Minimal ChiRunning Shoes

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I just finished reading Born to Run while I was on my way out to Death Valley to teach ChiRunning. I can see why it’s such a popular book and also why it’s causing such a stir in the running community. It’s a really fun read. Chris McDougall is funny and wonderfully imaginative in his role as a “creative documentarian.” If I weren’t such a slow reader, I’m sure I would have read the entire book in one sitting. The last half of the book is especially riveting. I think it is very appealing to long-time ultra runners like myself because of his ability to capture many of the same thoughts and feelings that run through your head when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how far you’ll be going…or sometimes even where.

I can also see why McDougall is on the warpath against the major shoe manufacturers (esp. Nike). Once he saw and felt the difference that running on minimal shoes made in his biomechanics, he became a convert. There’s no way around it…if you run on less of a shoe, your foot has more of an opportunity to “educate” your body how to move more correctly because you can actually feel your connection with the Earth and develop a physical relationship with the ground passing by underneath you. Your footstrike changes, your posture changes, your point of balance changes…and that’s just the beginning!

If it takes a best-seller like this one to spark a dialog in the running community about demanding better designed shoes, then I’m all for it. I’ve been trying to convince shoe companies to make less of a shoe for years now and in describing my success with them I’ve ended up many times using the descriptive phrase, “It’s like trying to steer a tanker with a rowboat.”

I’m currently in the process of road-testing a number of minimal shoes and I plan to write reviews on each of the brands I try out. Here are some of the newest “flat” shoe companies: VivoBarefoot, FeelMax, Vibram FiveFingers, ECCO and Wilcor. I’ll be posting these reviews as soon as I feel I have a pretty complete sense of the shoes in question. If any of you have come across a minimal shoe made by someone not on this list, please forward me the name and contact info of the company and I’ll be happy to give them a try.

In addition to these shoes there are many racing flats that are currently being produced by the “majors” that work just fine as a minimal shoe. BUT, the problem with the racing flats made by Nike, NB, Asics, Mizuno, Brooks and the like is that I’m seeing a trend that I predict will continue. In the past, if I wanted a good, flat, cheap pair of minimal running shoes all I had to do was go online and order a $45 pair of flats and I was on my way. Racing flats have always been the cheapest shoes on the market because, I assume, they’re made with less materials. BUT, because of the current demand for more minimal shoes, I predict that, rather than spend their resources in developing a really cool minimal running shoe, we’ll be seeing racing flats increasing in cost to over $100…which will only entrench me further into the feeling that the big guns aren’t really out for the good of the runners. That being said, I’d be more than happy to see them prove me totally wrong.

Happy trails,


Posted in Technique

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