Barefoot Running

How to get kids interested in running

Running KidsI have been coaching young runners for many years now and one of the most frequent questions I get from parents is "How do I get my kids interested in running?"  This question most often comes from parents who themselves are runners and would love nothing more than to see their son or daughter follow in their footsteps, but I have also gotten this question from parents who themselves are not runners, but want to make sure that their kids are leading active healthy lifestyles. Here are some guidelines I have learned over the years that will aid parents in developing their children's interest in running.

1. Lead by example

Children, especially at very young ages, learn to do by watching others. If you are the parent, chances are you are the one they are watching most, this means that your habits, good or bad, are likely to become adopted by your children. If you want your children to run, set the example.  The very act of putting on your running shoes everyday and heading out the door is likely to cause your child to want to do the same. Let this be your motivation to be consistent with your running and even if your child does not follow suit, you still have put in quality running time for yourself.

2. Provide opportunities, but don't push

Kids in general love to run, but many of them are never provided the opportunity. How many times have you found yourself, or another parent, yelling at their child to "stop running." This is not because they don't approve of the activity, "running," but they don't approve of the setting "grocery store, doctors office, airport, etc.." So instead of disapproving of the activity, why not provide a better setting.

Start looking in your area for kid friendly running events and when you find one ask if they want to participate. If your child's school has a cross country team, make sure they know about it, and be willing to drive them to practices, or just take them to the park and cut them loose, but it is important that a parent keep running as an activity and not a chore.

The number one thing you can do to make sure your child does not run is to make them run when they don't want to. A child that is pushed into a sport by a parent is very likely to burn out and quit the sport, any sport, running included,  as soon as their their parents are no longer around to keep pressure on. An activity that must be done becomes a chore.  This does not mean you need to ask each day before scheduled practices whether or not they want to attend, this is a matter of honoring their commitments, but if your child expresses that they don't want to run track this year, do not make them.

3. Make it social

For a child, running by themselves just feels like work, running with your peers feels like play. Even most adults I know prefer to run as part of group. Check your local area for youth running groups. Here in the Bay Area where I live, I Coach Marin Youth Trail Runs. most well populated areas in the US will have a USATF Youth Track and Cross Country teams. If your child attends an after school group such as the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs, suggest a kids running group.

4. You be the parent and let the coach do the coaching

When it comes to athletics, the job of the parent is to provide the opportunity and always let your runner know that you are proud of them regardless of their performance. It is the coaches duty to offer constructive criticism, set paces and race strategies, plan workouts etc... This rule applies to all sports, not just running. Do not confuse these two roles, and try not make them the same role. Coaching delivered from parents is received differently than the same coaching delivered from their running coach, the information may be the same, but relationship is, and should be different. Parents that overstep coaches will not only be resented by their children, but also by their children's coach.

5. Oh No!! Your child may not be a runner

This is not the end of the world. Some children may not be interested in running. Don't panic, this is not the end of the world. Even if you and your spouse were world class runners, and your child has the best running genes the world has ever known, you may find that your child's interest is in the clarinet. If this is the case provide opportunities for your child to pursue the clarinet, make it sociallet the clarinet instructor instruct, and let your child know that you are proud of them. 



Dr. Daniel Lieberman on Colbert Report

Two of my favorite things in one place. Dr Daniel Lieberman is Harvard Professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard. Dr. Lieberman's studies on barefoot running is largely responsible for bringing barefoot running form into the modern running conversation. This interview with Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report originally aired 5/16/2013.





LaSportiva Vertical K Review

[youtube] LaSportiva has long been known for their fantastic line of rock climbing shoes, and less known for their trail running shoes, but with the LaSportiva Vertical K that may be about to change.

LaSportiva has dubbed the Vertical K as not a trail running shoe, but a "mountain running shoe," and rightly so. The radical design of the Vertical K provides traction and rock protection that goes well beyond what a casual trail runner would require. This is not the shoe for a stroll through the woods, but for planting a flag at the top of a mountain and bombing back down the scree fields.


For being such a durable shoe, the LaSportiva Vertical K is surprisingly lightweight. At only about 7 ounces the weight of the Vertical K rivals that of the New Balance Minimus Trail as well as the Merrell Trail Glove.


To add to the list of surprising features of the vertical K is it's flexibility. From toe to heel, the vertical K folds over itself with ease. To a runner this means that your foot controls where the shoe bends rather than the shoe controlling how the foot bends.

Heel Drop

The LaSportiva Vertical K has a 4mm heel-toe differential. Not a large drop, but still not a zero drop shoe. At 4mm, the heel-toe drop of the Vertical K falls into similar company as the Nike Free 3.0, Brooks Pure series and the Saucony Kinvara.


I love the look of this shoe, but it is the functionality of the design that has shaped it's unique look. The design is based on what LaSportiva has dubbed MorphoDynamic Technology. The wave pattern on the bottom of the vertical K, provides not only incredible amounts of traction, but also contributes to the shoes being surprising flexible and lightweight.  This pattern combined with the particular softness of the foam used in the midsole also eli

minates the need for a rock plate, as the crevasses are deep enough and the foam soft enough to absorb the impact of sharp objects that a rock plate would usually protect against.

 The Upper

The one piece upper fits snuggly and holds the foot firmly in place with no rubbing or irritation on any particular part of the foot. The toe box is not incredibly roomy, but it is roomy enough that the edges don't blow out and the toes can wiggle. The entire upper is enveloped in a stylish Nylon wrap. The Nylon wrap seems to do little but to keep the laces tied and free of debris, but is stylish none the less.


This shoe is all about the traction. The traction of the vertical K is unmatched by nearly any shoe it the same weight class. The only other trail shoe I can think of that provides an equal amount of traction in a lightweight trail shoe is the Innovate X-Talon. The Frixionoutsole (LaSportiva's name for really sticky rubber) enhanced with durable lugs reinforces the vertical K as a true mountain running shoe.

Tech Specs From

WEIGHT: 7 oz/ 198 g

LAST: Dynamic Race

FIT: Medium - Wide

UPPER: AirMesh / Nylon® 4-way stetch gaiter / PU Leather external toe cap

LINING: Mesh (back half and tongue only)

MIDSOLE: MorphoDynamic™ Injection Molded EVA

MIDSOLE HEIGHT (MM): Heel:  18mm / Toe: 14mm / Delta H: 4mm


SOLE: Morphdynamic FriXion® XF / VA Wave

SIZES: 36-47.5 (half sizes)

COLOR: Black/Yellow



Purchase LaSportiva Vertical K from

Have you tried the Vertical K? What was your experience? Leave your comments below.

Newton MV2 Review: The Goldilocks Shoe

The Newton MV2 is what I like to refer to as a "goldilocks shoe." The Newton MV2 strikes a nice balance between traditional running shoes and barefoot/minimalist shoes. The Newton MV2 is a lightweight, zero drop shoe, which encourages a natural midfoot/forefoot stride, but a reasonable midsole, as well as lugs placed under the forefoot, allow for more ground protection and a more comfortable ride for those long runs. By including the most important features of barefoot shoes with added forefoot protection has created an in between shoe that you may find to be just right.

About Newton Running

Before there was Born To Run, Danny Abshire, co-founder of Newton Running and author of Natural Running, recognized the importance of a natural, barefoot style, running gait. Armed with a proper understanding of running biomechanics, Danny Abshire set out to create a running shoe that encouraged natural running. This was the foundation for Newton Running.

Newton refers to the MV2 as a racing flat, however, being the most well cushioned shoe in my collection, it is the shoe I have chosen for the majority of my ultra marathon training.

Viva la Zero Drop!!!

The Newton MV2 is a true zero drop shoe. A zero drop shoe no difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. A minimal or zero drop differential is the most important feature of any natural running shoe.

In other popular zero drop shoes such as the Merrell Trail Glove, and Vibram FiveFingers,  zero drop is achieved by not including a midsole. Instead, producing a shoe that is just a level outsole connected to an upper. Newton has taken a different approach. Rather than eliminating the midsole, the heel is lowered part way, and lugs are included under the forefoot to raise the forefoot level with the heel height.

The Outsole

The distinguishing feature of the Newton MV2 outsole are the lugs beneath the forefoot. Unlike previous Newton models, the Newton MV2 features five lugs rather than four. I believe the idea was to put a lug beneath each metatarsal. beneath each lug is a hollow chamber which allows each lug to compress and then spring back, theoretically allowing for energy return from the shoe. This is what Newton refers to as its patented action/reaction technology.

In my first hundred miles in these shoes I did not notice that this special piece of engineering provided any competitive advantage, but I did notice that the simple act of having the lugs beneath the forefoot, provided the forefoot with more forefoot protection from the ground than in most traditional running shoes, while simultaneously slightly raising the forefoot to create a zero drop shoe.

The Midsole

The midsole of the Newton MV2  provides more cushion than barefoot shoes such as Vibram FiveFingers, which have no midsole. A more cushioned shoe provides a comfortable ride over long distances, however, this also means that your foot is less able to retrieve feedback from the ground. Less ground feel allows the foot to be in contact with the ground for a longer period, producing a less efficient stride.

This being said, the midsole of Newton Mv2 strikes a good balance between barefoot shoes and more traditional running shoes. Offering comfort and protection for those long runs, while still encouraging natural, barefoot style, running form.

The Upper

The upper of the Newton MV2 is a thin synthetic mesh. Thin enough that you can see through it when held up to the light. But this pours lightweight material is also very durable. After 100 miles of rocky trails (which the Newton MV2 was not designed for), the upper, though no longer sparkly white, is still in perfect shape.


Weighting in at only 5.8 ounces the Newton MV2 is lightweight for a racing flat, and it makes for an amazingly lightweight training shoe.

The Sizing

The Newton MV2 has a particularly narrow toe box. Unless you have a foot shaped like a missile, consider purchasing a half size larger. Though a narrow toe box is not a deal breaker, Newton Reps, if you are reading this, I do wish you would consider a toe box that is foot shaped.

Transitioning to a Zero Drop Shoe

Most runners are accustomed to traditional running shoes with an excessive heel-toe differential. This has left left most runners with muscle imbalances in the lower leg that can cause injury if transitioning to quickly to a zero drop shoe. Should you transition to a zero drop shoe? Yes, however, read this guide to ensure that your transition goes smoothly without injury.

Would I recommend the Newton MV2 to a friend?

As a natural running advocate, I strongly encourage the use of a lightweight zero drop shoe, to encourage a barefoot like running gait. The drawback to most lightweight zero drop barefoot/minimalist shoes is the lack of forefoot protection.  The Newton design fixes this problem making the Newton MV2 ideal for the experienced and efficient natural runner interested in longer training runs. For less experienced runners, this shoe is probably best utilized as Newton suggests, only for shorter training runs and races.

Have you run in these shoes? What was your experience? How does it stack up against other shoes? Leave your comments below.

Altra Adam Minimalist Running Shoe Review

[youtube] For those of you that just want the low down and would rather skip the details, I LOVE THIS SHOE! This is the shoe that will replace my Merrell Trail Gloves for the foreseeable future. The Altra Adam is a true zero drop, lightweight, flexible, minimalist shoe with a great ground feel, and a very spacious toe box, whats not to love. Want to know more? keep reading.

There are four primary features I look for in a minimalist shoe.

      1. Zero Drop
      2. Ground Feel
      3. Flexibility
      4. Toe Box

Zero Drop

The Altra Adam is a true zero drop shoe. This is one of the things I love about the Altra company. Altra is dedicated to producing zero drop shoes. Zero drop refers to the height differential between the heel and the forefoot. In a zero drop shoe the differential is zero. In other words, the heel height and forefoot height are even. In my opinion, the closer to zero drop the better.

A true zero drop shoe such as the Altra Adam best replicates the natural running form present when running barefoot for the obvious reason that when barefoot the heel is not lifted. By contrast to the Altra Adam, the New Balance Minimus has a 4mm heel-toe differential. The Nike Free 3.0 heel-toe drop is 7mm.

Altra AdamGround Feel

The Altra Adam has an amazing amount of ground feel. The 3mm outsole allows the feet to feel and react to the terrain while still providing adequate protection from sharp or otherwise dangerous objects. The trade off with ground feel is that after a certain number of miles your feet are likely to become sore from not having that familiar cushion between your foot and the ground. As I primarily run on trails, I found I could get in about 12 miles before the ground became uncomfortable. Road running is much more forgiving in this respect. If you prefer a little less ground feel, the Altra Adam comes with an two variety of insoles, each of which provides a little more protection, and a little less ground feel. If you want even less ground feel Altra has a whole line of zero drop shoes, such as the Altra Instict, that are not as lightweight and flexible, but do include a midsole.


The Altra Adam weighs in at under five ounces making it lighter than the Merrell Trail Glove (6.2 oz), or New Balance Minimus (7 oz), or even the Vibram FiveFingers KSO (5.7 oz). The lighter the shoe the more efficient each stride and less torque on the joints. The featherweight quaility of these shoes makes them amazing for speed work, especially on the track.

Toe Box

When you first see the Altra Adam you immediately recognize that the toe box is shaped a little different than most running shoes. Altra took the novel approach of making the toe box shaped like a foot. Not so much like a foot that you need special toe socks, but enouigh like a foot that the toes are allowed to naturally splay without being impeded by the side walls of the shoe. The roomy toe box of the Altra Adam make it amongst the most comfortable shoes I have worn. If fact, I got the Altra Adam to run in, but have found myself wearing them as my everyday running around shoes as well.

These are the most important features that make up a minimalist shoe, but there are other features that will probably interest you as well.


I found the Altra Adam fit true to size. In the past I have taken to wearing a half size larger for a little extra room in the toebox. The already roomy toe box of the Altra Adam make this unnecesary.


This is the only department were I found the Altra Adam to be lacking. In most running scenarios this is not a big deal, but when running down a steep hill in the mud a little more traction would be nice. This of course is another factor that would alter ground feel.


rather than laces the Altra Adam has two velcro straps. These shoes fit my foot so well I actually found these straps to be unessesary as the semi-elastic upper mesh held the shoe snuggly in place.

Socks or no socks?

Strangely enough, I get this question often. Just as with any other shoe, I strongly suggest that you wear socks. No socks = stinky shoes = less friends. Don't like how socks hold in moisture? Try Smartwool.

About Transitioning to Zero Drop Shoes

If this is your first pair of zero drop shoes you will want to take some time to transition. Most importantly you will first want to ensure that you are running with a natural forefoot stride and maintaining good natural running form. If you are not sure if you are doing this consider hiring a natural running coach such as myself. If you are not in the Bay Area, check out the Altra Learn to Run Initiative.

Even if you have perfected natural running in a shoe with a raised heel, when transitioning to a zero drop shoe you will likely notice your calves will become more sore than you are acustomed to. There is nothing wrong with this, they are simply deconditioned and will take some time to recondition themselves to running naturally.

Start with just a few miles per week with the zero drop shoes and slowly add more milage as is comfortable. Just like with any other kind of training doing to much to fast will lead to injury. If you do not want to sacrifice mileage while you transition, supplement mileage with the shoes you are most accustom taking extra care to maintain a short stride and avoid heel striking.

Order Altra Adam from

Have you tried the Altra Adam or Eve? leave your comments below.


New Balance Minimus or Merrell Trail Glove, a Minimalist Review

Before I learned Natural Running and switched to minimalist shoes, New Balance was my go to company for running shoes. So in 2010 when I learned that New Balance had intentions of producing a truly minimalist shoe my heart raced with anticipation. I would stalk the New Balance website to sneak peaks at the prototype, I even signed up to be a New Balance product tester in hopes that I might receive a pair before the release. About the time that the New Balance Minimus was about to be released I purchased a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves instead. A few month later and I now own both the Merrel Trail Glove and the New Balance Minimus.

Merrell Trail Glove or New Balance Minimus

There are two reasons why Merrell Trail Gloves were my initial choice over the New Balance Minimus.

  1. Zero Drop - Merrel Trail Glove is a true zero drop shoe. That means that their is no height differential between the toe and the heel. New Balance showed a little hesitancy to commit to a fully minimalist shoe by still including a 4mm heel lift in the final production of Minimus. (Click here to find out why heel drop is important.)
  2. Release Date - Merrell got the jump on New Balance by releasing the Merrell Trail Glove a month or so earlier than the New Balance Minimus.

Why Change a Good Thing?

I do nearly all my running on trails. This is particularly rough on the feet. This is the reason why I now choose minimalist shoes over simply running barefoot. when running barefoot the sharp rocks, sticks and sticker bushes would frustrate me and send me home after only four to five miles. With my Merrell Trail Gloves it seemed I could run forever. Until one day when sprinting downhill I hit my heel on a rock, brusing my heel and making the rest of the run, as well as the rest of the week rather unpleasant. With this experience I figure a compromise was in order. I did not want a heel lift in my running shoe, but I equally did not want another bruised heel.

Enter the New Balance Minimus

So far I am quit satisfied with the performance of the New Balance Minimus. They are lightweight. They bend and flex easily, they seem to offer the right balance of protection and ground feel, the toe box is not as wide as the Trail Glove, but it is wide enough to accommodate my foot. not to mention they get alot of comments.

Though I still prefer a zero drop shoe, the heel raise is not so significant that I begin to heel strike.

The sole of the New Balance Minimus' forefoot is definitely softer and more flexible than that of the Merrel Trail Glove. This means more ground feel, but less forefoot protection.

I am unsure of the durability as the sole seems to already be showing wear and tear and I have only 30 miles on them.

Socks or No Socks?

Definitely with socks. You can wear these shoes with no socks on occassion, but if you plan to wear them often it is best to try them on while wearing socks. to much naked foot and the shoes will become so foul you may start to lose friends.

True to Size?

I bought mine 1/2 large. I usually wear 10 1/2, but while wearing socks the toe box of the 10 1/2 seemed a little snug.

New Balance Minimus Conclusion

I would definately reccomend this shoe to any runner interested in minimalist running. The raised heel, though not necessarry is rather unobtrusive and may even make transitioning to minimalist shoes easier on the calves.

To read the full Merrell Trail Glove Review Click Here.

or see the Merrell Trail Glove 700 mile update.

Tarahumara Barefoot and Minimalist Running Profiled on Discovery Channel

The Tarahumara are the superheros of the barefoot/minimalist movement. Recently their superhuman ability was examine on the Discovery Channel show Weird or What?  These videos also feature Dr. Lieberman as well as Christopher McDougal, author of Born to Run.

Video 1 Nutrition (Beer) [youtube=] Video 2 Born To Run [youtube=] Video 3 Barefoot or Huaraches [youtube=]

Race To Be Great

I am proud to announce that is is sponsoring the Race To Be Great 5k, in Petaluma, California. This flat 5k is being put together by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties, and ties in with a boys and girls club program designed to get kids running. As such this race is free for all participants 17 and younger. A five dollar donation is requested of adults. this donation will go directly toward funding other great programs that help the children of Petaluma thrive. If you can't make it to the race consider sponsoring a young runner and boys and girls club member as they compete in their first ever 5k event. Check out  for all the details.

Hope to see you there.


Free the Heel: Viva La Zero Drop

I found this video from the Natural Running Store that demonstrates the benefits of a zero drop shoe in a lighthearted and easy to understand way. [youtube=]

Thank you Natural Running Store keep up the good work.

Reebok Realflex: Reebok Joins Nike in Tip Toeing Towards a More Minimalist Shoe

The to call the Reebok Realflex a minimalist running shoe, or to say it emulates barefoot running is a real stretch. Much like the Nike Free, the Reebok Realflex is more flexible, more lightweight, and includes fewer support features than the average running shoe, but the toe-to-heel differential alone keeps shoes such as the Reebok Realflex as well as the Nike Free is a slightly different catagory than the most minimalist shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers, Merrel Trail Glove, and the Altra Adam. The Reebok Realflex, as well as its older brother the Nike Free, are what I like to refer to as "reduced shoes." That is to say, they have some but not all features of minimalist running shoes. In the case of the Reebok Realflex what is missing is a Zero-Drop heel-to-toe differential, as well as a true ground feel.

What is Zero Drop?

The heel-to-toe differential is the difference in the height of the forefoot of a shoe and the height of the heel of the shoe. In a zero drop shoe this differential is zero. Over the years, running shoes have accumulated more and more heel padding to soften the blow of a heel strike. Though this did make running on your heels more comfortable, it detracted from a natural forefoot stride (notice when running barefoot your heel is not elevated more than your forefoot.) The most minimalist of running shoes have removed the heel to bring it down to the level of the forefoot. Other reduced natural running shoes such as Newtons, or the original Altra, instead of lowering the heel all the way, instead the forefoot was raised to create zero drop heel-to-toe differential.

Because the Reebok Realflex, like the Nike Free, has done nothing to alleviate the heel-to-toe differential I would not classify either as a minimalist or barefoot shoe, but the increased flexibility, and reduced weights show a marked improvement on Reebok's previous line of shoes.

Reebok is marketing the shoe as adding an elevated heel as an improvement on true minimalist shoes, as this cushioned heel will make heel striking more comfortable. As a natural runner however, I am not as interested in comforting my heel strikes as I am in ensuring I don't heel strike in the first place. and, let's face it they did not improve upon a minimalist shoe by adding a heel, Reebok and Nike have both improved upon all their other shoes by making them flexible and lightweight.

Here is the Reebok Realflex promo video, if you are in marketing and enjoy running, after viewing this video I am confident a marketing position will be opening up soon at Reebok.


Notice the heel striking even in the promotional video.


A Brief History of Barefoot Running By Rodger Robinson, Running Times Magazine

Abebe Bikila wins gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, barefoot
A Brief History of Barefoot Running
Minimalist shoes and barefoot running has been a strategy of champions for decades
By Roger Robinson
First published in "Running Times."  Roger's books on running are available signed by the author from As featured in the April 2011 issue of Running Times Magazine  and at


Rome, Sept. 10, 1960: Starting line of the Olympic Marathon -- The three New Zealanders, Jeff Julian, Barry Magee and Ray Puckett, nervously await the starting gun. Standing next to them they notice an unknown African runner with a skeletal figure and no shoes. "Oh, well, that's one we can beat, anyway," Puckett says.

The African was Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia. His bare feet skimmed over the hot streets of Rome that night to give him the Olympic gold medal in a world-record 2:15:16.2. Magee was third. "It was amazing that Bikila was standing right next to us on the line," Magee told me late last year. Puckett's ill-fated remark has become urban legend. David Maraniss's book Rome 1960 wrongly attributes it to a member of the American team.

Bikila's gold medal in Rome is the most famous barefoot victory in modern running history, but far from the only one. Bare feet were not invented in 2009, and have been the footwear of choice for many top and other runners long before the current fashion.

Same for minimalist shoes. The idea that less weight on your feet helps you go faster is not rocket science, nor a deep secret preserved for centuries by lost tribes. Shoe companies' 2011 "minimalist" models follow a long line. In 1951 Shigeki Tanaka (Japan) won the Boston Marathon in tiny canvas sock-shoes with a separated big toe. In 1953, Roger Bannister's search for perfection and the 4-minute mile led him to a Wimbledon shoemaker called Sandy Law, who custom-made track spikes with uppers of soft, super-light kangaroo skin. I can vouch for it. In 1957, as a young Bannister fan at school in Wimbledon, I had Law make a pair for me. Problem: the long spikes and frail heel were a mistake for cross country.

In the 1960s, top British road runners wore imported Japanese Tiger Cubs, a featherweight improvement on our usual clunky tennis shoes. In 1967 a rival English shoe was marketed with the slogan "Run Barefoot on the Road." Some of us found a line of mass-produced and very light black sneakers that we mysteriously dubbed AA60s, since that was stamped on the rubber soles. I ran sub-50 minutes for 10 miles in those. Problem: blisters if the road was hot.

In 1973, in Auckland, New Zealand, the Laser Shoe Company, established by Arthur Lydiard's brother, Wally, developed the distinctive Toe-Peepers, with a cut-open front that cooled the foot and eliminated chafed toes--"a world first," says Magee. One problem: stones could sneak in. In 1985, Nike introduced the Sock Racer--bright yellow, no laces, no tongue, very light, felt great. Problem: it was so hard to get the darn things on that you were exhausted before a race.

Runners who think about their craft have always been willing to go minimal, as well as learn from people who live close to nature. So we have long been familiar with the Tarahumara Indians. Far from being a hidden unknown tribe, their prowess and their limitations as runners are well-known in the running world. Several of them have been trained and selected to represent Mexico, and their running rituals have been reliably recorded in at least one British mass-circulation newspaper, and American books such as Peter Nabokov's deeply informative Indian Running (1981), required reading for anyone claiming to understand Native American running culture.

Britain's Tim Johnston got to know a group of Tarahumara when he was living in Mexico in 1967 to prepare for the 1968 Olympic marathon. A Cambridge graduate and international lawyer, Johnston had placed second in bare feet in the 1967 International Cross-Country Championship.

"They were with the Mexican pre-Olympic squad, happy to have nothing to do but run all day, but they were very slow, just shuffling along in traditional huaraches. Kempka, their Polish coach, wanted to find some young enough to train into competitive marathoners. Farther south than Chihuahua, in the Chiapas, in the early morning you could encounter whole family groups of Mayan Indians, kids to grans, trotting heavily laden along the mountain trails on their way to market," Johnston recalled in 2010.

Runner-coach-scientist-author Bruce Tulloh, who won the European 5,000m championship barefoot on cinders in 1962, visited and studied the Tarahumara in 1971, and wrote fully about them in the magazine of Britain's Observer Sunday newspaper.

"Those I saw all ran in their huaraches. Their stamina was impressive. I was still in 14:00 shape for 5,000m, and one of their stars, Ramon, in his mid-40s, ran with me for 90 minutes and never took his hat off. I also ran with a younger runner, Madril, whose pulse after a brisk 50 minutes was 10 beats lower than mine (but of course I was not altitude-adjusted)," Tulloh told me.

Tulloh had been part of scientific research into barefoot running in 1961, conducted by Dr. Griffith Pugh, famous as the medical leader of the mountaineering team that conquered Everest in 1953. Later Pugh did seminal research into altitude training.

"Dr. Pugh had me run repetition miles, to compare the effect of bare feet, shoes, and shoes with added weight. He collected breath samples.

It showed a straight-line relationship between weight of shoes and oxygen cost. At sub-5:00 mile pace, the gain in efficiency with bare feet is 1 percent, which means a 100m advantage in a 10,000m. In actual racing, I found another advantage is that you can accelerate more quickly," Tulloh said.

Barefoot racing was so popular among elite runners in England that one photo of a major 6-mile race in 1967 shows the three leaders all shoeless on the black cinders--Tulloh, who won in 27:42.00, Johnston third, and Jim Hogan, who dropped out that day but was later Europe's marathon champion. Ron Hill, Ph.D., another scientist known for his minimalist racing apparel, ran barefoot when he took second in the International Cross-Country Championship in 1964, when he won the British 10-mile track championship in 1965, and when he placed seventh in the Mexico Olympic 10,000m in 1968. Hill even experimented racing barefoot on the road.

"In 1965 I won the Salford 7.5-miler in a course record, then won the Beverley Marathon, in 2:26:33, both barefoot," Hill surprisingly revealed. "I was going to run the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics barefoot, but the Germans laid new stone chippings on parts of the course."

You have to pick your surface and your day for racing barefoot. Hill and Johnston both erred by racing without spikes on a wet course at the 1965 International Cross-Country in Ostend.

"Drizzle turned to rain and I could get no grip. Feet work best on dry, sandy courses, where you just drift over the ground without having to think about 'driving.' And in a steeplechase, you don't have waterlogged shoes," Johnston said.

Hill reported that he had "no problems on the synthetic track at the Mexico Olympics," but one 3-mile race on cinders caused complications.

"Sharp pain in right heel after two laps, but I won in 13:34.8. Still in pain during 60 miles that week to and from work, then winning the north of England 6 miles, and 13 miles on Sunday. After that, using a darning needle, I dug a substantial pyramid of glass from the heel," Hill recalled.

The other world-famous barefoot champion was the sylph-like Zola Budd Pieterse of South Africa and Great Britain, who won the world cross country championships twice (1985, 1986), and (it is worth remembering) was the only runner without spiked shoes in the Mary Decker Slaney tangle in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic 3,000m. Speedy, lightweight taxis in South Africa are now called Zola Budds.

Fewer top Americans have favored barefoot running, probably because cross country was never central for them at an international level.

"Or too many broken beer bottles along the roadside," comments a skeptical Rich Benyo, editor of Marathon & Beyond.

Running author Hal Higdon first took to it out of necessity.

"In the mid-1960s I came down with the mother of all fungal problems, so bad my shoes were all infected. So I started running barefoot on the grass inside the University of Chicago track. It was enjoyable, and I found I could race successfully barefoot on the new 3M rubberized tracks, whereas on the old cinder tracks you needed tougher feet," Higdon reminisced. "My most notable barefoot race was a 5,000m at a major masters meet in London, England, in 1972, a 14:59.6 American record that lasted nearly a quarter century."

"Stanford University's cross country teams run a few miles barefoot every week, to improve flexibility," Higdon added. "A doctor with the team did some revealing research on the subject."

One legendary barefoot American was Charlie Robbins of Middletown, Conn.

"Doc Robbins was a true minimalist in the Thoreau way," says Amby Burfoot, editor at large with Runner's World. "A psychiatrist, he got stranger as he got older. Lived in a hovel, and usually raced barefoot, running the Manchester 5 miles a straight 50 times. When I interviewed him, he said something like 'barefoot over 50 degrees, socks if 40 to 50, boat shoes if under 40.' Those were the webby rafting shoes, a bit like the Nike Sock Racer."

The current craze for minimalist footwear has overlooked the other side of the equation, the benefits of training in heavy shoes. That was a well-established principle 400 years ago, when a play by John Webster speaks of "… cunning footmen that have worn shoes made of lead some 10 days 'fore a race to give them nimble and more active feet."

Multiple world record-holder Alf Shrubb of England sometimes trained in weighted shoes in the early 1900s. The iconic Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia) famously did some of his forest training in army boots. The UK's David Bedford used the same method on the way to breaking the world record for 10,000m in 1973. Friends still sometimes call him "Bootsy." Even the frail-looking Tulloh and Hill added power by carrying extra pounds on their feet in training. All were seeking the same gain as the racing footmen four centuries ago, building strength that makes your feet feel nimble when you put on lighter shoes for the race.

"I used to run in boots in winter, copying Zatopek, and found it good for leg strength," Tulloh said.

"I believed in the contrast between heavier shoes for training and ultralight shoes or barefoot for racing. I kept urging Puma to give me heavier trainers. In the end they told me the only way to get the shoes heavier would be to put iron in them," Hill told me.

Thinking achievers like Hill, Higdon, Johnston and Tulloh are worth listening to. Serious runners through history have experimented with footwear, and reliable research is available dating back to the 1960s. Informed writing like Nabokov's and Tulloh's deserves to be recognized. The Tarahumara slow-shuffle over rocky terrain is not necessarily a magic elixir for running faster marathons. Bare feet, minimalist shoes, and heavyweight trainers can all bring problems. The key, if you are considering change, is that in nature all adaptation is slow. Read real experts, and don't rush. Bandwagons are only good for bands.

And I like credit to be given where it is due, both in publications and in running. The first to race an Olympic marathon barefoot was not even Abebe Bikila in 1960, but Len Tau, a Tswana tribesman representing South Africa at St. Louis in 1904. He finished ninth.

Senior writer Roger Robinson's best barefoot time was 28:59 for 6 miles on a grass track in 1969.

First published in "Running Times."  Roger's books on running are available signed by the author from

"Heroes and Sparrows: a Celebration of Running", is about to be re-published, a "25th anniversary edition." That includes a sentence that has often been quoted, in a section on "Why I run": "I run for the feel of the textures of the earth under my feet."

Christopher McDougall Kicks Off Naked Tour

Christopher McDougall author of national best seller Born To Run, and perhaps the most significant player in bringing the benefits of barefoot running to the forefront of the running community, is kicking off his Naked Tour today in Boise Idaho. The Naked Tour is intended to raise  off a nationwide tour to promote barefoot running. Though the Naked Tour coincides with the paper back release of Born to Run, there will be lots of Naked events including Naked Runs, Naked Cabaret, and Naked Demos with some of the biggest name in the barefoot running community, including of course, Christopher McDougall himself.

To find out more about the Naked Tour in your area simply follow the links below.

Merrell Trail Glove Review

The Shoe to replace the Vibram Five Fingers

As a minimalist runner I must admit I have been awaiting the Merrell Trail Glove release for quite some time. Not being one to buy shoes without trying them on first, I went to REI the only retailer I could find that I was sure would be carrying the Trail Glove. Apparently size 10 is very popular in the bay area. I was there the day after the release and REI was sold out of size ten. So I tried on the 9 1/2 and the 10 1/2, after about 20 laps around the store and a 15 minutes in the buyers dilemma as to whether or not I should just settle for the 10 1/2, I eventually opted to return home and order size ten directly from This was a postponed my excitement for another week as I anxiously awaited the arrival of my shiny new Merrell Trail Gloves. This was ultimately the right decision, when I tried on the size ten they fit like a glove, pun intended.

I immediately began to compare the trail glove to the minimalist shoe checklist to ensure I had made the best decision.

  1. No raised heel
  2. Wide Toe Box
  3. Thin Flexible out sole
  4. No unnecessary support features
  5. Lightweight
  6. Stylish
  7. Affordable

No Raised Heel

The Merrell Trail Glove performs excellently in this area. It is truly a Zero-drop shoe. This means that the heal to toe differential is 0mm, as opposed to the traditional 12 mm offered by most traditional running shoes. this is number one because I feel this is the most important quality to look for in a minimalist shoe. Grade A+

Wide Toe box

I don't have an unusually wide foot, so this toe box was very generously sized. this is important as a wide toe box will allow the toes to naturally splay upon striking the ground. The toe box was easily as wide as my old school traditional running shoes, and much wider than most racing flats I have encountered on the market. Grade A+

Thin Flexible sole

According to Merrell the sole is made from 4 mm Vibram material. With the exception a 1mm forefoot plate to more evenly distribute weight, there is really nothing else separating the foot from the ground. In my opinion this is exactly the right amout of protection. Now that I have had the oportunity to try them out on some trails, the trail glove makes it easy to travel over sharp rocks and sticks and acorns and poop, protecting the foot without actually altering running stride. Grade A+

No unnecessary support features

Upon trying on the Merrel Trail Glove for the first time I did notice that they hug the arch of my foot. this concerned me at first, however, the material hugging the arch is quite flexible providing protection from debris more so than unnecessary arch support. The upper is cut well below the ankle allowing the ankle full range of motion with no interference. Grade A


The men's Merrell Trail Glove weighs in at about 6.2 ounces. this is about half the weight of my last pair of traditional trainers, but about twice the weight of my Huaraches. I have seen many shoes that are much more lightweight, however, while examining the shoe, I couldn't devise any ways of making the shoe lighter, while maintaining full functionality. Grade B+


Very, I have only had these shoe for a week and the complements keep coming in. I did of course buy the Amazon colored Trail Glove directly from the Merrell website, (a color not available at REI.) Grade A


At 110 dollars the Merrell Trail Glove is the second most expensive pair of shoes I have ever purchased. I must admit the price mad me quite hesitant, however, I have never not gotten my money worth out of a running shoe. I hope as more truely minimalist shoes become available the price will come down to a more reasonable price, still at $110 they are only $20 more than Vibram FiveFingers, and come in $50 less than Terra Plana Evo, and in my opinion the Merrell Trail Glove is a much better shoe than either of those brands. Grade B-

First Impressions

Upon receiving my Merrell Trail Gloves in the mail I canceled my 25 mile tempo run and opted for a hilly muddy 12 mile trail run, ( I never like to try to go to far in my first run in new shoes lest I end up 15 miles out and hobbling home covered in blisters.) Instantly these shoes where amazing, they truly had a barefoot feel. One thing that I instantly noticed is the traction. The traction of the Merrell trail glove is far better than any other minimalist shoe I have ever worn. Along with the shoe not sliding around on the muddy trails, even when wet, my foot didn't slide around in the shoe, a common problem with my huaraches.

These shoes are designed to be worn with no socks. This fact combined with all synthetic materials makes a shoe that does not hold water. In other words, no heavy shoes from running through a puddle.


The only drawback that I have found is that somewhere in the inside of the upper lining of the my left shoe there was a seam that rubbed on my big toe. I didn't notice this until about mile 6, but by mile 10 it was very evident that something was amiss. When I finally removed my shoe, the rubbing had worn through the skin leaving a small hole on the top of my foot.

My poor big toe after first twelve mile run

This is an easy fix with a little tape, of some scissors to give the offender a trim, however, I am in the class that believe you should not have to fix brand new $110 dollar shoes.


So far I only have 100 miles on these shoes, and so far they are holding together excellently, but before I declare these shoes durable they will need to see at least another 400 miles. I will try to follow up when they reach that point.


All in all this is the best shoe I have ever worn. It has all the features needed to make it a great minimalist shoe. But this greatness comes at a price, $110 if you want to put a price tag on it. The only problem is the rubbing on my left toe, I took care of this easily, but hopefully this is something that Merrell will take care of before releasing the Merrell Trail Glove 2.0. Hopefully this is the only thing the change on the Merrel Trail Glove 2.0, unless they can find a magical more light weight material.

Have you tried the Merrell Trail Glove? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

Have you reviewed another minimalist shoe and want it featured on Email me and be published.

Low Cost Minimalist Running Shoes: A Van's Review

Everything I look for in a minimalist shoe is just beneath my feet

Two years ago I bought a my first pair of Vans. I paid six dollars for them at a thrift store in Berkeley. At the time I had never even considered Vans as a viable choice for a running shoe. As a crew leader for the northwest youth corps I was to spend a few months camping and I was looking for a comfortable slip on slip off shoe to wear when not wearing OSHA required 7 inch leather work boots. The shoes survived 3 months in the back country with barely any blemishes. In those three months I fell in love, so I have been wearing my Van's pretty much everyday since then. Tonight, for the first time I decided to were my Van's during my speed workout with the Tamalpa Club. Two words, Amazing. Okay, so just one word. I was blown away by how comfortable it is to run in my Van's. Then during my second mile repeat I began to analyze them, and it turns out that my six dollar Van's have all the key features that one should look for in a Minimalist shoe.

No Raised Heel

The toe to heel differential is Zero, it doesn't get any better than that.

Thin flexible sole

The sole is only millimeters thick. I may not be able to pick up toothpicks with my toes while wearing these shoes, but I can certainly feel changes in the terrain beneath my feet. Granted, I have had my Van's for two years, and I bought them used, so they are quite broken in, but I have no doubt that a new pair is nearly as thin and flexible.

Wide toe-box

There is plenty of room up there, vans are obviously designed for comfort.

No unnecessary support features



Okay, they could be lighter, but they are no heavier than a traditional running shoe. I didn't weigh them, but I estimate about 11 ounces. The pair that I am reviewing is made from waterproofed leather. Not the lightest material, but it has withstood the test of time. That brings me to my next point, the thing i look for in any shoe, or any apparel I buy... durability.


These are typically my everyday shoes. this means that I have work them hiking, hooping, playing flag football, dancing and pretty much any other activity you can imagine me doing in my everyday life, but not until tonight did I wear them purely as a running shoe. This means in purely running miles these shoes only have 7 miles on them. However, I should remind you that these shoes have lasted at least two years of everyday wear and tear, including three months in the back country. We must also keep in mind that I bought the shoes used. The shoes are no longer Sunday shoes but by all in all they have held up very well. Having newly discovered their awesomeness as a low cost minimalist shoe, I will continue to run in them (at least until my Merell trail gloves arrive in the mail) and I will keep you updated as to how the feel after two or three hundred miles.

Final feeling on Van's as a minimalist running shoe... they are great. they probably won't be my primary pair but they make an amazing back up pair, and are perfect for anybody that is just beginning barefoot or minimalist running, or those looking for a low cost minimalist shoe.

I have a sneaky suspicion that converse all-stars are also great minimalist shoes, and I also know that there are lots of them out there, so if any of you have tried Converse all-stars as a running shoe, I would love to post your review on

Run Happy, Levi

Barefoot Running Training Technique Videos from Merrell

See the Training Videos released by Merrell to accompany the release of the Merrel Barefoot Trail Glove.  These video will not tell you all you need to know, but they should get you started so you can hit the ground running, so to say. Ground Work[youtube=]

Good Form[youtube=]



Merrell Trail Glove Release Sets Standard for Shoe Makers

With its February 1st 2011 release of its Merrell Trail Glove, Merrell has become the first major shoe brand to release a zero drop running shoe that looks like a running shoe. I applaud merrell for their bravery in actually following through with a true Zero-Drop barefoot running shoe, and I reward them by buying a pair today. I have been anticipating these shoe for months I am so excited they are finally here. Also check out the barefoot training section Merrell has added to their site. Barefoot Connection.

Read an in depth review of the Merrell Trail Glove from Jason Robillard Author of The Barefoot Running Book. Read the Full Review

Update: Our Merrel Trail Glove Review is now ready.

Why I Choose no Shoes

I first started running when I was in high school. I decided to join the track team because I had a crush on a girl that ran track. What can I say, girls that run track are hot. I only ran my senior year before getting recruited at the college level. All through out college I was plagued every season with injury after injury. Plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, tendinitis, my joints creaked and popped with every step. In those days I never considered form. I thought injury was just a natural part of running, and I was running 70 to 90 miles per week. Despite injury I managed to perform well enough to make it on the national team 4 times and eventually become All-American my senior year. It wasn't until after college that I began to discover the cause of my injuries. It was 2001 while I was attempting to run through a sever case of plantar fasciitis while training for my first full marathon. In college I always just went to the trainer and he would say "Well, ice it and stay off it for a while." This always managed to deal with the immediate problem, but it never confronted the cause.

With no trainer to turn to, and myself studying to become a personal trainer, I did the research on my own. come to find out I, like 75% of shod runners was a heel striker, (a common flaw in shod running populations.) Come to find out, landing on your heels with each stride creates an enormous impact with each stride, (estimated about 3x body weight.) The answer then is to decrease the impact. to decrease the impact I needed to change to a forefoot stride. The process I used to do this is simply running barefoot.

I don't know why I had never considered this before, after all this is how humans ran for about 6 million years. Come to find out, nearly all shod runners that transition to barefoot, not just myself, will naturally transition to a forefoot stride, because when barefoot it is uncomfortable to run on your heels.

Barefoot runners have also noticed it is uncomfortable to run on your heels. Shoe companies have noticed this also and have attempted to fix this by padding the heel. this did make it more comfortable, but it is not the appropriate solution. If it is uncomfortable to run on your heels, don't run on your heels. After I discovered this it just seemed like common sense. If it hurts every time you punch yourself in the face, is it better to put on a boxing glove, or simply to not punch yourself in the face. Perhaps not the best analogy, but I think you get the point.

Transitioning to barefoot was not easy. I started out just a mile at a time, and after each run my calves were sore like I had never used them before, (really I hadn't.) It took months to condition my calves to barefoot running, in the mean time I put in most my miles shod, but focusing on the fore foot strike.

After allowing my body to learn to run barefoot, I then transitioned into minimalist shoes. Running barefoot is an excellent training technique to find natural running form, but running barefoot does admittedly become uncomfortable after a certain number of miles dependent on the terrain. For this reason, I now do most of my running in minimalist running shoes, but on occasion will still run barefoot to ensure I am not altering my natural running form.