Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Year in Review

Well, 2012 is coming to a close, and since we've survived the Mayan apocalypse it looks like I should start preparing for another year after all. Running-wise, the year has had its ups and downs but overall it’s been a remarkably productive time full of adventures for me. I know you’re dying to hear the details, so here is my 2012 in review.

December 2011 (yes, I know that’s not 2012. Deal with it.)
I ran my first marathon (the Holualoa Tucson Marathon). This was a huge jump in distance for me since I had finished my first half marathon only six months earlier. It was also the first race I ran in huaraches (my homemade original Lunas).

January 2012
Emily and I went on a cruise to Hawaii (basically an extremely belated honeymoon). Oddly enough, it ended up being our first vacation to feature running as one of our main activities. We ran virtually every day, including the seven days at sea, and when we were on the islands we ran when we would have otherwise walked. What we found was that our runs were some of our favorite moments of the trip and that running is an extremely pleasant and efficient way to visit a place. Our next vacation is going to be entirely on foot, and we can’t wait.

We ran our first trail race, the Mesquite Canyon half marathon. After this race, all interest I ever had in running road races vanished. Honestly, I’m not sure how I ever put up with them—the hotel cost, the hassle of parking, the crowds, the monotonous urban scenery, waiting in line for 45 minutes for a porta potty, the people who think it’s okay to cut in line for the porta potty even though everyone else has been waiting in line for 45 minutes (Garrrghh!!!), and on and on.

Emily ran her first marathon (Rock n Roll San Diego), paced by her loving husband/pacer/Sherpa (I brought a lot of snacks). This was my second marathon and only the second time I had run farther than 22 miles. The experience was a mostly positive one, though it highlighted for me how much I preferred trail races (I had to consciously resist punching people in the porta potty line). On the plus side, I ran part of the race barefoot, which was another first for me.

It was also in June that I started this blog, which I’m sure was a significant event in the lives of many of you. It certainly didn't seem very significant to me at the time since I assumed that no one would ever read it. 

In July I ran the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. Now, this was an adventure. In fact, it's still my favorite running adventure I've had to date. 

Emily and I ran our first race on the Hopi reservation, a 10k in the ancient village of Oraibi. The experience made such an impact on me that I ended up writing a whole series of posts on Hopi races and running tradition

We returned to Hopi land for Paatuwaqatsi 50k, an absolutely unique race and my first ultra. 

September also marked the milestone of receiving my first pair of free shoes to review, which was pretty exciting for a shoe nerd with a limited budget. The unanticipated downside of my dawn of swag has been that ever since then I've had a backlog of gear that I haven't gotten around to reviewing yet. (Sorry guys; I'm working on it).

I ran my second 50k, Cave Creek Thriller.

I also had my first experience pacing and volunteering at Javelina Jundred, which inspired me to write this post on the Christ-like service common at ultras.

My attempt to run my first three ultras in three consecutive months resulted (predictably) in my first DNF at Pass Mountain 50k after I tweaked my Achilles tendon by adding speedwork on top of peak mileage. Not my brightest moment.

November wasn't all bad news though, since it saw the publication of my first book, a children's book about barefoot running that (in my biased but correct opinion) is the most adorable thing in the history of ever (though I should mention before the gods smite me for my hubris that the adorableness is mostly due to the fantastic illustrations which, unfortunately, were not done by me).

If that weren't enough, Emily and I also got the nutty idea of trying a fruitarian diet for a week, which (now a month later) has mushroomed into what is increasingly looking like a permanent lifestyle change. (Okay, I just realized I used not one but two food metaphors in that sentence and neither of them involved fruit. How's this: "We thought we'd be going bananas, but so far everything's been peachy"? Better?). I'm currently working on that post, and the results are surprising. Stay tuned.

December has been a good month so far. I bounced back from my injury and ran a PR at McDowell Mountain Frenzy (report for that is coming as well). It was my first 50k where I genuinely felt good at the end, instead of wishing for death to take me like I usually do.

Last but not least, Emily is finally making the switch to huaraches. She bought herself a pair of Luna Leadville ATS's for Christmas and had a blast breaking them in during our Christmas morning 10 miler in the desert. Hopefully soon I won't be the only nut running around in sandals at our races. 

Next Year
So that's 2012. What does 2013 hold for me? Based on how surprising this year has been, I have no idea, but here is what I'm planning/hoping for:
 - I will be attempting my first 50 miler at Coldwater Rumble on January 19. I'm a bit freaked out by the distance, but given how well my last 50k went I'm going to just close my eyes and jump. We'll see what happens.
 - Once I have a 50 miler under my belt, I want to attempt a Grand Canyon double crossing (rim-to-rim-to-rim), preferably in the spring. Ever since my single crossing I've been itching to try it. Hopefully this will be the year.
 - If everything goes well, I'd like to take a crack at Javelina Jundred next October. This is still a bit of a pipe dream at this point, and I'm certainly not signing up just yet, but a 100 miler is something I want to work toward in the coming year.
 - I also want to make the year as injury-free as possible. To that end, my two resolutions are to:
(1) Accept that high-intensity speedwork just gets me injured and focus on mileage and gradually increasing my easy run pace.
(2) Cross-train more. I've increased the amount I do a lot this year and it has really helped my running, especially strength training on my legs (air squats, etc.).


Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Book is Currently 32% Off!

My children's book about barefoot running, What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?, is currently 32% off at Amazon. ($8.80, down from $12.95). I don't know how long that price is going to last since it's a discount offered by Amazon, so if you've been thinking about getting a copy now is the time to do it. It's a great Christmas present for the barefoot runner--or skeptic, for that matter--of any age, so procrastinators I'm making things easy for you. Go buy some copies now!

"But what about sneakers, should I wear some of those
While I'm running around so I don't stub my toes?"

"No, silly bear--listen to me, please:
To go run around you don't need galoshes or skis.

"You just need some feet and some fur in the breeze
And some grass and some sunlight, and maybe some trees.

"For a bear's foot should be barefoot; it's really the best way
For a bear to run around on a honey-sunny day."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kigo Drive Review

I'm not sure how to categorize kigo footwear. The company refers to its products as "footwear for the barefoot lifestyle," so I guess I'll go with that. However you describe them, the shoes kigo make are a bit different from any other that I've tried. They're definitely blazing their own trail, and I like that.

kigo (the company doesn't capitalize its name) is obviously completely dedicated to two principles: the benefits of minimal footwear, and the importance of making as little environmental impact as possible (as their website puts it, "shoes that are good for the body and for the Earth"). To that first end, all kigo shoes are zero drop, thin, lightweight, flexible, and without toe spring. To the second, the shoes are constructed with as much recycled material as possible (the uppers are entirely made from recycled plastic jugs, for example), made with non-toxic glues and dyes, shipped with minimal packaging in a recycled box, and so on (and the list does go on and on--kigo's dedication to environmental consciousness seems to border on obsession).

But I mean that in a good way
The drive (again, all models are written in lowercase) is kigo's active model. It has a canvas-like water-repellent upper, quick-adjust elastic laces, and a 2mm sole. Total weight is around 4 ounces. There is also a 2mm removable insole. As with all kigo shoes, there is no toe spring. There are two colors available, grey and black. I got the grey.

Pictured: not the grey
The drive retails for $91. The price is apparently a result of the eco-friendly materials and construction, which is of course a lot more expensive. For comparison, VIVOBAREFOOT also uses environmentally conscious manufacturing and makes some of the most expensive minimalist shoes on the market. (On a side note, what is it with these companies and capitalization? Does a mixture of upper and lower case letters create some sort of toxic byproduct?)

Although not a cushy shoe, the drive is surprisingly comfortable, with or without socks. The shoe is designed to be able to be worn without the insole, and that's the way I use it. The stitching is flush so going sockless without the insole isn't a problem.

The appearance is something you'll probably either love or hate, and you don't need need me to tell you which group you fall into. However, one thing that may not be obvious from the pictures is that although the drive looks a bit like a water shoe, in person the fabric has a canvas-like look and feel.

For you ladies who don't like the look of the drive, kigo also makes two Mary Jane-style shoes. My wife Emily is not a fan of the drives but just ordered a pair of the flit in black to use as a semi-dress shoe.

The drive and the flit
One design characteristic that I'm not a huge fan of is that the sole, in addition to having no toe spring, is flat from side-to-side as well. This makes the shoe want to be completely level all the time, instead of following the movement of the foot. It's not the end of the world but I found it annoying, especially in a shoe that is meant to encourage natural foot movement.

Pancake flat sole
The sole doesn't bend from side to side very much at all. However, from front to back it is very flexible.

The drive works surprisingly well for running. The only problem I had was that the forefoot is just too narrow for me. It's not terribly narrow, and I didn't have any problem when walking in the shoe, but while running I couldn't splay my toes as much as they wanted. (My feet are probably an average width for a barefoot runner). According to the kigo website the upper should stretch over time, although I haven't noticed any difference after 25+ miles of running. 

I ran both with and without socks and never had any problems with rubbing, although I didn't do any long runs in the shoe. Groundfeel is very good, as you would expect with a 2mm sole. (I never ran with the insoles in since I wanted the extra room.) There is sufficient protection for running on gravel but you will feel every rock. Flexibility is good, at least front to back. I wish it were more flexible from side to side, but I don't think the lack of lateral flexibility affected my gait very much. All in all the drive felt fairly natural to run in. The elastic laces are sufficiently secure for road running and allow the shoe to be slipped on and off. Traction is good on wet or dry pavement. 

The kigo drive is a minimal shoe capable of doing a bit of everything. It will work for casual wear, walking, low mileage running, or for anytime you want a thin, zero drop shoe that doesn't mind getting wet or dirty. It's available on the kigo website. In addition, from now through December 21 you can get 50% off your order on the kigo website. You can find it here.


Shoe provided by the manufacturer


Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why Ultrarunning is the Most Christian Sport

This is surprisingly close to what an aid station at an ultra looks like
"What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind?" (Luke 7:24)
About a month ago Emily and I spent a weekend at the Javelina Jundred 100 mile ultra in Fountain Hills, AZ. We volunteered at an aid station from 3-11pm, hung out with some really great people until 2am, and then I paced a runner for her last 24 miles (we finished a little after 9am). I had run a couple of 50ks and was toying with the idea of running longer distances someday, so this weekend was meant to give me an idea of what a 100 mile race really looked like. What I saw made a huge impression on me, but not for the reasons I expected.

I expected feats of endurance and the human will among the runners, and I did see that. But what really made the biggest impression was seeing the non-runners--the volunteers, pacers, crew members, and friends and family--and the way they gathered around, supported, and loved the runners to the finish. I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus washing his disciples' feet, of the Good Samaritan, or of the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, I had two phrases running through my head the whole weekend: "Christ-like love", and "a servant's heart." Those two phrases sum up for me what is special about ultrarunning, and why I want to continue to be a part of it.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
Last week Jason Robillard, in the midst of what seems to be an extreme case of burnout, posted an article titled The Narcissism of Running. Shortly after Vanessa Runs posted a response titled Are Ultrarunners Narcissistic and Self-Centered? In Vanessa's post she lists numerous times in her experience when ultrarunners have taken the time to stop to help other runners who were lost or discouraged, or even non-runners who were broken down on the side of the road. I have to say this is consistent with my (limited) experience. Runners, especially ultrarunners, are usually eager to help and encourage each other, and very few--even among those who have a chance of winning--act as if a race were the zero sum game it theoretically is.

And this is exactly what a medical tent looks like
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
Reading that list, I'm struck by the fact that I saw every one of those qualities demonstrated at JJ100. Many of those qualities are needed to finish a hundred miles, and all of them are required to deal with someone who is in the process of attempting it. I saw volunteers cheerfully fill the bottles of runners who forgot to thank them, girlfriends changing their groaning boyfriends' disgusting socks, and elites keep glassy-eyed back-of-the-packers company at 4am. What I didn't see was slapping, yelling, or any enforcement of a no-thank-you-no-water policy.

Now, I hope to run a 100 miler some day and the main reason why I decided to volunteer and pace at JJ100 was to find out what to expect. In other words, my reasons for helping out were mostly selfish--although what I did was kind of miserable, I chose to do it because I was getting something out of it. This wasn't the case with the other people there. Most of the volunteers and all of the pacers I met were runners who had been around the block and knew exactly what the experience would look like. They weren't there to learn something; they were there to help.
"Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Pacing is pure service. It means tending to a runner's physical and emotional needs at a time of weakness, with no reward, no matter how badly you feel yourself, and no matter how badly they treat you (I was fortunate enough to have a runner who was always nice, but you hear stories). What's really remarkable about ultrarunning is that pacing isn't confined to a particular class who serve the elites (such as domestiques in bicycling, where some people will spend their whole careers as helpers for the big names, or baseball, where even the titles given to ballboys and batboys are demeaning). Instead, pacing is something the elites take pride in doing as much as anyone else. At Javelina Jundred, two of the big name runners were Hal Koerner (two-time winner of Western States, etc.) and Jenn Shelton (famous from Born to Run and for being an amazing runner and all around awesome person). And how do elites like Hal and Jenn spend their free time? Well, here's a picture of Hal at Western States this year:

More precisely, that would be Hal pacing Timothy Olson at Western States this year (the same year as Hal's win at Hardrock 100).

And Jenn?

That's Jenn at Western States in 2010, pacing Anton Krupicka.

In stark contrast with every other sport, ultrarunning elites at the height of their success will choose to put themselves in a subservient role, a role of providing service. This is part of the culture of service in ultrarunning that extends from the people setting the course records to the people barely finishing.
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
What all of this adds up to is a sport infused with love, generosity and selfless service, where service is emphasized and celebrated. Now, can you run ultras and be a rude, selfish, narcissistic person? Of course. My point is that the more you immerse yourself in the ultrarunning community--the more you run, and pace, and crew, and volunteer--the more you will be exposed to real, Christ-like love, and I figure it has to wear off eventually.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15) 
An ultra may seem to have no purpose, but ultimately what they end up being is a time for people--often strangers--to come together and practice treating each other the way that we should be treating each other every day.

Maybe it's all pointless, but at the very least it's good practice for how we should be behaving in our everyday lives. It's like how people say that you should behave the other six days the way you behave on Sunday. For the ultrarunning community, I'd say that's doubly true.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (II Timothy 4:7)


Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Luna Sandals Leadville ATS Review

After the success of Born to Run, it would have been natural to assume that there would be a surge of interest in running in huaraches. However, in contrast to the dramatic (and, to those of us who endured the phrase "gorilla feet" in 2009, surprising) rise in popularity of FiveFingers, huaraches have never become mainstream. Three years later, you see people wearing VFFs to the grocery store but huaraches are still mostly confined to purist (or maybe extremist) minimalist runners. I think this is largely due to what has always been the inherently do-it-yourself nature of the huarache. Kind of like flyfishing or playing bassoon, a sandal newbie had to essentially learn a new craft just to get to the point where he could try the activity. Even if you don't make the sole yourself, with traditional laces you're still in a way making your shoes from scratch every time you lace them. That, and the periodic need to retie the knot on the bottom, gives a traditional huarache a fluid, organic quality which I love but which is a huge barrier to the beginner. You can't just pull a pair out of a box and try them out.

Until now, that is. Huarache companies have finally reached the point where they are selling sandals that are ready out of the box, no assembly or special training required. And the monkeys at Luna Sandals, as they have always done, are leading the way once again. Their latest generation of sandals is now at a point where they are ready for the mainstream. And, I might add, they are fantastic to run in.

Ted learning how to make huaraches from the Tarahumara runner Manuel Luna.
(Note the banana.)
The Basics
Luna Sandals is a Seattle-based company founded by Barefoot Ted McDonald (of Born to Run fame) and Bookis and Scott Smuin. Luna currently offers two models: the Original Luna and the Leadville. The Leadville is Luna’s trail model and is the thickest sandal they make. The sole is made out of 10mm Vibram rubber and has a shallow tread pattern on the bottom. One of Luna’s newest innovations is the MGT footbed, which is a thin layer of sticky material glued to the top of the sole. MGT stands for Monkey Grip Technology and is designed to keep your foot from sliding across the surface of the sole, especially when wet.

Luna offers a variety of lacing options; the one I tried is the ATS (All Terrain Strapping) which is Luna’s latest slip-on style. It is made out of soft nylon webbing except for an elastic section behind the heel and a thinner piece of webbing between the toes. This piece of webbing connects to the sole by a countersunk plug so there's no knot under the foot. The strap adjusts via an easy to use plastic buckle. 

To help you figure out which size you need Luna helpfully provides outlines of each size that you can print and stand on. This is a pretty foolproof way of doing it and it worked well in my case. Just remember that it is normal for the side holes to be somewhat under your foot--this had me worried until I went back and checked my other sandals and discovered that they were the same. If you want a pair custom-made to the exact shape of your foot you can make a tracing, send it in, and the Luna monkeys will make a pair to fit your feet. The Leadville costs $95 with the ATS laces. The custom option is an extra $15.

Happy feet
These are very comfortable sandals, both when running and when used for casual wear. The ATS laces feel soft against the skin, the ribbon between the toes is barely noticeable, and the elastic heel section stretches as you move so it doesn't pull or rub against your heel. My feet were always happy when running even at the end of a 50k. In fact, after my last 50k I ended up keeping my Leadvilles on for several hours and wasn't dying to get into something else. Somehow I don’t think the same was true for all those people wearing Hokas.

I really like the look of the ATS laces. They don’t call attention to themselves (which wallflowers like me will appreciate) but they have a finished, well-made appearance.

Testing out my pair at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k
(I look suspicious because as a blogger I am constantly hounded by paparazzi)
To date I have somewhere over a hundred miles of road and trail running on my pair (including one trail 50k) and overall I have been very happy with the way they have performed. The 10mm sole (around 11mm with the footbed) is more than enough protection, even during my 50k which was on a trail full of sharp, pointy rocks. I’m planning to attempt my first 50 miler next month on similar trails and this is the sandal I’ll be wearing.

Wet terrain testing location
Traction is very good on both dry and wet surfaces. I did a very damp seven mile run in Oregon over the Thanksgiving weekend on a trail which went around and behind several waterfalls and the Vibram rubber gripped surprisingly well on wet trail and rock. The real problem with huaraches, though, is traction (or lack thereof) between your foot and the footbed. The MGT footbed is a huge improvement over the naked top but is still very slick when soaking wet. However, when dry or even damp, it grips the foot pretty well. So what happened when my feet got drenched was that for about 30 seconds afterward my feet were sliding all over the place, but once the excess water came off and the sandal became merely damp the footbed started gripping and my feet felt secure again.

Fortunately, "Merely damp" is the Oregon state motto
Overall the ATS laces perform very well. In dry environments they are sufficiently secure unless you are going to be doing a lot of climbing or scrambling. The weakness of the ATS system is that in the heel section the strong nylon webbing is replaced with elastic. This elastic is comfortable and keeps the strap from falling down in the back (one of my pet peeves) but makes the laces less secure. When running or (especially) walking up steep hills, the elastic can allow the foot to slide off the back of the sole. This was never a real problem for me, except when the sandals were soaking wet. The times when the sandals were soaking wet and I was attempting to walk up a steep hill, the sandals became almost unuseable and I had to walk up sideways just to stay on my feet. For someone like me who lives in a pretty dry environment, it’s a minor problem, but if you are going to be spending a lot of your time with wet feet I would strongly recommend getting traditional laces. 

My dream all-weather sandal would be the Leadville with the MGT footbed but with traditional 3/8" leather (or maybe nylon) laces with the countersunk ribbon from the ATS laces. You can currently get this exact setup except with hemp laces, so maybe I'll get my wish sometime soon. 

Another perk of the MGT footbed is that to some degree it seems to prevent blisters. Since my foot remains glued to the sole instead of sliding around there isn't as much friction. At least, that's the way it seems to me. I very well might be crazy, but after 31 miles of running at McDowell Mountain I didn't have a single blister or hot spot. So there. 

When it came to huaraches there were traditionally a number of things that people (including yours truly) often complained about. They included:
  • Huaraches are hard to tie
  • They make you look like a gladiator
  • Can be uncomfortable between the toes
  • They take specialized knowledge and/or skill to make/tie/maintain
  • You can't buy them pre-made
  • The knot under the toes is irritating
  • The knot under the toes tends to break
  • You feet tend to slip, especially when wet
  • You have to retie/adjust them each time you put them on
  • The heel strap falls down, especially on downhills
With their latest generation of sandals, Luna has addressed every one of these issues. The current Leadville ATS is a sandal that is straightforward enough for the novice, rugged enough for the ultrarunner, and comfortable enough for the beach bum. I have no plans to stop wearing my pair anytime soon. You can buy a pair for yourself here

Sandal provided by the manufacturer


Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My First Interview

In case you somehow missed all my blog posts (or Facebook posts, or tweets) lately, I recently published a children's book about barefoot running called What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? Chris over at Barefoot Beginner just finished up a giveaway of a copy of my book and in conjunction with that he did an impromptu interview of me over at the Barefoot Beginner Facebook group about what it's been like writing and publishing a children's book. He has since spruced the interview up a bit and posted it on his blog. Go check it out. (And while you're at it check out Chris' blog. He's a barefoot runner from the Lancastershire moors and has a different perspective from most American bloggers.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard

barefoot running book jason robillard review

Many of you reading this blog are probably familiar with Jason Robillard. He's the author of the blog Barefoot Running University, a frequent contributor on the Runner's World and Barefoot Runners Society forums under the name Last Place Jason, and all-around barefoot celebrity.

emma watson barefoot
Basically Emma Watson with a more feminine haircut 
When he hasn't been running, blogging, or answering questions from inquisitive runners online, Jason has spent a lot of time over the years teaching countless people the ins and outs of running barefoot. It was only logical, then, that he would eventually write a book on the subject. Jason first published The Barefoot Running Book in 2010. The first edition was little more than a pamphlet of 60-some odd pages, but the brand new third edition is 224 pages of wiggly-toed wisdom.

Given how much Jason has written online over the years, and how much of it is still available on the web for free, it's reasonable to ask why you should pay $15 for a book when you could just go to his blog or read his forum posts. Heck, given the ton of information to be found on all of the excellent blogs, websites and forums that have popped up in the last few years, it's fair to ask why you should buy anyone's book in the first place instead of just doing a Google search whenever you have a question. 
And to answer my question, yes of course there's a running-related Google Doodle
Well, the problem with the internet is that there's a bit too much advice and information out there, most of it terrible, and bad advice can get you injured (or at the very least severely confused). What Jason has done with this book is compile everything that he's learned from teaching runners over the years along with the information he's picked up from other people into one succinct, easy to read book. This saves you from the trouble and headache of wading through a veritable Fire Swamp of conflicting advice.
princess bride fire swamp internet troll forum
You especially have to watch out for the TOUS's (Trolls of Unusual Stupidity)
Jason's approach is very eclectic, borrowing freely from all sources while weeding out questionable dogma. For instance, while he recommends the Pose Method in general he has rejected the Pose Method's assertion that you should lift your feet high while running, even at low speeds. Instead, Jason gives the more common sense suggestion of merely lifting your feet high enough to clear the ground. As someone who was confused by that particular piece of bad advice as a new runner, I wish I'd had this book back in 2009. 

Although the book starts off with a bunch of testimonials to the benefits of barefoot running, Jason’s own section on why people should run barefoot is surprisingly short and moderately worded. He’s clearly trying to stick to statements that can be backed by the current scientific research, which hasn't been terribly conclusive as of yet. (The relative benefits of barefoot, minimalist, and heavily shod running are extremely difficult to measure in a clinical setting). This gives the book a certain amount of credibility and protects against accusations of being sensational or pseudo-scientific, but the flip side is that if you’re looking for a book to give to a disbelieving friend or relative this isn't the most persuasive one on the market. This is (and is meant to be) a straightforward how-to book, not an impassioned argument.

dragnet jack webb
Some people might prefer it that way
As a how-to book, The Barefoot Running Book will serve the reader well. It covers all of the basics while answering most of the questions that beginners invariably have, including the less obvious but frequently-wondered ones like “what’s wrong with starting out in FiveFingers” or “is it okay to heel-strike when walking?” Jason starts the beginner out walking and includes quite a few drills. If you are new to barefoot running and follow the advice in the book you should have a pleasant and safe transition and avoid the injuries and problems that some experience. 

The title is actually a bit of a misnomer, since the book covers much more than just transitioning out of your shoes. If bare feet weren't still so controversial, it could have just been titled something like "A Beginner's Guide to Running" (or, I suppose, "The Running Book"). The topics covered include diet, racing, training plans, cross-training, and ultrarunning. Some topics are covered in more detail than others, but most new (or old) runners will have most of the information they need in this one book. I thought the section on cross-training was particularly good. It includes a collection of suggested full body exercises (many of which I'd never heard of before) along with detailed pictures. 

So what did I not like about the book? For one thing, the organization can be a bit odd. To a large degree, the book is a loose collection of tips on various topics, some of which seem a bit out of place. For instance, the section "10 Barefoot Running Tips" at the end of the “Racing” chapter includes tips for running with a stroller and dealing with stores that require shoes. That being said, most of the tips in the book are excellent and if you read the entire book (which you should) you will get all the information, a slight case of ADD notwithstanding.

As I mentioned earlier, another thing I wish were different about the book is that it says relatively little about the benefits and history of barefoot and minimalist running. It seems strange that a book expansive enough to cover barefoot ultrarunning doesn’t spend more time explaining why you should be running barefoot in the first place. It mentions a little about the scientific research and includes a quote from Barefoot Ted about our prehistoric ancestors, but leaves out what--in my mind at least--is the most persuasive argument of all, which is the astounding history of barefoot and minimalist distance running in recorded history. (Ultra-distance running either barefoot or in what we would now call minimalist shoes was common in virtually every horseless civilization from ancient Greece to the early 20th-century Hopi).

Finally, I have to note Jason’s demeaning practice of using increasingly skimpily-clad brunettes as cover models. When you look at the different editions side by side it's clear what Jason's marketing strategy is. Here is the 1st edition:
2nd edition:
 3rd edition:
Argghgh! My eyes!!
Based on this trend I strongly encourage you to buy the book now, since I shudder to think what Jason will be wearing (if anything) on the cover of the 4th edition. You can find it on Amazon

Book provided by the author.


Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?