Barefoot Running Update

ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free RunningWhile I was running last week a fellow barefoot runner stopped me to tell me that he thought that I was still heel striking, an error in form that can cause a long list of injuries. I took out a video camera the next day and videotaped myself running. He was right. As it turns out, simply ditching shoes is not enough to unlearn a lifetime’s worth of bad habits.

I turned back to a book by Danny Dreyer, ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. that was recommended to me when I first went down the barefoot path. Dreyer is a friend of barefoot running guru Ken Bob Saxton, though the book is not about running sans footwear. Instead it covers form, emphasizing a mid-foot strike that minimizes shock to knees and heel.

I’ve been enjoying the audio version of this book, ChiRunning: A Training Program for Effortless, Injury-Free Running, that I checked out from the library. I’ve found it handier than the text since I’ve it’s easier to listen to the exercises rather do them while trying to hold a book.

See my original post for more info on barefoot running. “No Shoes, No Problem.” Funny thing is, even heel striking without shoes, while not good, was still better than heel striking with shoes. I’ve had absolutely no running related pains since I started barefoot running several months ago even with my bad form.

I realize that many of you are not runners, but I bring up this subject on this home economics related blog since I think it begs the question, “what other products in our lives are unnecessary and detrimental?” Cleaning products? Pharmaceuticals? If this blog post by Brooks shoe CEO Jim Weber is any indication, the folks with the money are a bit scared at the thought that we might all wake up some day to the realization that we don’t need their products. Mahatma Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

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  1. I’m interested in this whole movement (which I really didn’t know a lot about.) I began using the Chi Running technique a few years ago around the same time I began spending a lot of time barefoot in Taekwondo class. I don’t know if one or both caused my arches to fall, but there I was mid thirties with horrible pain in the balls of my feet and fallen arches.

    My chiropractor suggested I scan my arches and add orthotics to the heel lift I already wore to make up for a leg length difference, before going any foot dr. surgery route. I had major improvement when I wore them and could run again.

    After a martial arts class or two barefooted, I feel the pain beginning, and lay off.

    I would love to be able to wear five fingers or go barefooted more, but I’m just too afraid.

    Strangely, my husband joined taekwondo and started using the chi running method about 6 months after me, and within 6-12 months of my problems, he began having some too (which orthotics corrected.)

    Am enjoying your various links here and on past posts, though.

  2. I’m going to get that book you mentioned. I am a runner hoping to keep doing it for a long time. It’s in my basket. I know I have to purchase it quick or Amazon won’t give you credit–and I want you to get some credit for providing me with a helpful link. Thanks.

  3. Mamatronic,

    I don’t want to give medical advice, but in my experience my orthotics (admittedly not custom) worked great for a year and then the problems returned. Short term, orthotic work but long term I think they cause muscles to atrophy. It’s like wearing a cast permanently.

  4. Not a runner, but after reading “Born to Run” I doffed my shoes and all the problems with my feet vanished. My podiatrist had me scared out of my wits and almost into orthotics when I began going barefoot. No more problems.

  5. Thanks for the tip. I mentioned the idea of muscle atrophy to my chiro this morning and he agrees we weren’t made to wear shoes, but felt that for those who are on their feet, on concrete, all day the insoles were a good option.

    He showed me some stretches and exercises to do for the arch/ metatarsal arch and encouraged me to try on surfaces other than concrete. What do ya know?

  6. I’ve recently started back running and after a few months in, I found Born to Run and was inspired anew. I’ll have to check out these books. Thanks.

  7. @Kristen: Thanks for buying the book through us–that’s really sweet!

    @Miss Poppy and Wendy: Now you’ve got me wanting to read Born to Run. Just read an interview w. the author. Fascinating!

  8. For those having barefootin’ problems you might want to just work up to things gradually. For instance you could start out with a few minutes of easy barefoot running or walking on a grass surface. Over time add more minutes and start to introduce harder surfaces. You can also begin to wear slightly more minimal footwear (i.e. shoes with less of a midsole). Eventually you can spend more and more time going au naturale.

    There is, however, the whole buggaboo about using incorrect running form. This can be a major contributor to running injury (heel strike can be quite problematic). Running (like most recreational activities) is a technique sport. So you’ll have to educate yourself or have someone help you.

    Ben Boyd
    Certified Chi Running and Chi Walking Instructor.

  9. No need to apologize for the running article–it makes perfect sense to me! After reading Born to Run and taking up barefoot running lazy-man style I’ve noticed that I can now comfortably run in any style footwear and I regularly break into a trot even when dressed for work. This comes in handy when you are late for a meeting or have a flat on your bike. I’ve also noticed that the cross-training helps correct the back problems I’ve been having from bike commuting and gardening. Low-tech = a healthier, happier life.

  10. I’ve been wearing orthotidics for ~10 years and this year I’ve discovered the barefooting crowd online and have been trying to spend more time w/o shoes. I find I have to think about walking without heel striking when I go bare/sock footed. So far my arches & calves haven’t hurt, but I did stub my little toe but good (new furniture = a new place to stub your toe). 4 weeks later it’s still swollen 2x larger than the other little toe. It’s not broken, just ripped all the little ligaments. sigh.

  11. This is great! I am excited to start running again. I have recently healed from an injury I fell to that was cause by WALKING in shoes… I then realized how un-natural it was to wear stuff on our feet… Especially during physical activities! Thanks for the post, I need to check out that book!

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