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Barefoot Running University.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Barefoot Running" by Michael Sander... due this spring

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee have updated and publicly launched their pre-order site for their book "Barefoot Running: How to Become Healthy, Fit, and Blissful by Getting in Touch with Nature."  Michael and Jessica founded runBARE, a barefoot running school based in Boulder, Colorado.  While I have not read it, I would expect their book to be top-notch.  I've followed Michael's advice he gives on their forum, and he clearly understands all the major concepts of barefoot running and explains them in a thoughtful, clear way.  I'm really excited for the printing of this book as there is a HUGE void in available literature.  The fact that the book is coming from experienced barefoot runners AND Michael is an excellent writer automatically catapults this good to the top of my list. 

runBARE itself is a great story.  They have managed to generate an incredible following in the Boulder area.  I suspect the Boulder Running Company's recent anti-barefoot Facebook post has something to do with runBARE's success (just speculation on my part.)  At any rate, runBARE is establishing itself as an important source of information within the barefoot running community.

I can't go as far as recommending the book until I read it, but I would consider it a very safe gamble considering they are taking pre-orders for an autographed copy at $15.95 until the book goes to print in March (regularly priced autographed copy = $39.95.)  To my knowledge, this is the only barefoot running book published by someone that a) has a known barefoot running pedigree, and b) is genuinely interested in teaching barefoot running.  Once I do get a copy, I will post a full review.  Now if only we can convince Michael and Jessica to join us for the Barefoot Runners meetup/party/race in Grand Rapids on May 8th...

For those that are experiencing some cognitive dissonance right now, yes, I am planning on printing my barefoot book around the same time.  So why am I suggesting you buy a "competitor's book?"  It's simple.  It's the same reason I tell people to visit Ken Bob and BF Ted's site... I want to spread the word about barefoot running.   I gladly support anyone that develops great materials, and I place Michael and Jessica on that list.  We are on the cusp of a huge explosion of barefoot running that began with "Born to Run" and fueled by events such as Dr. Dan Lieberman's research published in Nature.  The best way to spread the word about barefoot running is to support those with the same goals. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Barefoot/Minimalist Shoe Runner Meetup/Party in May

We're still in the early planning stages, but our plans for a barefoot runner meetup in Grand Rapids in association with the Fifth Third Riverbank Run on May 8th is coming along nicely.  Our plans thus far- meet up Friday night, run Saturday morning, then meet again after the race.  Details will be forthcoming. 

Here's our website:

...and our Facebook group:

Our original plan was to try to set a Guinness World Record, but we haven't heard from Guinness yet.  If that doesn't happen, it will still likely be the largest collection of barefoot runners in US history!  Minimalist shoe runners are welcome, too.  Email me if you would like more details.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hatin' on the Barefoot Runners

Over the last few weeks, I've come across a few blog posts and other such articles that are very critical of barefoot and/or minimalist shoe running.  I'm not quite sure if this backlash is the result of threatened livelihoods (as is the case with some running shoe salespeople), an attempt to alleviate cognitive dissonance because they spend copious amounts of money on shoes, or maybe an internalization of the marketing propaganda released by shoe companies. 

The anti-barefoot crowd can be separated into two distinct groups.  The first acknowledges the benefits of barefoot and minimalist shoe running, but chooses not to do it themselves.  This group tends to be supportive. The second group is openly hostile towards the barefoot/minimalist shoe movement.  This group will ardently defend not only their own shoe wearing (which is perfectly okay), but will belittle anyone that chooses another option.  They will claim that it simply isn't possible to run on the majority of surfaces that constitute our running surfaces, even though there are many of us that have no problems running on concrete, asphalt, gravel, technical trails, or even snow.  They will claim the "X" percentage (often very high) MUST wear shoes because of some biomechanical irregularity.  Yet no research exists to support this idea.

In all fairness, there are barefoot runners that will toss out equally-unsubstantiated claims.  A responsible barefoot runner will acknowledge that barefoot running does have some drawbacks.  Extreme temperatures are a problem.  Puncture wound susceptibility increases.  Learning proper form takes time.  Transitioning must be done slowly.  Your wallet becomes heavier.  Still, for many of us, barefoot or minimalist shoes have led us to a more enjoyable running experience.

Ultimately, we must all make decisions based on what will work best for us.  It is our responsibility to test various conditions.  That may include barefoot or minimalist shoe running.  If it improves performance or enjoyment, keep doing it.  If not, stop.  If you run in shoes and have never been injured, don't admonish other runners for choosing a different route.  If you run barefoot, acknowledge that some runners don't have problems with shoes. 

And don't forget to smile.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Steven Sashen of Boulder, Colorado has opened a company that produces huaraches.  I haven't tried his specific products, but know several people that have.  They were VERY impressed with the quality of his products.  I've run in huaraches before, and can vouch for their effectiveness as a minimalist shoe.  If you have never had the experience, it is very similar to barefoot.  The sandals more or less balance on your foot as it leaves the ground.  Anyway, check him out here:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rating Minimalist Shoes

Many people ask me about minimalist shoe recommendations. First, I always recommend people learn to run barefoot first, then use minimalist shoes as needed. Keeping that in mind, there are some conditions that warrant shoes (extremem weather, terrain, etc.) With this in mind, I am going to start rating the shoes I encounter based on a rating system I'm using from Barefoot Ted's Google Group (Ted himself posted this.) Each shoe will be rated on a 1-5 scale for each of the categories, then a composite score will be derived from that. Here's the scale:

1. How lightweight is the shoe? Lighter is better; 1 = heavy, 5= light
2. How flexible is the shoe? More fexible is better; 1 = limited flexibility, 5 = extremely flexible
3. How much support does the shoe provide? No support is better; 1 = very supportive, 5 = no support
4. How much cushioning does the shoe provide? No cushioning is better; 1 = very cushioned, 5 = no cushioning
5. Is the shoe wide enough? Wider is better; 1 = very narrow, 5 = very wide
6. Does the sole allow you to feel the ground? More ground feel is better; 1 = very little feeling, 5 = very good ground feel
7. How puncture-proof is the sole? More puncture-proof is better; 1 = little protection; 5 = great protection
8. How durable is the shoe? More durable is better; 1 = not durable; 5 = very durable
9. Is the shoe easy to take on and off? Ease of use is better; 1 = very difficult to take on and off; 5 = very easy to take on and off
10. How portable is the shoe? More portable is better; 1 = very difficult to transport, 5 = very easy to transport
11. How environmentally-friendly is the shoe? Greener is better; 1 = not at all environmentally friendly, 5 = very environmentally friendly
12. How breathable is the shoe? More breathable is better; 1 = not breathable, 5 = very breathable
13. How good is the traction? More traction is better; 1 = horrible traction, 5 = excellent traction
14. Does the shoe allow for good toe articulation? More toe articulation is better; 1 = litle or no toe articulation, 5 = excellent toe articulation
15. Aesthetics- how do they look? Higher score is better; 1 = pretty ugly, 5 = good lookin'
16. How resilient is the shoe to odors? More resiliency is better; 1 = very stinky, 5 = not at all stinky
17. How close does the shoe approximate barefoot running? Better approximation of barefoot running is better; 1 = not at all like barefoot running, 5 = excellent approximation of barefoot running
18. How expensive is the shoe?  The cheaper, the better; 1 = very expensive, 5 = very cheap.

Using this 18-point scale, I plan to review all minimalist shoes I come in contact with. As of right now, I will review the following shoes:
  •  Vibram Five Finger KSOs,
  • Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Aqua,
  • Saucony Killkenny XC2s,
  • Banana Republic Gibson Driving Moccasin

Monday, January 11, 2010

Barefoot/Minimalist Shoe Running Across America Update

The first week went well.  I'm only running about half the mileage needed to stay on pace, but I'm in a building phase at this point.  Most of my mileage has been on trails, which is a nice change from my usual winter running.  Roads are becoming less tolerable.

I start clinic #2 at the end of this week.  I have a much better idea of what and when to cover materials.  The clinics would be much easier if it were not winter, but it is still possible to teach the basics. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2010 plans... run every day and do a virtual barefoot/Vibram run across America!

In 2009, I met my long-standing running goal- finishing a 100 mile race.  Where do I go from there?  Get better at running 100s!  I've always been a relatively low mileage ultrarunner.  Last year, I ran approximately 900-950 miles (145 or so were race mileage.)  I've also been a certified back-of-the-pack ultrarunner.  To improve, I will have to increase my training mileage.  To help stay motivated, I plan to run at least a mile every day in 2010.  I also plan on running from the Atlantic to the Pacific (virtually, of course.)  As much as I would love to actually run coast-to-coast, I have a family and a full-time job... not necessarily conducive to reaching that goal.  Also, I have a litany of races I plan on running in 2010. 

This is how it will work- I'll be running from Lubuc, Maine to Sand Diego... 3,241 miles in 365 days.  Every mile will be run either barefoot or in my Vibram KSOs.  Most of the mileage will be made up of training runs in and around West Michigan.  I will try to update my progress on this blog as often as possible... and I'll use the ticker here and on my Facebook page as a tracker.  The journey works out to about 8.8 miles per day... certainly attainable!  So...

Day One

I ran the first six miles as part of the Sgt. Preston/Yukon King 6 mile run in Muskegon, Michigan.  It was a good start!