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Fourteen Things I’ve Learned About Barefoot Running Since Hitting the Road

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 | 12 Comments

Shelly and I have been on the road for about 15 months. During that time, we’ve conducted close to 50 clinics and group runs centered around barefoot running or running gait. Most of the clinics have been held at running specialty (what we call “local running stores” in the running world) or outdoor specialty stores. Some are small businesses with single stores, others have been national “big box” retailers. We’ve met people that have decades of barefoot experience all the way to complete newbies. We’ve met doctors, researchers, and industry insiders. We’ve met ardent barefoot supports and vocal barefoot critics.

All of these experiences have taught us many lessons. Here are a few:

  • Very few people enjoy wearing shoes. Most of the people we encounter dislike wearing shoes all the time. Even if they have no intention on going in public barefoot, they prefer being barefoot at home.
  • About 20% of our clinic attendees are interested in actual barefoot running full-time. The rest are interested in using it as a learning or training tool, or are only interested in minimalist shoes.
  • The outdoor industry is more accepting of the minimalist movement.
  • Some running specialty stores REALLY embrace minimalism and teaching better running form. Not surprisingly, they tend to do well sales-wise.
  • Every store has at least some interest in minimalism, and fear is usually what holds them back. Of course, this may be self-selecting as a store that wouldn’t be interested wouldn’t host a barefoot clinic…
  • The medical community is becoming more accepting of the barefoot/minimalist movement.
  • Some areas of the country don’t appreciate my humor.
  • Okay, no areas of the country really seem to appreciate my humor.
  • Casual minimalist shoes are frequently requested and growing rapidly.
  • Overstriding seems to be the biggest problem new barefoot runners experience…
  • Closely followed by heavy heel striking.
  • A LOT of people have a goal of running an ultra some day… far more than those aspiring to run a marathon.
  • Interest among women is increasing, and better aesthetics seem to be a major reason.

So there’s a sampling of the things we’ve learned. Any thoughts or comments about any trends we may have witnessed?

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12 Comments

  1. Carel
    October 3, 2012

    HI ALL, PLS HELP, I CAN FIND THIS ANSWER NOWHERE!!

    I USED TO GO BAREFOOT SAY 10 HOURS A WEEK, MOSTLY HARD SURFACES. NOW MY FEET HAS BECOME TENDER EVEN PAINFUL WHEN WALKING ON HARD SURFACES. IS THIS MY FOOT PADDING THAT IS THINNING? SHOULD I REVERT BACK TO BETTER CUSHIONING? I HAVE HIGH ARCH AND THIN SOFT FEET.

    TNX ALL

  2. Viper
    October 1, 2012

    Just thought I’d drop by to say I ran my first race barefooted over the weekend. Thanks for providing a good resource to get me started on that path a couple years ago.

    I’m still not a full-time barefooter, but I’m getting closer and closer. Cheers!

  3. Rosemary
    September 28, 2012

    Really? Women are only coming to barefoot runnning more now because the shoes look better? Sigh…that observation makes me sad. Have you and Shelly heard any other reasons holding women back from trying BFR/MR out or committing to it long-term(besides the shoes aren’t sparkly enough for them)?

    • Jason
      September 28, 2012

      Rosemary, it’s an observation, not a judgement. Obviously not all women have been going to BFR/MR due to the aesthetics of the shoes, but it is the most common reason we hear time and time again.

      As far as committing to it long-term, I don’t think that has anything to do with the aestehetics of the shoes. That’s more of a function of success- people feel better when the run with greater efficiency.

      • Rosemary
        October 2, 2012

        Hey Jason, I didn’t think you were making a judgement call at all, and I knew that comment was just your experience from meeting and talking with so many people on the road. My disappointment was aimed toward the members of my own gender, since I had *hoped* women would be above asthetics, and would choose running shoes/style more rationally (like viewing them as tools for developing a sustainable runing form, regardless of visual appearance). In the mean time, I guess the most important thing is to get more people into BFR/MR, and if making better-looking shoes is one of the major ways to draw more women in, then so be it.

  4. Alejandro 10
    September 28, 2012

    “Some areas of the country don’t appreciate my humor.
    Okay, no areas of the country really seem to appreciate my humor.”

    Today Fresh Air was a mashup of a 2008 Steve Martin interview, and he said the same thing!

    • Jason
      September 28, 2012

      So Steve Martin was copying me?!? :-)

      • Alejandro 10
        September 30, 2012

        Something like that. :-)

  5. Dave
    September 28, 2012

    The dual interest in barefoot running clinics and ultramarathons is obviously a side effect of the “the book”. No, not your book (sorry), the other one. I was already experimenting with minimalism before Born to Run, but the book was a definite inspiration to try ultras. Bart Yasso’s “Life on the Run” similarly was my inspiration to try marathons. Power of the printing press!

    Can you expand on your comment about women and the aesthetics of barefoot running?

  6. cassandra ring
    September 28, 2012

    come to buffalo NY!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Jason
      September 28, 2012

      Isn’t it winter there now? :-)

      We probably won’t be doing anything else in the Eastern US until spring. We have commitments in the south and west that will take us through Mid-November, then the snow will prevent us from traveling north.

      I’d love to get there next year, though!

    • Alejandro 10
      September 30, 2012

      Cassandra, how are things back home?