuries, and more joy.

    At the Born to Run stores, when a customer walks in the door, before we start talking about the benefits about barefoot shoes, the first thing we do is get them into a pair of barefoot shoes and then have them start asking all the questions. This creates a friendly environment for the early majority compared to what we used to do when customers first walked in, which was give them a lengthy pitch about why barefoot was better.

    At Born to Run – The Barefoot Shoe Store it is our goal to bridge the gap to the early majority. We don’t want to be the store that only the innovators and early adopters go to, we want to be the store that the early majority go to.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Dan, you guys are doing great things with BTR… keep it up, man! I’m hoping we get up there by the end of winter!

  29. Tim
    January 4, 2012

    Great post, and it touches back to our discussion on your ‘misconceptions’ post last week. I’d place myself in the early majority and say that the dogmatic responses are off-putting to say the least. My bible belt upbringing probably has something to do with that. In my case, I was met with the “all shoes are bad” response when I questioned bfr in the wake of an injury. It was not a tmts type thing, it was a truly barefoot-related injury by way of scattered gravel over pavement.

    My question was “am I trading one class of running injury for another, going from knee, back aches to impact and abrasion type injuries?” I still haven’t answered this question for myself, but in my digging around almost no one in the bfr community I have encountered will concede the possibility that, case-by-case, bfr may not be best. I’m still attempting to run barefoot or as minimally shod as possible right now, but am open to whatever helps me run. The responses have put me off to associating myself with “barefoot running” as a movement and for a while had me withdrawing contact from the community. this isn’t to say I won’t run barefoot, I just may not associate it with the movement/philosophy I have seen.

    i’m at a crossroads now and am not sure where I’ll fall. I can say that your post hit it on the head and the attitudes of those that claim the mantle of barefoot advocates will have some influence in my thinking process.

    • Jason
      January 5, 2012

      Tim, the lack of honesty by some in the BFR community bothers me, though I don’t think it is intentional. Based on my experiences, if someone gets hurt, the common answer is simply “you were doing too much too soon.” I don’t buy that answer- it places blame on the individual without assessing the situation. It would be like a teacher blaming a student for failing because they don’t study enough. It’s a bush league cop-out. A good teacher changes the methods until they find a method that works. At some point, the teacher may have to concede they’re the wrong teacher for that student OR the lessons are not a good fit and they move the student to something else.

      I’ve met a few people that tried BFR. For a variety of reasons, it was not right for them. Stepping off the BFR soapbox allowed me to match them with something that DID work (usually a form of reduced shoes and a change in form.)

      • Tim
        January 5, 2012

        I agree;I think the responses came with the best of intentions, It’s hard for most of us to not see our way as the best way. That can be off-putting, especially to fence riders who want to see both sides before making a leap.

  30. David Repp
    January 4, 2012

    I really like this. I think barefoot is an important part to incorporate in training and if someone asks I will suggest this, but if they are not into it, that is cool too. I think maybe I’ll start calling myself a natural runner instead of a barefoot or a minimalist runner since I do both.

  31. jeff
    January 4, 2012

    From the article, I think I have a personality that falls between early adopter and early majority. I have no problem going against the social norms, but I need data. (I’m skeptical about everything, including the social norm.)

    I’m still a relative newcomer to barefoot running. I finally made the switch to exclusive barefoot/minimalist just a few months ago. As such, I find I pay a lot of attention to other runners’ form. I avoid evangelizing about barefoot, but if someone asks me about my shoes or lack thereof, I’m happy to discuss. I’m quick to point out that the data is still a work-in-progress, and state that I am doing this as an experiment more than anything else.

    The funny thing is, I can’t imagine ever returning to stabilizing running sneakers. But I’m unwilling to admit that to anyone (myself included) until I have at least at least a year, and a few barefoot marathons under my belt. (I may be biased, but I try to at least act scientific.)

    Nothing turns me off faster than someone who “knows” the “correct” way to do a thing. The best way for you to convince me that your theory is a good one is by pointing out its weaknesses, and discussing alternative ideas.

    If you can explain to me how you reached your conclusions, and can admit which are the strong ones, and which are the weak ones, I’m going to judge that your thinking process is similar to mine. As such, I’m going to believe your conclusions more readily.

    Oh, one more thing. You might not ever know if you’ve convinced me or not. Your conversation may win me over, but the winning-over process may not happen until long after we’ve parted ways, and I’ve had time to think about what you said, and try it for myself. If you find my tone of conversation has shifted to being politely dismissive, that’s a good cue to stop trying to convince me – I may still become convinced, but not until I’ve consulted other sources. Until then, I’ll continue to think you have some crazy, but intriguing ideas.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Jeff, i think we think alike. ;-)

  32. Nick
    January 4, 2012

    Hi Jason, I don’t normally reply on your posts, but this one I really connect with. I guess I would be in the Early Majority group you’ve described. A little over a year ago I was told I would never run again and that I would never be able to walk without back pain again. This was after a year of being in pain after my second back surgery. I didn’t like this answer and did a lot of researching online to find out if there was anything I could do to get better.

    Anyhow, long story short I found barefoot running and kept seeing all the anecdotal evidence that a barefoot lifestyle could help with my pain. After several months of ignoring this, thinking it was stupid, and getting worse pain wise I figured what did I have to lose, so I tried it. Inside of a week I had zero back pain. None, zip, nada.

    This made me into the zealot that you talk about at first. In my last 10 months of mostly a barefoot lifestyle I have learned that sometimes footwear is necessary for me, but used as a tool.

    One thing I never intended to do was ostracize shod people, which I did in the beginning. I’ve learned in the last 7 months or so to answer peoples questions, not say anything about shoes being bad or evil, and tell them about MY experience and try not to sound like these results are ordinary.

    I will also tell them about the BRS and tell them they can find a lot more information there if they are curious or want more info. I think coming across as a polite and approachable person helps to further awareness more than the cram it in your face this is the only way to be attitude some seem to have. Sorry for the book of a response, I’ve been told I’m too wordy sometimes.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      You have a great outlook, Nick. Keep up the good work, man!

  33. James H
    January 4, 2012

    I had to laugh…I avoided buying an iPod MP3 player for many years because I kept thinking of those pretentious people and their white ear buds bouncing along in the early days.

    I now have an iPod but I use black ear buds.

  34. Pete Kemme
    January 4, 2012

    Jason,
    Although some may disagree with your philosophies (they are wrong), you truly are a genius. I can’t wait until spring hits Michigan so we can solve the world’s issues over some wheat beer and burgers.

    • Jason
      January 5, 2012

      Thanks Pete. :-) Looking forward to that problem-solving session, too!

  35. Jeff Gallup
    January 4, 2012

    Although I came into this community relatively late, I still identify most with early adopters. I really appreciate this analysis, because I can sometimes get caught up in wanting to “preach” etc.. however, since I am new to running as well, I try to work very hard to stay open-minded. What has worked best is to keep the attitude of “this is what has worked for me” and leave it at that. But I can certainly see how the early majority could be turned off if they are undecided etc. Great though provoking post!

  36. Erik
    January 4, 2012

    I really like your scheme and analysis, and have a few thoughts to add.

    First, I think there are two, perhaps minor, demographic niches you’ve left out: (1) people who are barefooters first (like me), and so when they run, run barefoot; and (2) people who run barefoot as part of their training in other pursuits, like martial arts. I wonder if you have any sense of what percentage of barefoot runners would fall into either of these categories.

    Second, I have a slightly greater faith that the science of BFR, once its evidentiary claims become better established, will become the most persuasive factor. Evangelism, and the negative reactions it sometimes provokes, may only be necessary in the early stages of the trend.

    Third, I don’t think the perception of barefoot fanaticism is entirely our fault. A lot of people think BFR is inherently badass, akin to extreme sports, something only a fanatic would do, and pass judgment before they even talk to you or read up on it. One of my first points of emphasis when talking to family and friends is how good it feels to be barefoot, and that BFR isn’t difficult at all on concrete and asphalt surfaces. But people have told me I’m crazy just for going barefoot around the house in the winter. The difference in perceptions can be huge.

    Finally, there’s always going to be a certain amount of in-group hostility from veteran shod runners and podiatrists who don’t like laypersons telling them stuff about their specialty. I doubt there’s much you can do or say to convince them. I have a friend whose brother has run at least a mile every day for forty years. He just scoffed at the idea of BFR. Why wouldn’t he?

    • Jason
      January 5, 2012

      Erik, there are excellent points. I will try to address these in a future post.

      • Erik
        January 5, 2012

        Cool. If you’re looking for another post idea, and as kind of a companion piece to this one, I’d like to get your sense of the current contours of barefoot and minimalist running in terms of movement and influences. For example, what percentage (guesstimates are fine) of people trying natural running get their info from advertising, and how many get it from sites like this one, or books, or other sources? What is the growth rate of barefoot running and/or minimalist running–current, past, or projected? A friend and I have tried BFR in the past (in my case, 20 years ago) and are coming back to it now due to the influence of the current trend. How many people like that are there around? How many people adopt BFR after first trying minimalist running, and how many people adopt minimalist running after first trying BFR (not that these are mutually exclusive, but as a general rule)?

        In my neighborhood in St. Paul, and along Twin Cities lake and river paths, I haven’t seen another barefoot runner over the last 18 months, and can report only one sighting of someone in Vibrams. Most of what I know comes from your site and your extremely well-informed commentators, so I have a very distorted view of the total picture of this trend.

        • Jason
          January 6, 2012

          I have a little hard data that I’ve shared in the past, but most of my estimates would be based on my experiences traveling around.

          You’re in the Twin Cities?!? Have you come across Christian Peterson yet (The maple Grove Barefoot Guy?) If not, look him up. ;-)

          • Erik
            January 6, 2012

            Yah, I’ve been wanting to go on one of the BRS group runs MGBG holds every month, but unfortunately they fall on Sundays, and that’s our official family day (I have two young children). But it will definitely happen in the not-so-distant future. I’d look him up personally for a few drinks during the week if he didn’t live halfway between my house and North Dakota :)

  37. OreMan
    January 4, 2012

    Very true about everything. These ideas about different types of people have been flying through my head for some time now, but here you have classified everything perfectly. From now on, I will get to know my audience before opening my mouth.. :)

  38. Aaron Harrell
    January 4, 2012

    Great connection, one that I would go so far as to equate to religion. Both Mac users and “hardcore” barefoot runners can come across very much like religious zealots, which is a turn-off to many people. When I think about the benefits of running, I think of getting people moving, no matter what they have on their feet. In that regard I appreciate your take and cautions about how barefoot runners can appear to those outside the discipline.

  39. briderdt
    January 4, 2012

    Good analysis of some simple points.

    1) Avoid being “so heavenly bound you’re no earthly good.”

    2) As in business, you need to be “relate-able” to the majority of people.

    • Jason
      January 5, 2012

      Good call, BDT!

  40. Aaron
    January 4, 2012

    Well put, Jason.

    I learned about innovators, early adopters, etc. a while back and have tried to analyze some of the things I have done and been into throughout my life through that lense. It is a really interesting way to look at how things and ideas catch on and either become household names or fail and disappear.

    On the topic of barefoot running, there is one guy where I live who has been barefoot running for several years now and leads classes once or twice a month. I attended one a while back and learned a bit but was turned off by his insistence that shoes are across-the-board evil. He chastised me for wearing my Five Fingers to run across a gravel parking lot to the meeting spot. Luckily, I liked barefoot running enough to ignore those comments. Unfortunately, I think he was too much for the others in the class.

    Anyway, I totally agree with your plan of action and am doing my best to be a good barefoot running example to my running friends. They still think I’m a bit odd, but because the ask me lots of questions about running barefoot and how my running has improved, I know they are interested and are listening to what I have to say.

  41. shel
    January 4, 2012

    thank you. this also goes for running/ ultrarunning fanatics, drinking/partying fanatics, religious fanatics, food fanatics or any other fanatic you can think of. how many people have you blocked from your facebook newsfeed cause you can’t stand to listen to them? i have blocked quite a few. if all you talk about is running or food or wine or atheism/catholicism/some-other-ism i am bored to death and put off by you. i used to do this. i talked about bf running/ ultrarunning like it was my God. until i realized i was boring people…including myself. life is more than those things and your fanaticism makes people wary of you and what you are pushing. i say – drop a mention every once in a while, but otherwise just stay open and let people come to you. there’s a bible verse : ‘don’t cast your pearls before swine’. don’t dump a message on people who are interested only in trampling on it…let them come to you. your choice in footwear speaks for itself…it is a walking billboard at races and out in public. if people want the info, they’ll know where to go.

  42. Rob
    January 4, 2012

    Spot-on analysis Jason. Being a recent convert I remember how resistant I was to barefoot/minimalist running just over a year ago.

  43. Queenie
    January 4, 2012

    Jason – I have been running in VFF’s since last December. When I first started, even my hub thought I was crazy. (He is now one of the biggest advocates I know for Bare/Min running)

    We are frequently met with curious stares and odd comments about our choice to run with VFF’s and bare. Which is precisely what led to a post I wrote yesterday – about learning where that fine line was between being one of the obnoxious thumpers and being an inspiration for the sport. I can only hope that I have discovered that line and don’t cross it much.

    Thanks for the post today. As one of the innovators (at least in my book) you have made me – (an early adopter) not feel like such a freaky weirdo.

  44. Curb
    January 4, 2012

    One of your best posts Jason! It does seem that a small (but vocal) portion of barefoot running purists are/were dogmatic. Which probably turned off a lot of mainstream runners initially.

    Open discussion is one of the best things to come out of the barefoot & minimalist shoe vs traditional shoe debate.

    Great job!