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The Future of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running: An Assessment and Summary of the Barefoot Shoes/Apple Whack Job Discussion

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 | 38 Comments

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing the future of barefoot running and proposing methods we could use to reach an audience that would be receptive to our message, but won’t have access to us.  Here’s a brief summary:

Minimalist “barefoot” shoe sales are on the rise.  I’m defining these shoes as any shoe that allows the same running form as if you were barefoot.  Vague, I know, but the exact operational definition is irrelevant.  I strongly believe the people buying these shoes can benefit greatly by learning to run with good form, and actual barefoot running is the best way most of these people can learn good form.

The problem- the changing demographics of this group make them less likely to actively research barefoot running.  They will be much less likely to find the ample resources that exist, such as websites, organizations, books, videos, or even other barefoot runners.  If we can find a way to reach this group, we have an excellent opportunity to teach a willing audience.

This group can benefit from learning to run barefoot before using the shoes.  It will help most of them learn good form and help prevent too much too soon injuries like they would likely experience if they used the shoes with no instruction.

Here’s a visual:

“A”(blue) is us- people that run primarily barefoot.  Many will occasionally wear shoe when needed, but we’re the runners that really understand the advantages of barefoot running.

“B” (green) are the people that run primarily in minimalist shoes, but look to barefoot runners for advice.  These are people that visit the forums, watch the videos, buy the books, attend our clinics, hire us as coaches, and appoach us at races.

“C” (yellow-ish) is the group I’m concerned about.  These are people that buy minimalist “barefoot” shoes, but don’t seek out advice or instruction.  These are the people that use the new minimalist shoes in the same way they used their old shoes.  This group is most likely to experience injury, blame it on the “barefoot” shoes, and give barefoot running a bad name.  This is the group barefoot runners tend to complain about the most. I want to focus my educational efforts on this group.

“D” (red) represents the non-minimal shod runners.  Yes, I believe this group will rapidly shrink.  ;-)

Note the upward trends- this is my estimates based on where we’re heading.  This accounts for the sales data over the last few quarters, changing opinions in the medical community, an ever-increasing body of empirical research, internet trends, and a growing acceptance of minimalism among manufacturers and retailers.  I talked about this impending trend here.

What I’ve Done So Far

My work with Merrell can be a template for an effective way to reach this group.  I worked with Merrell to develop a simple method to teach good running form (ABC’s of BareForm) which can be easily taught in clinics, videos, and inserts added to retail boxes.  A key component of BareForm- people start out barefoot, learn the form, then wear the shoes after good form is learned.  The methods we developed are purposely simple- anyone can teach the method.  This means a salesperson selling the shoes can teach the basics to a customer while they’re buying the shoes.  That customer can now go teach their friends and family, who can go teach their friends and family… you get the idea.

We travel around holding clinics for the public and the sales staff on the floor of retailers.  The eventual goal is to reach every single person that buys a pair of these shoes.  It’s a deliberate and methodical approach to teaching barefoot running to to the very audience that most needs it. Based on the early results, it convinces a lot of people to continue running barefoot and learn more by seeking out additional information.

The key lesson I learned- Merrell had a genuine interest to do what was best for their customers.  That involved reframing their previous experiences, seeking out as much information as possible, and using that information to produce a great product.  They embraced the idea of barefoot running.  Furthermore, they’ve continued to seek out more information by doing things like advocating for barefoot runners in the Down and Dirty race series and hosting the Barefoot Jam roundtable session during the NYC barefoot Run weekend.  They went from a non-participant to a leader in developing and distributing barefoot education.

My work with Merrell has affected the very group that is most in need- the “C” group.  By setting up a “running form intervention” as they’re buying the shoes, we catch almost everyone in the net.  There is no other effective way to reach the “C” group.

Merrell isn’t alone, though.  Other shoe manufactures are quickly following suit.  We have a choice- turn them away because we have a lot of preconceived ideas about the nature of shoe manufacturers, or work with them to assure our expertise is used to help as many people as possible.  This is where I need help.  LOTS of help.

What Others Can Do

The great thing about this idea- it’s easy AND effective.  Anyone can spread this idea.  It’s not incredibly complex, you don’t have to be an “expert” to make a difference, you don’t need a certification, degree, or credentials.  All you need is a desire to help others.  I won’t bog this post down with all the things you can do… I more or less summed them up in this previous post:

http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/2012/01/06/so-now-what-bringing-barefoot-running-to-the-masses/

But What About the Critics?

I’ve been outlining this idea over the last few weeks and some great discussion has ensued.  Some of that discussion involves criticisms, including the following points:

Criticism: But “barefoot shoes” is an oxymoron!  I refuse to be a part of anything that isn’t semantically-correct!

My Response: Well, I respect people’s need to be semantically-correct, I don’t think this hang-up warrants inaction.  If you can’t get past this one issue, you probably don’t have the chops to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and actually help people run better.

Criticism: You’re suggesting we work with shoe companies and shoe stores.  I’ve been told all shoes are bad.

My Response: Same deal as above- I respect some people’s decision to always remain barefoot.  However, I’d at least ask you to consider where your strong anti-shoe company and shoe store feelings come from.  They’re not a faceless evil corporation greedily vacuuming up unsuspecting customers’ money.  How many of these people have you actually talked to?  Are you just parroting something you heard from someone else?  Did you have one single negative experience that has skewed your perspective?  If you did talk to them on a regular basis, you’d find almost all are staffed with open-minded people that want the best for their customers.  They’re people, just like you and me.

Criticism:  You’re just doing this to gain followers, get shoe contracts, or get media attention.

My ResponseWarning- angry rant ahead!  There’s a growing number of , coaches, bloggers, club leaders, forum participants, etc. that have accepted the challenge of spreading the idea of barefoot running to minimalist shoe runners.  Several people have dismissed what we’re trying to do by either implying (cough cough Ken Bob) or outright accusing (those of you that have sent emails or commented on forums) us of doing this for other reasons besides education.  I would hope my long-time readers understand us a bit better and get that we’re trying to make a difference in people’s lives.  I’d normally shrug off criticisms, but this round felt a little too much like the “greedy teacher” bullshit we used to get when Shelly and I taught high school.  The criticism is interesting considering the ideas I continually support, like:

  • Motivate others to think critically and avoid the trap of extremism (thanks to the influence of people like Pete Larson, Mark Cucuzzella, Jay Dicharry, Jesse Scott, Tucker Goodrich, and others),
  • De-centralize knowledge from the hands of a few to the hands of the entire community (my anti-barefoot coach cert rant),
  • Avoid blindly following me or anyone else,
  • Motivate others to become active leaders and teachers by holding clinics and starting blogs (I don’t want to be a leader with a bunch of followers, I want to be a teacher that motivates others to become leaders),
  • Argue against my own self-interests and promote other people’s works (like when I tell people to buy Ken Bob’s book instead of my own…),
  • Strive to listen more than I talk and engage in conversations with everyone on all sides of this issue, and
  • Look at everything we do through a lens of skepticism to determine the absolute best practices.

Personally, I’ve made a tremendous number of sacrifices to tailor my lifestyle in a way that I can do this full-time.  I’m perfectly comfortable with that as the ends justify the means.  The critics can criticize our methods… THAT’S GREAT!  It’s what I want- spirited, intelligent debate that ultimately solves problems.  Don’t question our motives, however, unless you’ve taken the time to read enough of our writings to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.  And Google the terms “Freud and projection.” ;-)

That’s all I have to say about the issue. End of angry rant.

Criticism:  I’m just a runner.  I don’t want to help spread the word or teach anyone anything.  After all, nobody likes preachy fanatics.

My Response: No worries, not everyone has to be an advocate.  If you truly have no interest, don’t feel pressure to help.  HOWEVER, if you want to help but feel you don’t have the necessary qualifications… GET OVER IT!  Everyone has something of value to contribute regardless of experience or knowledge.  NEVER DOUBT YOUR ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Criticism: There’s no need to do anything.  What we’re doing right now is enough.  After all, we’re growing!

My Response: While the number of barefoot runners is growing, it’s being out-paced by the number of people that are buying minimalist shoes and have no idea what they’re doing.  As Shelly and I travel around the country, we purposely engage in conversations with anyone and everyone from barefoot runners to shod runners, from the employee on the floor to the owner of stores, from the designers of shoes to the people that design the marketing campaigns.  Trust my assessment of where this trend is going.  ;-)

Criticism: Supporting shoes will just lead to confusion.  People will think they’re running barefoot when wearing “barefoot” shoes, get hurt, and blame it on barefoot running.  This will ultimately hurt our cause.

My Response: While this argument seems completely valid, these critics seemed to miss my main point- that population that is getting hurt is the EXACT group I’m targeting.  Furthermore, I’m trying to get them to run barefoot before they use their shoes.  The key is to develop a systematic way to educate this group so they don’t get hurt.  So far, several people have offered suggestions to make my approach better, but nobody has really offered a different idea to reach this group with our barefoot message.

Conclusion

Look at the graphic above again.  The “C” group represents a rapidly-growing group of people that would be open to our message but do not actively seek us out.  There’s a simple way to change this, but it will require us to be more open-minded than we have in the past.  Not everyone will agree; many will still prefer to promote their barefoot only/shoes are always bad ideas, which is cool.  That “A” group is only growing and new barefoot runners will need the dedicated expertise of the purists.  I’d just caution the purists to temper their message against shoes… you’re inadvertently turning away people that would otherwise be open to the very ideas you promote.

As I’ve mentioned before, every person reading this has the potential to play an important role in making a difference.  No matter what your level of experience or knowledge, you have a place in this shifting paradigm.  You can help spread the ideas of barefoot running to that “C” group!

I have a feeling there’s no need to ask, but what are your thoughts?

###

Thank you to Pablo Päster for the help correcting my poor proofreading and editing skills.  ;-)

 

 

 

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38 Comments

  1. When to use the term “Barefoot Shoes” « Running Barefoot
    January 23, 2012

    […] been having a discussion with Jason over at the Barefoot Running University, and on Bob Ninast’s blog about Jason’s concession to use the term “Barefoot […]

  2. Bob (Downtown Runner)
    January 14, 2012

    Jason,

    I still 80 percent with you. I just have some disagreement with how to reach the ‘C’s. I just don’t think we should be strongly promoting shoes or calling them what they are not.

    When people (probably 5-10 a day) ask me about my VFFs they often ask me if I run in them. I tell them that I prefer to run truly barefoot and that I got a stress fracture running in them. I make sure to stress that MINIMALIST SHOES are great but you need to learn how to run “correctly” first, and then transition to them over time.

    I still feel that if I call them barefoot running shoes it would take away from the message I want to convey:

    1) Best way to learn is to let your feet feel the ground
    2) Best way to maintain good form once you learn is to feel the ground
    3) If you need shoes, make sure they are minimalist, transition to them slowly, and continue to practice what you learned from feeling the ground

    This method may not be for everyone. But I still feel it would work for the vast majority of the ‘C’s.

  3. Barefooting 2012 : Objectifs Courir Pieds Nus | Courir Pieds Nus!
    January 14, 2012

    […] collaboratif. Faire parler les enthousiastes, donner aux ambassadeurs les moyens d’aborder de nouveaux publics. Moins dire “Je”.  Remplacer “Je” par “Nous”. En 2012, je vais nous allons rencontrer […]

    • Erik
      January 14, 2012

      Mais c’est très joli, ce mot ‘barefooteur.’

  4. Ken Bob Saxton
    January 14, 2012

    P.S. I will concede that I too am using the term, but I do so in a derisive manner *as should be the case for deceptive terminology). case in point: the other day when I was explaining to a younger fellow of 54-years who had a knee replacement several years back from running, that the important thing about barefoot running IS the tactile sensation and how it teaches us to run gently, and let’s us know immediately, with each and every step whether we should continue or not (at least until we figure out how we can move comfortably and safely) and that if he is curious and wants to try barefoot running, not to start with the “BAREFOOT SHOES”! … then I clarified why they don’t work for beginners, and the dangers – so, I am conceding that I agree that for educational purposes the term is useful (people understand what we’re talking about, and I don’t need to get into a long discussion about the terminology – though they can find a short discussion about “Language” in my book and of course, there will be more on my website).

    So, I do understand that we will be using the term as a reference to what is becoming a popular term… Much like my argument for the term, “jogging” doesn’t apply to barefoot running. As I’ve said many times, barefoot runners do not “jog”, they move smoothly, gently, no jolting, no jarring, no striking, no pounding, no “jogging”.

    I use the term, but often, I make a point to educate people as to why it is a misuse of the term, and especially, as in the case I mentioned, point out that they are not a substitute for barefoot running.

    At least with food, the law won’t allow bread to be sold as “whole grain” unless it contains at least a smidgeon of actual whole grain, that’s why marketers use the term “wheat” bread (which they know will convince most people that the bread is “healthy” for them), and why you shouldn’t buy anything sold as “wheat” bread because without the whole grain, you don’t get the whole nutrition, and you may as well be eating white bread (which at least doesn’t have artificial brown coloring).

    And, of course, I often refer to terrain as being on a spectrum of nutritious to dessert, and how without the whole sole being bare, you don’t get the nutritious information about how well, or how poorly each of your steps (or miss-steps) are. Likewise if we run barefoot on “Just desserts” (surfaces, like groomed beaches, that are comfortable barefoot, no matter how we run). Not saying not to have dessert, but get your nutrition first!

    Have fun,
    -barefoot ken bob

    • Erik
      January 14, 2012

      Ken Bob,
      You continually miss the point Jason is trying to make. How do you reach the ‘C’ category? Jason has proposed a strategy. You just keep going on about the merits of barefoot running and denotational precision, of which few of us, whether As or Bs, need to be convinced. How do you propose to reach the Cs? I’m pretty sure Jason is open to suggestions.

    • Brian G
      January 14, 2012

      Ken Bob, I’m curious whether you think having anything on the soles of your feet is inferior, from a tactile sensation perspective, that having nothing at all.

      Is having a malleable but non-cushioning substance, say very hard, smooth rubber from a car tire, strapped to your soles that much different from a tactile perspective than pure barefoot?

      • Erik
        January 14, 2012

        Brian, you didn’t ask me, but allow me to bud in and say yes, there’s a huge difference. Once in a while I have to run in 2mm soles when it’s really cold out, and I miss the earthly sensuousness of bare feet dearly.

        • Erik
          January 14, 2012

          I should mention that the 2mm soles are attached to Soft Star’s excellent Moc3s, one of the best minimalist shoes in terms of ‘ground feel.’

      • Bob (Downtown Runner)
        January 14, 2012

        I agree with Erik. Anything under my soles reduces feedback, and is inferior. That doesn’t mean I hate shoes. I wear them when needed. But when I do it IS a less satisfying and less of a “teachable moment” for my body/form.

  5. Chris
    January 14, 2012

    Great post Jason.

  6. Tim
    January 13, 2012

    Can I just say I’m tired of the “Jason’s just a shill for Merrell shoes” response? Anyone who looks at that “relationship” can clearly see you’re not saying everyone should buy Merrell shoes. You have consistently said barefoot is best. The connection you’ve made with the shoe devils (ha!)does not make you a heretic. It makes you our inside man…

  7. Vanessa
    January 13, 2012

    I read this carefully and thought about it quite a bit. A few thoughts:

    1. I’m surprised about the Ken Bob part. Dislike that it happened.

    2. I wonder whether this “message” should be something we aggressively pursue with newbie runners. Instead of breaking old habits, perhaps “learning good form” is something they could be taught to check off their lists as a requirement for even being a runner. I’m sure that’s probably already occurred to you, has their been any thoughts/discussions around that?

    3. I get the vibe that some people are distrustful of your message because of the Merrell brand behind your name. They may view you more as a salesman, but if Merrell isn’t paying you a salary, I wonder if it might help your cause to make that relationship more clear? I don’t actually know what the relationship with Merrell is, so I’m not sure if that’s fair to ask. I just wonder if some transparency there might help eliminate some critics.

    I do think you’ve given up a lot to travel with this message, and people should consider that. When someone chooses to make a living (or cut their salary drastically) to spread the word on something they believe in, it’s hard to question their motives.

    • Vanessa
      January 13, 2012

      *THERE. I will go hide in shame now.

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      Warning- loooong answer:

      1. Eh, ken Bob was just defending his opinion. He doesn’t like shoes. I’m suggesting we work with people that make and sell shoes. Disagreement is inevitable. I respect his teachings a lot… he was my primary influence back when I started. It’s the questioning of motives that bothered me, especially since he’s actually been to a few events when I did clinics and assumed he knew where I was coming from.

      2. I’ve actually been working on a preliminary idea to introduce running form in PE classes… but that’s an uphill struggle. Part of my “looking at all sides” work has been a direct result of exploring that issue. Barefoot running doesn’t fly well with the strict environment formal education. I can leverage some curriculum knowledge from my teaching days, but it will require a lot of people to make it happen.

      3. The relationship with Merrell will always cast some doubt on my impartiality. I like to think people realize my message isn’t “buy Merrell products”, rather “Do what YOU can to make a difference.” Obviously I love many of Merrell’s products, but our relationship allows the freedom to criticize them if they produce a turd and also throw love to others that are doing great things or making great products. I also hope my “don’t take my advice or any other “expert’s” advice- go out and find what works best for you” message helps drive home the point that I’m not just selling a product.

      As far as transparency- I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth noting again. I’m not employed by Merrell, I’m a contracted consultant. I consult (usually involves shoes), develop educational materials (like the videos), and conduct clinics. I don’t get a commission nor do I sell any Merrell products.

      The only product I sell is my book, which is not associated with Merrell. I do make some money off Amazon’s affiliate program via links here at BRU. I occasionally do coaching, independent clinics, and sell ad space on BRU… though these are more like contingency plans if we’re in danger of not eating.

      Our current income is somewhere between $40 and $60,000 per year, down from approximately $150-160,000 when we were full-time teachers.

      I choose to work with Merrell because their educational goals are identical to my own. Their culture is phenomenal. If they would not have been accepting of these ideas, I would not have worked with them in the first place, nor would I continue to work with them. The biggest advantage I get from our partnership- they allow me to educate that “C” group, which I could not reach on my own. They give me a bigger soapbox. I’m willing to trade that opportunity for the cynicism from some of my peers. Ultimately it comes down to helping people run better and live healthier.

      If I didn’t work with Merrell, we’d continue doing what we do now. This is important to me. The message we’re spreading is my own little dent in the universe. :-)

  8. Rob Y
    January 13, 2012

    It’s too bad most folks starting running on their own today didn’t benefit from having a coach early on. In high school and later in collegiate track it was a regular practice of ours to do “barefoot striders” on the football field. Usually on the recovery days after our run. I think doing this sort of stuff did more to learn proper form and anything really formal or “ABCs” or whatever. It’s really pretty simple. But yeah, it’s trying to reach folks and convince them to do these things not to convert them to barefoot runners, but to teach them a more efficient form! I know it did me wonders as a young buck who didn’t have a clue about how to run properly!

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      Early intervention would be extremely useful. In clinics, it’s usually fairly apparent which people have received coaching at some point in the past. It’s fascinating- almost all running coaches I’ve talked to teach basically the same thing we teach.

      As Randy Step of Running Fit in Michigan told me- “You barefoot runners aren’t teaching anything new. Us coaches have been teaching that forever!”

      • Erik
        January 14, 2012

        Once, while running around a local lake, two students from a nearby high school passed me up. I could hear them coming up behind me from a long ways away, because one of them was overstriding ridiculously in heavy basketball type shoes, making a lot of noise. A 1/4 mile ahead I caught up to them as the overstrider lay on the ground holding his ankle and wincing in pain. (I stopped to ask them if they needed a ride somewhere, and then, when they declined, told them to get lighter shoes and try shorter strides.) I doubt their high school coach had given them any instruction. And when I was on my HS track and field team a long, long time ago, I don’t recall any instruction as to gait or stride. I wonder how many HS coaches or phys ed instructors know anything about running with good form.

      • Brian G
        January 14, 2012

        True, “Us coaches have been teaching that forever”. But to whom exactly? Track & Field and other “official” running sports. What about the general PE groups you speak of?

        I don’t ever remember having any sort of T&F or running coach ever watching over the times in normal PE where we just ran around the track.

        Along the lines of your PE instruction, perhaps having a running coach do some short bits of training with all normal PE classes early in the school year might help.

    • Ken Bob Saxton
      January 15, 2012

      Most of us are born with two of the most attentive and responsive and emphatic coaches available to us with each and every step we take… they are healthy sensitive soles, the two best coaches we could ask for. We just need to take them out of the closet.

      • Rob Youngren
        January 16, 2012

        That is definitely true, but you should know as well as I do that the youth and the inexperienced quite often need guidance; we aren’t all born with good sense and wisdom! :) A good coach is priceless!

  9. Erik
    January 13, 2012

    Very impressive post Jason. It’s fascinating to watch your theory and method develop over time through feedback here and in other venues. Keep up the great work!

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      Thanks Erik. Actually engaging people from different perspectives has been useful to the development of my own ideas and methods. It’s part of the reason I’ve been writing about finding your own path and what not… our community doesn’t do this nearly enough.

      • Erik
        January 14, 2012

        Yah, having a wide range of experiences and reading widely has been key to my own intellectual development. Your value is that you are willing and able to go out there and synthesize all the facets to this trend coherently, convincingly, and non-dogmatically.

        And don’t bother with the haters. They booed Bob Dylan too when he went electric. Most purisms are susceptible to reductio ad absurdum argument (Should acoustic guitars only be strung with cat gut? Should we do strength training only with rocks and logs?). Going barefoot should be a practical decision, not a religious one. I spend most of my time barefoot because it feels good, and (cumulative research indicates) good for you, not because of some ideological commitment. The evidence suggests that you can run with good form in minimalist shoes (even though it may be harder to achieve this than running barefoot). So if that’s some people’s thing (even on smooth asphalt in moderate temps for short-to-medium distances), and if approaching people about good form through minimalist shoes works, then how could anyone be against it?

        All I ask is that shoe-makers market their shoes honestly. I really dislike Invisible Shoes’ slogan that their huaraches are “Better-than-barefoot running,” and that “The biggest problem with barefoot running, not surprisingly, is all the stuff on the ground that can hurt and cut your feet … ” Why do they have to dis BFR to promote their sandals? They just reinforce the myth that broken glass is everywhere. Why don’t they qualify it with a ‘shoes-r-tools’ type message, as you do, or leave barefoot running out of it altogether and just focus on the merits of their product?

        And don’t worry about those doubting your motives. It’s obvious to any thinking person who’s followed your story that you’re motivated by passion, and not greed.

  10. Corey
    January 13, 2012

    Sorry dude, you may think you are promoting barefoot form, or barefoot running, and the people you interact with at Merrel may really believe in what you’re doing, but ultimately you’re selling shoes. You are a marketing specialist, traveling the country and drumming up interest in a product.

    • Rob
      January 13, 2012

      So what’s wrong with believing in your cause, helping folks improve their running form and making a buck or two while doing it? I see no problem with this as long it just isn’t about the money.

      • Jason
        January 13, 2012

        Ah, the double-edged sword of capitalism and a bit of the fundamental attribution error- when I do something, it’s for my closely-held beliefs and a pure cause. When others do it, it’s due to greed and profit. I’m making peace when others jump to this conclusion… my previous rant apparently had a therapeutic effect. :-)

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      Corey, you’re in that small group that refuses to understand the importance of being open to connections between all facets of the running world. I’m cool with skepticism, just be weary of crossing the line when it becomes cynicism.

  11. David Repp (NotSoDoomed)
    January 13, 2012

    I’m somewhere in between b and a… but I don’t have any videos. I think if you extend that graph out though, it will flat line at some point. There are people that just can’t be convinced that they don’t need cushioning or big running shoes. And some probably do. I like to tell people my experience and more often than not that brings them to at least trying minimal shoes. I’d say 1 in 3 runners I tell try minimalism, and 1 in 10 try barefoot.

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      The 1 in 3 and 1 in 10 are pretty close to my numbers, too, Dave. Interestingly, over the course of a few years, most of those 2 that didn’t try minimalism right away did so eventually. Sometimes it takes awhile for the seeds we plant to sprout. :-)

      • Erik
        January 14, 2012

        Interesting ratios, David and Jason. I wonder if anyone else could corroborate them? They certainly jibe well with my sense of how willing most people are, at least initially, to try BFR or minimalist running (MR?). With 30 years of barefoot experience, I can tell you that most people think going barefoot is at the very least a little nutty and eccentric. But over the last year I have gotten a few people into minimalist running shoes, which I advocate when I meet resistence to BFR (I then of course go over what good form is, and refer them to Jason’s excellent primer and a few other resources).

  12. Rob
    January 13, 2012

    I was in the ‘D’ group two years ago and now I’m solidly with the B’s and continuing to explore. My transition was gradual going from traditional shoes, to light weight lower heel drop and now to full zero drop minimalist shoes so my perspective comes from being a recent convert.

    I think the key for moving the D’s and C’s into the B and A groups is to help them gradually transition for the purpose of avoiding injury and negative experiences. This also allows time for getting educated on proper form and footwear.

    It’s rare for folks to look to make drastic changes to any habits or routines they’ve taken years to develop. If it hadn’t been for my knee issues in 2009, I might still be wearing traditional shoes so there needs to be motivation as well.

    There’s always going to fall out for the ‘fad’ types who just want to wear VFF because it’s trendy. Not sure if those folks can be reached to educate them on the possible pit falls so there will always be some bad press on minimal/barefoot running. Heck, just the other day someone through the old ‘Jim Fixx died young’ deal at me so we have to also accept that some folks just don’t want to stay ignorant.

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      I agree- it would be impossible to reach everybody… but I’ll take a sizable majority of “c” over none of “C”.

      I agree about the transitioning, which is why we need more education. The problem- what is offered today isn’t great. Some manufacturers are working to change that, and I’d love to see barefoot running be a part of that.

  13. Brian G
    January 13, 2012

    Oh, and for something way off thread topic, has anyone ever looked into the physics of pistons and how that might relate to running form?

    Seems to me that if we view the leg as acting as a shock-absorbing piston the force along the axis of the piston (the leg) is the least when the foot strikes the ground directly under center of mass *and* you’re not bouncing up and down. When the piston (the leg) is at a forward angle approaching point of impact the force along the axis can be much greater. (Anyone remember addition of force vectors in physics class?) This increased force can greatly increase risk of injury.

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      Physics? Didn’t everyone take all woodshop and PE classes?!?

  14. Brian G
    January 13, 2012

    Several points:

    Unfortunately, many in the “C” group currently are podiatrists. Changing authoritative voices like that might do wonders. From what I can tell however many don’t see the point of true barefoot, unshod running although all of them seem to find the value in proper running form.

    Perhaps frame the message that there are better forms of running (e.g., foot making habitual initial contact with the ground directly under center of mass with everything else being secondary) and that barefoot running is merely a preferred method to ingrain those habits. But it isn’t absolutely necessary for all folks at all times under all conditions.

    I’ll argue again that perhaps with the growing variety of barefoot shoes and the “normalness” of how they look, maybe approach everyone, runners and non-runners alike, in the value of getting into those shoes more often.

    • Jason
      January 13, 2012

      I agree Brian- there are many ways to learn better form. I think barefoot running is the most effective for most people due to the tactile element. Still, it’s not for everyone. Some have no interest. Others are distracted by the tactile sensation. Still others don’t have the ability to respond to tactile feedback.

      As far as podiatrists, the pendulum is shifting. They’re coming around. Some people like Christian Peterson, have actually done a great job of helping to educate them. The emerging science certainly helps.

      I also agree- the real value of the shoes could be casual use. That may be a post for the near future… ;-)

      • Erik
        January 13, 2012

        I’d definitely be interested in a post about casual minimalist shoes.