I’m drinking the Koolaid

I got to take part in the most amazing event last night. About an hour and a half away from here, a group of running specialists gathered for a panel discussion titled “The Re-evolution of Running.” This was a true who’s who in the world of minimalistic approaches to running. More than anything, these guys want to get to the root cause of running injuries and figure out how to prevent them.

I might have been more than a little intrigued before going. And I left with my mind bursting with new information I can’t wait to put into practice.

Among the gathered group was Danny Dreyer, the inventor of chi running; Dr. Daniel Kulund, who opened the very first runner’s clinic back in the ’70s and was likely the first guy to think of water running for injured runners; Dr. Craig Richards, all the way from Australia and one of the world’s leading researchers on running injuries and footwear; and stud of all studs Ian Adamson, another Aussie who just happened to win EcoChallenge a million or so times. There were also several other doctors and PTs, and the whole thing was moderated by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who owns the Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking.

There was far too much information presented for me to cover it all in one post (or ever!) but here are some of my take-away points:

  • We start shaping our feet via shoes by the age of 1 1/2 or 2. If you look at a kid’s foot, chances are their toes are easily splayed. Look at the typical adult’s foot that has been encased in shoes for years on end, and you’ll find something quite different (like my “stuck together” toes)
  • These splayed toes give your body a wider landing field. Landing on your heel, which is a small target, leads to more impact on your body.
  • The keys to decreasing injury are to first be conservative in your mileage progression; then consider simpler shoes (or bare feet) to decrease the interference between the foot and the ground; and then learn to run in a fashion that decreases the stress on your body–think a cadence of 170 to 190 steps per minute.
  • There’s no conclusive evidence that the traditional shoe models (motion control; stability, etc.) reduce injuries, nor is there conclusive evidence that the minimalist approach is better, yet. But Richards thinks it’s worth considering what effect any given shoe might have on injury rates.
  • Kulund sees the future of running as a sport that incorporates both the miles as well as dynamic strength work to help prevent injuries.
  • We are doing our kids a disservice by encasing their feet in big clunky athletic shoes.
  • If you want to wake up long dormant muscles in your feet, your best bet is to walk around barefoot outside–moving over rocks and other objects help strengthen and condition your feet back to a more natural state.
  • If you want to go all the way to barefoot running, you must have patience. To do it safely could take the better part of a year or more. Richards advised that if you weren’t willing to put in the time, don’t even bother getting started.

This is just scratching the surface for now. What I liked is that these guys are not zealots about going more minimal with shoe wear. In fact, Richards advice was that, if you’ve been running without injury in a regular running shoe for years, why change it? But if you are confident that you safely progress your mileage and yet you continually get injured (that would be me), it may be time to consider a different approach.

My son and I made a trip to the local shoe store today. Guess what we bought?

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  1. Amanda@runninghood says

    What kind of shoes are these that you bought? Thank you for such an informative post. Please keep this stuff coming. I learn so much from you. Well worth the check in on blog land. How cool for you to be at this event Amanda. What shoes would your recommend…do you think Saucony Kinvaras are a good shoe to start going more to the minimalistic approach? I like them and they feel great but I am not sure how often I should be running in them? Can they be an all the time shoe or should I just be using them for speed right now? Sorry for so many questions. Thanks again for the great post.

  2. Running and living says

    Are those Nike Frees?
    I do most of my runs in minimalist shoes – Nike Frees and Brooks Launch (some would not consider these minimalists). I also walk barefoot in the house all the time. Not sure I would even run barefoot outdoors, but I do believe that all these extra cushioning on running shoes is not helpful! Fun that you got to go to this event!

  3. Dash says

    Very cool you went, I saw this being advertised and thought it would be great to attend if it wasn't so far on a Friday. I'm so glad you took notes to pass along!! I've been in the kinvaras for awhile and def like them!

  4. Kate says

    This is great! What a cool event to attend. I would be completely fascinated too. Angela runs in the Brooks Green Silence. They are very minimal and she has some strong feet. She does barefoot striders regularly. Like you said, if you don't want to put the time in, don't even bother. I don't think I am ready to put the time in quite yet.

  5. Jennifer says

    Never had a reason to go barefoot in running, but here in Mississippi going barefoot is normal for about 7 months of the year, specially 'round the house and yard. Maybe I will try some short sessions on the bike path this summer. Great post!

  6. Teamarcia says

    What an excellent panel. I love DD and Chi Running. So cool you went to this. Isnt it interesting how we were raised to put kids in supportive shoe as soon as they start walking?

  7. Katie says

    Go trail running! I still wear stability shoes ( needed not negotiable! ), but I have gone from majorly heel striking to more midfoot and have the bruises to show it. This is because if you land on your heel trail running you easily can end up on your butt because you don't have any way to gain balance when the stride gives because of the shaky surface (rocks, snow, ice).


  8. misszippy says

    Yes, those are Nike free's. The panelists all had favorable things to say about them, so I got a pair to start walking in for now. I was also thrilled that they came in kids' sizes (although only down to a 4) so that I could get my son into something other than clunky running shoes.

  9. Lisa says

    my husband tried running in Vibrams and ended up with very sore calf muscles. proof that shoes affect how we run….closer to barefoot caused him to use different muscles. his hip didn't bother him in the vibrams, so i think he's going to try again, just shorter distance

  10. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    Love the pic of you and your son's shoes!! Are they the Nike foldable ones??

    I bet your head was spewing with information after a discussion like this–thank you for sharing with your readers!!

  11. Paul says

    Enjoy the koolaid..I'm sipping it too 8) But take it easy to start. Can't undo a lifetime of habits overnight ya know!

  12. Pat says

    I've definitely noticed three patterns in my past injuries—when I wear bulky/clunky/heavy running shoes I tend to get injured and if I run more than a few miles at a pace that is uncomfortably slow, I tend to have issues as well. The thrid time injuries occur for me is when I make stupid training errors which we all do from time-to-time. I've been running for 34 years and the shoes I wear now are similar to the ones I wore "back in the day" and they feel great on my feet!

  13. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    Good for you Amanda – glad you went and did the research and now can start this new approach with confidence. BTW – Anything under 15mi I run in 6.2oz flats, forefoot strike (-:

  14. AM-GoalsfortheWeek says

    That is way too cool for school. love it.

    and are those nike free's? I have a pair too..however I ran out too fast in em' mileage wise…and it's when I finally got my heel spur.

    Again, very cool you got to experience that info night

  15. AM-GoalsfortheWeek says

    oh! and SOOO agree with these kids running shoes! What did they recommend for kids to run/play in? both for my 5yr olds, and early pre-teens who are doing Girls on the Run 5k?

  16. racing dawn says

    suchi interesting info! thanks for sharing..

    i run in nike lunar glides and i love them – they are extremely light with a big toe box… my current pair i've used for all my races of 12in12 so far!!! except for my trail race – so they've made it through 7 marathons + training…i've one other pair of nikes that i switch in and out during training but that's a pretty dang good shoe…

    and what did they say we should put out kids in if not shoes? just curious…

  17. Lisa says

    Sounds like an incredible event. I like that they weren't all pushing everyone to switch to minimalist shoes but are advising to do what works best for each person. thanks for sharing what you learned and let us know how the Nike Free's work out for you!

  18. ShutUpandRun says

    Great post and very informative. I've been thinking a lot about this issue too since being injured. Have thought about attending a Chi running workshop. It WOULD be nice to really get to the root of why so many of us are injured so much of the time.

  19. Chris K says

    Love this post. I thought that I was the stud of all studs. Ian Adamson? Puh-leaze. He only ran 8 hours straight on a treadmil at the Newton booth during last summer's S.D. RnR marathon Expo. I could do 9.

  20. Cynthia O'H says

    Sounds like a great evening. I think there's a lot to be said for minimalist running (or shoes) but I'm not completely sold on it. I completely agree with the point about kids, though; look at the way they can race barefoot down the street without hesitating. In our house, shoes are off – always. Outdoors, though, they are on – more because I worry about stepping on things that can hurt.

  21. drkgood says

    I wish there was something like that around these parts. I love my Vibrams for walking around the house and doing errands. Something about them just feels right on my foot. BUT when I went to the podiatrist about some foot issues, she told me I should really NEVER walk around barefoot. Not even around my house. Something about this just didn't really pass my gut test about what seems right and logical. Especially since shoes are likely to have contributed to my foot issues. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I want something with some cushion while I run, but I like the minimalist shoes for speedwork and every day walking around kinds of things. It makes sense and feels right. Maybe that's the point.

  22. Mark says

    Thanks Amanda,
    Great post. As you saw we are all applying scientific method and healthy skepticism to this. That is why we gathered the world leaders here. It has been great debate and discussion at the conference. Can share stuff later . For the readers we have loads of info on our site http://www.trtreads.org in the article, videos, footwear education.
    My story is here http://www.zero-drop.com/?p=1485 Like you I am a runner and want to help others as well as move the field forward.
    All the best and thanks for coming,
    Mark Cucuzzella MD

  23. Meg says

    So interesting. I'm running in Brooks Launch right now and they feel so much lighter than anything I've ever used.
    Thanks for the great info.

  24. Jill says

    I'm super jealous… that sounds like exactly the type of event I would love! Glad you enjoyed it… I've been running in the Saucony Kinvara lately and really like them.

  25. Gracie (Complicated Day) says

    Dr. Cucuzzella was the director of Freedom's Run marathon, which I ran in October. He did a really classy job with the race and we had a blsat – he also has a nifty minimalist running store with helpful staff. Oh and he sent us the best emails of training tips and hints; one contained a powerpoint presentation on everything from shoes to nutrition and it was so good that I forced my husband to watch it and saved it to my computer. All around a great guy.

  26. Ewa says

    I wish I were there. Thanks for sharing what you had learned.

    These look like Nike Free 3.0. The one on the left with very bright laces looks just like the one I sometimes wear.

  27. Michelle says

    What a great event to attend! Thanks for passing along the great info. I've been trying to incorporate more and more of the ChiRunning focuses into my running and would love to attend one of their workshops.

    Great to know that Nike Frees come in kids' sizes – may have to get my oldest a pair.

  28. Angie Bee says

    I am so glad you had this experience! I love that you are learning and finding answers. I really think this will change everything for you :)

  29. jamie@sweatyhugs says

    I'm really, really interested in this. I actually got a pair of Nike Free XT's for Christmas and I use them for spin, zumba, and the occasional 2-4 mile treadmill runs. Since my injury I have been really apprehensive on going out and getting orthotics or some crazy stability shoe. Been thinking more and more about just running short distances in my Free's and building up my strength. I'm so terribly afraid of my shin pain returning. Please post more when you can. Thank you!

  30. Fran says

    That sounds like a very interesting evening.

    I've always known that walking barefoot is good for your feet. As a child I did it all the time and nothing bothered me. But now that I'm older I never walk barefoot outside. I don't have shoes on in my house, just my socks.

  31. Richelle says

    I have sustained at least one running injury per year since 2007 (two last year–not cool!). I have almost flat feet, so I severely pronate. I wear custom orthotics and stability shoes, which I believed were supposed to help me, but I still kept getting injured. So… you can see why I'm so interested right now in minimalist running. I think changing my stride will help me stay injury free. I just bought a pair of the Nike Frees and a pair of Newtons. I'll keep you posted on how well they work for me.

  32. Rose says

    Growing up, were were always running around barefoot. I'm still very comfortable climbing and skittering around without shoes on. I guess it's time to start trying running without shoes.

  33. Aimee says

    That sounds like an awesome presentation! I bought a pair of VFF Bikilas this summer and love them! I stopped running in them during my marathon training, but would really like to get back to wearing them more often!

  34. Mamarunsbarefoot says

    I could KISS YOU!!! I LOVE LOVE when people get it, when they hear it and get it!! I always let my kids go barefoot to let their feet strengthen! Your post made my night!! BTW I will be running my marathon in the Frees!

  35. Johann says

    Very interesting. I would like to see the long term effects of barefoot or minimalist running. I agree it can be done but wonder about running marathons and ultras year after year. In this case I believe shoes will always be the better option.

  36. Silly Girl Running says

    Pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing! I'm an overpronator, and do run in minimalist shoes for shorter runs, but I'm a bit worried about doing long runs in these shoes. I'm afraid I'll shin splints myself up again.

    How's your leg doing?

  37. Joanne says

    I bet the meeting was so informative. I couldn't think of running barefoot but I can't stand to walk around with anything on my feet in the house or even outside in the summer. Weird that I'm so addicted to my sneaks for running.

  38. Jeremy says

    Sounded like a great event!! Sure wish we could have made it! Thank you for the update on what was covered there.

  39. Holly says

    Keep these posts coming. Let us know how the shoes work out and how your journey is going. I am on a similar path right now of looking into minimalist shoes and Vibram. I think those of us who get injured are seeking out new direction.

    Nothing against the others though! I mean if you can run in stability shoes and never have a problem then stick with what works.

    Ain't workin for me though.

  40. Pete Larson says

    Great post, and excellent summary of what was covered. I was honored to be on a panel with such forward thinking people! And you are right, there were no zealots – interest number one is getting people to run in a way that reduces injury risk. We don't have data on reduction of injury rates yet, but anecdotal evidence is there from a number of sources, and the science on what shoes to gait is fairly strong.

  41. Adam says

    I'm with Holly – Keep us all posted how it works. I'm not ready to go full on minimalist, but I want to get out of the huge shoes I'm in for sure.

  42. kigogal says

    Wow. You did such a great job relaying this information. So much of this growing movement is reliant on good education. We are in total agreement about being careful, not just wearing minimalist shoes for running, and seeing natural motion as a way to work toward overall wellness and agility. Way to go!