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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Evolution Running DVD Review- The greatest running technique barefoot runners have never heard of

Evolution Running is a running technique developed by Ken Mierke. Currently, it is a technique that lives in the shadows of more popular programs such as ChiRunning and POSE.  A few of my barefoot running friends have mentioned Evolution Running before, but my interest was minimal.

My philosophy on running form has always been based on individual experimentation.  Every runner should expose themselves to as many ideas as possible.  After testing, keep the stuff that works and discard the stuff that doesn't.  ChiRunning and POSE are great sources for information.  Evolution Running not only joins this exclusive club of techniques, but should be rushed to the front of the "must-have" list.

When I began barefoot running, I investigated ChiRunning but found the references to "Chi" to be too distracting.  I had no background with Tai Chi, so the concept seemed too foreign.  I investigated POSE, but found the focus on the tiniest detail did not fit my learning style.  Instead of these programs, I relied on information from other barefoot runners like Ken Bob, Ted, and Rick.  I used elements of Chi and POSE to enhance my own technique.  The result is a weird hybrid form pieced together from many sources.

That method served me well until I started to teach others.  I will often recommend ChiRunning or POSE to new runners that require more guidance than my "trust your body" approach.  Some succeed with these programs, some do not.  I requested to review this DVD in the hopes that this technique would fill the void for new barefoot runners that did not have success with ChiRunning or POSE.  Not only were my expectations met, but they were impressively exceeded.

Evolution Running is remarkably similar to the very techniques and drills I teach in clinics and workshops.  Of the three programs, this one would be most appropriate to teach form that would result in successful barefoot running.  The technique is based on the premise of developing efficiency.   Since distance running demands efficiency, I think Evolution Running would be an excellent resource for ultrarunners, too.

The video itself features Ken talking about the theory behind the elements of good form.  The video also features "right" and "wrong" examples of running form, quality animations, and excellent bonus material (drills, faqs, and background information.)

Ken dissects good form to six points:
  • Balance between cadence and stride length,
  • Foot strike placement,
  • Foot strike (EDIT- one of my points of disagreement),
  • Developing propulsion of the foot at impact,Movement of foot at impact,
  • Limb movement.
The balance between cadence and stride length emphasizes the need to take shorter, quicker steps.  Foot placement refers to the feet contacting the ground under the body's center of mass.  The foot strike section talks about how the foot will come in contact with the ground.  I'll talk about this in the next paragraph.  Developing propulsion of the foot at impact was new to me; it is an analysis of the muscles used to generate movement.  Of the techniques discussed this is one the variations from what I teach.  Movement of foot at impact is what I refer to as "paw-back", or the foot's direction of movement immediately before coming in contact with the ground.  Finally, limb movement discusses how the arms and legs should move throughout the gait cycle.

Ken advocates using a midfoot strike (though he refers to it as forefoot, but that's splitting hairs.)  This part is good.  My disagreement comes from the heel.  Ken teaches the heel should barely touch the ground.  In my experiences, both personal and as a barefoot running teacher, this will cause excessive stress on the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.  When just transitioning, this tightness seems to be a major contributing factor in post-barefoot plantar fasciitis (my won made-up term.)  Ken's technique would be very good for shorter distances.  Still, I would instruct runners to allow the calf muscles to remain relaxed, which will result in significant weight being placed on the heel after it gently touched the ground.  Thanks to Kelly Cox for pointing this out!

He also discusses the nemesis of many barefoot runners... hills.  His description of uphill running is perfect.  I previously use his method of downhill running until ultra distances caused too many patellar tendon problems... I teach a very different technique.

The true value of this DVD is the simplicity of Ken's methods.  I tried all of Ken's techniques and could instantly implement them successfully.  It wasn't much of a test as I've done most of this for years.  As a true test, I had five random students in a physical eduacation class at my school watch the video and try the techniques.  All five have horrid running form.  All five were able to implement each element successfully and experience immediate improvement.  Their technique was far from perfect, but the improvement was still dramatic.

Ken's Evolution Running method has moved to the front of my list of running techniques I will recommend to new barefoot or minimalist shoe runners.  Ken's techniques aren't inherently superior to either ChiRunning or POSE, but his descriptions and examples are very easy to implement.  I am somewhat surprised that Evolution Running has not already generated more buzz within the barefoot running community.  This product should be at the top of every barefoot and minimalist shoe runners' wish list.

Evolution Running can be purchased at the Barefoot Running University Store via Amazon or here.
The product was supplied by the manufacturer


  1. Many thanks, Jason. You continue to provide us excellent resources...and inspiration. Much appreciated!


  2. Jason,

    Thank you for the review and I may take the opportunity to check out this new video. I have had similar "challenges" with Pose and Chi and have tried to adapt to what my body was feeling was correct but I am still relatively new to "barefoot" running having only a couple of months on VFFs. Previous to this I was running and still do some of my runs in thin soled/minimal shoes like Innov8, Puma, and NB as suggested by Pose advocates.

    One thing you mentioned jumped out to me and I think it is more from the technique you teach than the DVD and that was the challenge of running hills and "patellar tendon problems." I had an ACL surgery a few years ago where the middle third of my left patellar tendon was removed to be the new ACL graft. As a result I think I now have more problems with patellar pain in that knee than I ever did with the ACL previously. What do you teach that helps with the patellar tendon pain? I notice much more pain in that region when I have gone out for runs of 10 miles or more. I would love to have some insight into what could help or even a teaching resource in CO that I could work with.



  3. Thanks Jason -- I'm currently grounded, but I hope to get back to running within a month or so. I could use all the help I can get in terms of perfecting my running form.

  4. """"""""Still, I would instruct runners to allow the calf muscles to remain relaxed, which will result in significant weight being placed on the heel after it gently touched the ground. Thanks to Kelly Cox for pointing this out!""""""

    I don't understand this logic, I can run without bearing any pressure or weight on the heel. It has to do with the location of one's center of gravity directly over the ball of the foot. Nothing to do with holding one's weight up in an excessive manor. Are you unaware of how to accomplish a ball of the foot landing without excessive calf tension? I could explain more thoroughly how if you would like.

  5. I'm surprised that more people don't talk about Evolution Running, either. It's explained very simply. I was also able to implement the ideas very quickly and easily. If you are turned off by the woo woo factor of ChiRunning, Evolution is for you.