Where Have all the Barefoot/Minimalist Runners Gone?

Back in 2012 when I started really getting into running, there were many barefoot and minimalist running blogs and other resources. Of course, this was not long after the release of Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” which introduced many of us to the idea of running long distances in minimal footwear, or no footwear at all. I am sure that without this approach, I would have never been able to run 5 marathons, along with many other races and training miles in my first full year of running.

Since then, I’ve stayed relatively injury free, and have come back quickly from lay-offs caused by pain or laziness. I used to go on about what a crappy runner I was, but I can now say that I am actually pretty good at it and think of myself as very knowledgable about the subject.

What’s most rewarding is the feeling of flow I get during most runs, and that feeling of satisfaction and sometimes elation towards the end. That often happens at the gym, where the contrast between my approach, and the approach of those around me is clear. I often do my runs in minimalist shoes, or just socks. I can see the looks the other people sometimes give me, and I have had a couple of people come up and remark about my lack of footwear. I also had one guy inquire about my seeming ease during a long treadmill run.

I always enjoy talking to people about the benefits of going minimal and concentrating on good form. I don’t merely enjoy showing off–I think it would be cool if others could transform their running like I have. I don’t see the point of slogging away, hunched over on the treadmill, forcing yourself to endure a workout session.

It doesn’t look like that trend will change anytime soon, though. Apparently, the message about barefoot and minimalist running fell on deaf ears. Practically no one is talking about it anymore. Shoe companies have discontinued their minimalist lines, and are even stopping production of many minimal racing flats. Shoes like the Nike Free will endure, but there is no substitute for running in super minimalist footwear, or no shoes occasionally. Ironically, it is this lack of “protection” which allows those of us who are not as biomechanically blessed (and that’s probably actually the majority of runners) to achieve our full potential.


One thought on “Where Have all the Barefoot/Minimalist Runners Gone?

  1. Bobby says:

    On point! I spent years trying to run two full miles. I paid hundreds of dollars on shoes that “corrected” the way I plant my foot, stabilizer shoes to rid my knee pain, etc…. Out of desperation, I took off the shoes and started walking on a nearby soccer field. Then I spent a while running very short distances in a zero drop Merrell Trail Glove. Then, a couple years later, I was running marathons and longer in Luna sandals. My form correction, body mechanics correction, all of it, came from ditching the thick padded footwear. I don’t believe barefoot is a panacea (in my studies, the zero or near-zero drop is the big magic for form, and the improved ground feel does the balance and grace improvements), it’s not for everyone, but I think it can be helpful to a lot of folks. To me it was noticing something simple: why do I run differently with my shoes off?

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