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The Left-Handed Barefoot Runner Theory

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 | 21 Comments

Today (August 13th) is Left-handed Day, a day to celebrate southpaws. It seemed fitting to rehash my long-standing theory on the correlation between left-handedness and barefoot/minimalist shoe running.

We know about 5-20% of the world population is left-handed. Based on informal observations, the percentage of left-handed barefoot/minimalist shoe runners far surpasses the general population. We’ve had several minimalist gatherings where the vast majority were left-handed. The list includes barefoot/minimalist runners such as:

  • Jesse Scott
  • Robert Shackleford
  • Christian Peterson
  • Krista Cavender
  • Pat Sweeney
  • Kate Kift
  • Trisha Reeves
  • Jon Sanregret
  • Adam Gentile
  • Scott Jones
  • Josh Sutcliffe
  • Mark Lofquist

… and so on.


My Crackpot Hypothesis

Left-handed people, from a young age, have to learn to adapt to a right-handed world. As small children, humans learn by mimicking the movements of adults. Left-handed kids don’t have the cognitive capabilities of reversing movements. As such, they’re forced to learn skills by trail and error that will produce the same results as the righties.

This repetitive process of ‘hacking” solutions results in a greater tendency to look for outside-the-box solutions. When it comes to running, lefties are more likely to try the unorthodox ‘barefoot” solution.

What do you think?


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  1. Miha
    August 25, 2012

    I’m a little skeptical about the theory, other factors could be playing a part. I’m right-handed but left-footed and use to run and play soccer barefoot since child.

  2. Dustin
    August 16, 2012

    I don’t know about the theory, but it is an interesting phenom. I have also noticed that about 1/2 the scientists I know are left handed witches as well.

  3. Anthony Prior
    August 15, 2012

    Left handed people have a more dominant right hemisphere of the brain.. the right hemisphere of the brain is where creative thinking happens.. barefoot running requires creative thought.. sorted.

    From a right handed barefoot runner 😉

    • Jimmy N.
      August 20, 2012

      I was going to say the same thing. Left handers tend to be more creative people – musicians, artists, poets, etc. have higher than normal percentages of left-handedness.

      A related question might be why there are more male barefoot runners than female when the overall (shod) running population is split pretty evenly, but that’s a debate for another day.

  4. Tommy Housworth
    August 14, 2012

    I’m a left handed, barefoot/minimalist runner. Your theory works for me!

  5. Scot
    August 14, 2012

    Check out this book. Might have some bearing on the discussion. Thought Revolution, How to Unlock Your Inner Genius, by William A. DOnius (2012)

  6. Bare Lee
    August 14, 2012

    Are there more lefties at RW’s barefoot forum, or at BRS? I would guess the latter . . .

  7. Chris
    August 14, 2012

    I am from near Manchester in England. We have 2 soccer teams, one that has been dominant for decades and other its downtrodden neighbour. The downtrodden team in my view has more free thinking fans with alternative outlloks on life. The dominant team has a load of sheep following the herd. I bet one has more left handers than the other.
    The problem is that the downtrodden team has been bought by an oil rich trillionaire. They are strting to win. It just doesn’t fit. Nightmare!

  8. John
    August 14, 2012

    I’m not left handed, but I have been accused of having two left feet…

  9. Kev
    August 13, 2012

    heh, i’m right eye dominant while being left handed because of brain damage (CP). the best of both worlds? who knows! Docs told me i would’ve been right handed if it weren’t for the cerebral palsy.

  10. WeaZel
    August 13, 2012

    Possible. I thought I was ambi as a teen until my mother told me I started lefty and then mimicked my righty parents.As an adult I write, sloppily, right handed, but do a lot of other things lefty. I do or do not wear shoes depending on my mood.

  11. the runner
    August 13, 2012

    I’m a righty, but I run with minimalist shoes. Could it be I’m left-footed?

  12. Dave
    August 13, 2012

    Not sure about the abundance of Science behind your hypothesis, but as a lefty I’ve spent my whole life explaining to people what it’s like to do things a different way. I’m sure those experiences have armed me to defend my minimalist shoes better.

    If you’re tallying left handed responses, my left handed girlfriend converted to minimalist 2 weeks after me.

  13. ZoeB
    August 13, 2012

    I’m a leftie! Unfortunately, I’m currently to addled by morphine to be able to contribute to this discussion in a constructive way, but I think it’s an interesting and good idea 🙂

  14. Jamie
    August 13, 2012

    I’m ambidextrous, does that count? I leaned towards left, but my mother and my grandmother would not have it, so I write with my left and do nearly everything else with the left. It’s kind of nice when I take a spill to use that lefty to write. 🙂 I’ve never liked shoes and really wish I could go about life without shoes, dang society!

  15. Petter W
    August 13, 2012

    I think you´re right! I´m lefty, My opinion in most questions is controversial, I hate being told what to do and I can wield my one-handed axe with either hand. A skill developed after an overuse injury on a lumberjob.

  16. Aaron R.
    August 13, 2012

    Interesting theory. As a right-handed father to an ambidextrous but mostly left-handed son, I plan to do everything I can to encourage his “hacking.” Right now he is 5 and switches hands freely when writing and drawing, which we think is awesome. I am sure he will settle in with one hand or the other eventually. He is definitely left footed, though.

  17. mark lofquist
    August 13, 2012

    last year was the first time i’d heard the ‘enhanced problem solving capabilities’ of left handed peoples.

    it sure jives with my experience. my dad and i are left handed. he worked with a team of 12 to invent nylon polymers for 30+ years at Allied Chemical. 10 out of 12 of their team were left handers. ~5years ago i work at a company of 9 people inventing things for DARPA and 7 of 9 were left handed. in our lives, we’ve seen disproportional # of southpaws when thinking outside of the box is needed. ((or in your example ‘thinking outside of the shoe’))

  18. Ben W
    August 13, 2012

    I don’t know about your theory, but I’m a lefty. : )

  19. Trish Reeves
    August 13, 2012

    I think this can also apply to things like questioning religion, choosing liberal politics over conservative ones, etc. It seems we lefties may be more likely to be open-minded to those things that are converse to society’s “norm.”

    It’s an interesting theory.

    • Chris Hawson
      August 13, 2012

      An interesting theory indeed. I’m left-handed and meet all of Trish’s other criteria!