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So Now What? Bringing Barefoot Running to the Masses

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 | 16 Comments

My goal has been pretty simple: I want to change the running world.  That’s the dent I want to make in the universe.  A few of my recent posts have touched on the topic indirectly, specifically changing my perception of the term “barefoot shoes” and my discussion about the nature of our changing audience.  When  started this journey, the idea of barefoot running was universally rejected by the shoe industry, running specialty, the medical community, and 99.9% of runners.  Since that time, our community has made incredible progress, including:

  • A fundamental shift in the way some companies design shoes,
  • A staggering increase in shoes that actually allow good form,
  • A growing list of companies that are actively educating their customers about good running form,
  • A few minimalist-specific shoe stores have been started and prosper,
  • More empirical research supporting the premise of natural running,
  • A growing list of medical professionals that buy into the ideas of barefoot and minimalist shoe running,
  • More and more runners sharing their experiences on their own blogs, forums, and social networks like Twitter and Facebook,
  • A growing acceptance of the principles we follow within the world of running specialty,
  • A growing number of runners experimenting with barefoot running,
  • and most importantly, we’ve planted the seed that barefoot running is the most effective way to learn good running form.

Slowly but surely, we’re undoing the damage created when the running world blindly accepted the ideas of the raised heel motion control running shoe a few decades ago.  The best part- the rise in interest in natural movement is centered on the idea that barefoot running is a legitimate tool to learn good form… if not the BEST way to learn good form.

So where do we go from here?  How do we maintain this momentum?  Here are a few ideas:

1. Start a blog to document your journey.  Yes, I know there are a ton of barefoot running blogs out there.  Regardless, even if your experiences have a positive impart on at least one other person, you’ll have provided a valuable gift.  The more voices we have in the conversation, the more all of us learn.  Never underestimate your own ability to make an impact!

2. Participate in forums.  Forums have been a staple of our community for years.  Runner’s World, the Barefoot Runners Society, Ted’s Google Group, BirthdayShoes… all are excellent collections of great people that are more than willing to learn and share from each other.  Being part of one or more of those communities will enrich your experience.  BTW- I post on all four as “Last Place Jason.”

3. Connect with local runners.  That goes for both barefoot runners and shod runners.  Start with your local running store.  Inquire about running groups.  Actively participate.  you’ll meet some great friends!  While you’re at the running store, ask about your favorite minimalist shoes.  ;-)  Also check to see if there’s a Barefoot Runners Society group in your area.  If not, consider starting one!

4. Keep an open mind.  There is no real consensus about many facets of barefoot running, especially considering the individual nature of the activity.  Experiment with new ideas, keep what works, discard what doesn’t.  Don’t rule out anything.  Also keep an open mind about others.  Don’t be too dogmatic if you have immediate success. Not everybody is going to share in your enthusiasm, especially if they’re perfectly happy in foot coffins raised heel motion control shoes.   You can play a role of teacher, but it’s usually best to let people approach you first.

What do you think?  As we close in on the tipping point of this idea, what can we do to maintain momentum?  What have you done that has led to success?  What would you add to this list?

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16 Comments

  1. Paul W
    January 6, 2012

    Oh and I forgot the obvious. Make copies of your book on blank DVD’s and CD’s and pass them out to people who ask about why your barefoot. I like to keep a couple discs in my coat pocket just incase when out with friends.

  2. Angie bee
    January 6, 2012

    I love how things are moving along!

  3. Franklin Chen
    January 6, 2012

    On my blog, I periodically describe my experiences running in minimalist shoes (current Vibram FiveFingers, but I always keep looking for other options to fit me well) and I only started actual barefooting last year and plan to do more when it gets warmer, and describe my experiences then too. I always encounter people at random who are curious when seeing me in FiveFingers, and I try to answer their questions with honesty and enthusiasm.

  4. Tim
    January 6, 2012

    Another great post. You are on a roll, sir! Of course the forum curmudgeons are going to hate you for #1…No blog links!

    Of course I have a blog; it didn’t start as a bfr blog, but that journey has sort of taken it over (I’d love for you to check it out and hear your thoughts on it. Not like you’re a busy traveler or anything…)

    My thought to bloggers and potential bloggers is to record it in an unvarnished fashion. Don’t just be a cheerleader. Warts and all is the best way to show the true experience. In my case I became really frustrated with barefoot running and wrote about it. it was helpful to vent and it sparked some good conversation, making me think about things a little differently.

    My LRS knows me as the barefoot crazy. I’m good with that. They have a good minimal selection in Vivobarefoot, Altra, and the NB offerings and seem to be adding more each time I stop in. That’s progress.

    Again, I really like this new discussion you’ve opened up in the last couple weeks. It’s good for running as a whole, I think.

    • briderdt
      January 6, 2012

      There’s a growing sentiment that what you wear the majority of the time (as in NOT when running) has a potentially greater impact than what you wear on your feet (or not) when running.

      • Ken Bob Saxton
        January 7, 2012

        I myself do learn a lot more when I’m not running. It’s so much easier to think about, and play with various components of technique when you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, log miles, or keep up with a group.

        In addition, I think that many people once they begin running barefoot, they get a glimpse into life where they don’t need shoes 24/7. And just because we might not have, or might not believe we have the option to go barefoot at times, the reality is that most of the time we do have a choice, and the more people realize that running barefoot works, causes them less injury and helps them run easier, the more they realize that it may help them live easier, and more gently and gracefully too.

  5. Brian G
    January 6, 2012

    One of the bigger topic threads in the podiatry world, possibly some interested in making the transition to BFR, and even some in the midst of making the transition, is the increased risk of foot injuries (like metatarsal fractures) resulting from transitioning too quickly. Nothing turns some one off, especially the just-curious and uncommitted (the Late Majority?), as getting injured. Perhaps easing Joe Public into the idea of going just barefoot overall, never mind running, is recommended?

    Simply walking in such shoes would be of benefit for the general public, though some transition period may be warranted for some folks here, too. Even if such people never ever run a lick in their lives, walking and standing on a daily basis in a more normal gait can do wonders. And there are a growing number of companies (Merrell, Stem, Patagonia, to name a few) that sell barefoot shoes and which can be worn well outside of the running community in normal work environments. And for those who are part-time runners, if they start wearing barefoot shoes on a regular basis I would bet they would never go back to traditional running shoes since they would then feel plain awful.

    So maybe spread the word to your friends, family and interested runners on, maybe, just WALKING in barefoot shoes as a start.

  6. Paul W
    January 6, 2012

    A few other things barefoot runners could do is to schedule a talk with running clinics in your community. Another thing I’ve done to promote barefoot running is to just complete a few races. I’ve always found that after the race several people would aproach to talk about my lack of shoes. Connecting to other runners is a great way to promote BF running.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Good advice, Paul!

  7. Mamarunsbarefoot
    January 6, 2012

    Sorry Briderdt! I meant he!!! Haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet.

  8. Mamarunsbarefoot
    January 6, 2012

    This is a great post! Like Briderdt said.. I feel like the mosquito many times! But she’s right.

  9. Dave
    January 6, 2012

    I think these conversations are good ones to have. Sometimes it’s easy for readers of a blog (or other publication) to get caught up in the “what’s in it for them” mentality. I don’t comment here as often as I should, though I share your posts through my Google + account frequently. I find the posts encouraging and often use things that I’ve learned from them to help make converts of my heel-striking friends/family.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Good point, Dave. I think it’s important for bloggers to understand the idea that it’s about putting information out there, not getting something in return for the work. It’s sort of a “pay it forward” idea.

  10. briderdt
    January 6, 2012

    A wise man once said: If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending a night in a tent with a mosquito.

    • Jason
      January 6, 2012

      Great quote, BDT!