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My Thoughts on “Perfect” Running Form and Footwear

Footstrikes_Variation I’ve been reading with some amount of amusement the comments associated with Christopher McDougall’s latest article in the NY Times Magazine. On the one hand there are folks decrying the use of anecdote and asking to see the data showing that barefoot is better, as well as those horrified at the thought of running barefoot on concrete. On the other hand are the exuberant individuals ready to head out and start padding along on their forefeet tomorrow, many of whom will probably hurt themselves in the process by forcing change too quickly. As usual, the middle ground tends to get lost, and that middle ground tends to be where I find myself these days.

My general feeling is that there is no such thing as “perfect” running form, but rather that there is a “best” running form for each individual given the peculiarities of their own anatomy, physiology, and personal history (shoes, activity level, etc.). Unfortunately, I suspect that many individuals are in fact not running with the best form for them, and that this might indeed be the fault of the shoes on their feet. Watch slow motion video from any recreational race and you will soon realize just how common overstriding and heel mashing are. I’m not talking about all forms of heel striking here, but the extended leg, nearly locked knee, toes pointing to the sky at contact kind of gait. A runner can heel strike and do just fine – I truly believe this. But, I worry about the massive overstrider, and I think that overbuilt modern shoes make the overstride much more likely to occur.

Given my thoughts about form, I also don’t think there is a perfect shoe for all runners, nor do I think everyone should go barefoot. To be honest, I don’t even think science currently provides particularly good answers as to what any individual should wear or not wear on their feet. I think runner’s need not be afraid to experiment, and that they should take what they are told in most running stores with a grain of salt. Be wary of someone who gives you a selection of shoes based on your sitting or standing arch height, and don’t put too much stock in prescriptions based on degree of pronation observed on a treadmill (and even less on pronation observed when you walk across a store!). The pronation control model may be useful at the extremes or as a starting point for looking at shoes, but runner’s need not feel locked in for life if told that they “overpronate.” Overpronation “diagnoses” are subjective and will likely vary depending on who is looking at you – go to three stores, and you may be told three different things (and yes, I have heard of this happening). What’s more, there isn’t even strong evidence that overpronation is a huge risk factor for injury. Best to find an open-minded salesperson who can offer you practical advice based on experience running in lots of shoes. Tell them what you like in a shoe – firm or soft, wide or narrow, high heel or low heel, arch support or flat insole – they can narrow down choices for you based on far more than just pronation control.

In general, I do think that running shoes have been overbuilt for a long time, and that a return to simpler designs is a positive step. I do think that most runners should strive to find the least amount of shoe that they can handle. And I do think our current shoe fitting process is based on very little science and is pretty seriously flawed.

So, what’s a runner to do when it comes to form and shoes? If you’re running well and are injury free, it may be best to do nothing – just enjoy your well-oiled running life by maintaining the status quo. Don’t feel that you have to change just because someone said barefoot is better. However, if you’re having problems, don’t be afraid to experiment with shoes outside of your “pronation control category” (gasp!!!), or with a more drastic change to a more minimalist shoe. Or consider adding in some barefoot running and form work. If you’re careful and slow in your approach, and mindful of the language of your body, you’ll probably be just fine. There are risks involved with any change, but you may just find that an old problem disappears when you make a switch to your form or footwear.

The most important thing for any runner is simply to be able to run, and to be able to run for the reasons that are important to us as individuals (enjoyment, exercise, competition, etc.). Experiment, find what works, and stick with it. At the end of the day, the only “perfect” running form is the one that keeps you off the couch.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Alex Beecher says:

    That last paragraph is just about perfect. To be able to run at all is a gift, to do so “well” is even more so. I believe flatter, less gimmicked shoes will ultimately let more people do this. I’m certainly such a case. Were there never a minimalist running “movement”, I’d be spinning on an elliptical every day, bemoaning my flat feet and soar knees.

  2. Ken Skier says:


    I am a committed barefoot runner, because in just about any shoes (from heavy motion-control shoes to light racing flats) I got serious injuries…but when I run barefoot I run injury-free.

    But I am very pragmatic about this.  Barefootin’ is not a religion for me.

    When people ask me about barefoot running (as happens at just about every race I run), the first thing I say to them is, “If you are running now without injury, DON’T CHANGE A THING!!”   If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Tt would be a shame if people who are running without injury now, in whatever shoes they might happen to have, decide to try barefoot running.  They are lucky enough to have found something that works for them.  They should stick with it.

    But if a runner has had many injuries, then it makes sense to try various shoes…and even going shoeless.  I think of barefoot running as “low-impact running” because when you run barefoot (by which I mean truly shoeless–not in Vibrams or any other so-called “barefoot shoe”) you will naturally run in a very low-impact manner.  I believe that Low-impact means less danger to the knees, hips, back.  (Although I recognize that there is not yet any good scientific evidence to sustain this belief.)

    Bottom line: if you can find a way to run, be thankful.  And get out there and run!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Ken – your philosophy is spot on, and you don’t need a scientific paper to tell you what works for your own body. The fact that you can run injury free is the only evidence you need.


      • Great post, Pete!  One of the best I have read in a while.  

        I agree with Ken 100%.  I run barefoot and in huaraches or minimal shoes when necessary, but I certainly don’t think my way of running is right for everybody.  It just works for me.  
        I have a friend who started running a few years ago and, despite finishing several marathons and other races in his Nike Pegasus, seems to go from one injury to another.  He’s always in PT for something.  He knows I run barefoot, but always considered it kind of a fad (and me an odball).  The other day, I told him he should give barefooting a try to just see what happens.  I think is most recent ankle/knee/hip/etc pain finally caused a shift in his thinking and he decided he’ll try it.  Now I just have to make sure he doesn’t do too much too soon and get a whole new kind of running injury.

        If my friend didn’t have so many injuries, I would tell him to stick with the shoes he is in and keep on running. 

  3. Jake Krong says:

    Kudos for writing an article that mentions the middle ground, where most of us actually are!

    I totally agree… there is probably no universally best way to run… it takes knowledge of your own body, experimentation not only with shoes, but with training, and perhaps even more importantly – recovery methods!

  4. So what does an individual find out what his or her best form is?

    I’m fine with the idea of experimenting, but if I am experiencing injuries with traditional stability shoes and possibly less than ideal anatomy (flat feet), how do I know which direction to experiment in? Part of me wants to try going minimalist, but the conservative part of me wants to try Superfeet insoles and possibly custom orthotics!

    What really turns me off from minimalism is how some people seem to make a religion out of it. I associate it with the Paleo people, who are also very cult-like. But on the other hand it does seem to make logical sense to go barefoot/minimalist. But even if minimalism is ideal, maybe my feet are already wrecked from a lifetime of overly supportive shoes and it’s too late to go minimalist?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I may be a minimalist, and though I share a lot of paleo beliefs, I’m not much of a paleo myself. I believe we evolved to run, eat, etc. in a certain way, but also realize that the modern world requires us to be adaptable. If your injuries are to your knee or hip, trying a shorter stride could possibly help. If your problems are with your foot or Achilles, things get a bit more difficult. and there’s no need to go straight into a barefoot-style shoe. Trying something a bit lighter and flatter like a Saucony Kinvara/Mirage or Brooks Pure Flow/Cadence could be a good first step. Try that, try superfeet, be careful and see what feels best.

      • Thank you! I had been considering going to my LRS to try on a pair Kinvaras. Or maybe Nike Free Runs.

        The injuries are ITBS and posterior tibial tendonitis. Possibly I need to do more strength training and the shoes aren’t the main issue either way.  You’re probably right, I should experiment in a careful way. There is no silver bullet.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Both in the same leg? You may be a case where excessive pronation actually is a problem – flat feet with posterior tibial tendonitis makes me think the tibialis posterior is being asked to do too much to control pronation, and excessive pronation that leads to tibiial rotation can exacerbate ITBS. Could also be a problem up in the hips though. If going the less shoe route, you might want to start with a more moderate step down like the Mizuno Musha or Saucony Guide 5 – the Frees are not a great choice if you are rolling inward a lot. Seeing a PT or someone who can look at your gait might be worth considering as well to figure out where the cause of your problems originates. What are you running in now?

          • Yes, same leg, but the ITBS showed up first. I am working on hip strength using a routine I found on (well… I’m working at it off and on… I am unfortunately lazy and unmotivated at anything other than running, swimming and cycling).

            I have done some googling for PT but there are so many. How should I select a good one? I asked at the LRS and the guy gave me a card of someone who had come to give them a workshop but he had no personal experience with her.

            Currently I run in Brooks Adrenaline 10 (last month or two). Previously Asics GT-2150, and Brooks Adrenaline 10 again before that.

          • Pete Larson says:

            So regular problems in traditional stability shoes. Seems like trying something different might be worth a shot, but I would recommend seeing a PT. Word of mouth is best approach, and find one that works regularly with runners, and is preferably a runner themselves. If the LRS recommended one, I’d say that’s a good start. Where in Canada are you located?

          • Montreal. I have partial insurance coverage for this — should bite the bullet and do it.

          • Mark Kennedy says:

            these guys are in Quebec City I believe(… worth calling them to get a recommendation in Montreal. Pete went to a course with Blaise Dubois from the clinic.

          • Thank you. They have a link to other clinics (under “Specialized Clinics”) so I will pick one of those. Possibly Action Sport Physio Centre-Ville which is in a more convenient location, plus I remember one of their people from a talk I attended once.

          • Pete Larson says:

            I sent you an email with a few suggestions from Blaise Dubois, not sure if you got it.
            Sent from my iPad

          • No, sorry, I used a disposable email address… Can you please try again with this address?

          • Pete Larson says:

            I’ll email Blaise Dubois from QC and see if I can get a rec for you in Montreal.

          • Mark Kennedy says:

            Let me know what city you’re in and I might be able to recommend a good sports PT. I am in Toronto, but know a few great physios across the country. Cheers.

  5. Whotrustedus says:

    Yeah, I read a lot of those comments today and had the same reaction.     Whenever anyone asks me about my VFFs or if they see me running barefoot, my responses probably sound a bit cultish.    I’m just really excited about how good I feel.    My nephew heard my little story and went out and ran 2 miles on his toes the next day and then moaned to me about much his calves hurt.     And when I see folks running in big shoes and landing their their heel, i have the urge to stop them and try to “convert” them.    (I have not actually done this yet!)

    But I understand all of the reactions.   Many of us are looking for quick fixes and want to try whatever is new.   And many others are resistant to change and are rightfully skeptical of most anything new.  

    All I know is that I’m glad that McDougall wrote his book and glad that Vibram  sells FiveFingers and glad that other manufacturers have followed and glad that Chris & Mark & Pete & Jason & Damian & Lee and others are spreading the word.   My feet & my calves & my knees & my hips & my back all thank them! 

  6. kirstyhawkshaw says:

    Great article.  I agree that it’s a personal choice as to which running shoe to use. I have switched to the 5 fingers and they work much better for me, not just physically but I cannot believe how more connected I feel to my running and to the ground – but then i’ve been lucky in that they fit me well.  I have however seen some serious heel striking with the 5 fingers from fellow runners and it’s not my place to really tell them what to do but I have to admit I cringe a bit and want to say NOOOOO! However I know that it’s not my place to tell others what to do :)  I even wear my 5 fingers to social events now (got the glitter ones for club nights) I can’t ever see myself wearing a pair of heels again – they make me feel miserable when I wear them and like bambi on ice :)

  7. This is a great post, Pete. I agree, science does not currently provide enough evidence in either direction to reach anything conclusive. And I think you’re right…because people are so much different, the solution will likely be somewhere in the middle. I think we’ll find out that Beasts are no more evil than Vibrams, and going completely barefoot is no worse than orthotics, as long as it’s being used for the *right people.* And I think that people can be super efficient heel-striking, assuming they’re not grossly overstriding. I think we disagree on how to determine your own personal “perfect form,” but we’ve talked about that, so no need to rehash that all again. ;)

    I think the best thing to come out of the whole “barefoot movement” is the research. It’s definitely been eye-opening for me. Anyway, I appreciate more balanced views like this, even if you do lie on the opposite side of center from myself. Both the barefoot zealot blogs that say that everyone would be better served going barefoot and the Runners’ World guides that tell you to choose your shoes based on your arch type drive me insane.

    And as for Mr. McDougall, we “shoddies” have been doing barefoot form drills, including high knees, for years!  If he wanted to learn drills like that, he didn’t need to go see the Tarahumara…all he needed to do was drop in and visit an NCAA team! ;) 

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks Becki! Curious – how do you feel people should find their own personal perfect form? Speedwork? If so, I don’t disagree that that is a good approach.

      • Actually yes. Short, fast speed development (say 200-400m repeats at 1500m pace with full recovery) will force you to find an efficient form. It’s not all-out, but it’s fast enough that you’re almost forced to find an efficient stride. It forces a faster turnover, and it’s a lot harder to overstride when you’re running at that pace. You’re also forced to be efficient since you can’t really afford to be wasting wasting energy with inefficient movements. I don’t think volume is a bad idea either, since again, we’re talking about forcing yourself to become efficient enough to handle that kind of volume, and that kind of mileage will certainly help with strengthening. However, the thing you have to watch out for with volume is if your stride does have issues for some reason, lots of miles will exaggerate strength discrepancies, which, as you know, can cause all sorts of problems.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Track intervals were actually a big part of my form work last summer – made a big difference. That and running easy in Vibrams once or twice a week.

          • The problem with using speed work to improve form is that it rarely transfers over to easy/moderate running. This is why many runners end up running their “easy” days much too fast. They aren’t efficient at slower speeds because they haven’t trained themselves to be. So rather than work on form at slower speeds, they just ran faster and deal with the pain, injuries and burnout.

          • Pete Larson says:

            This is exactly why I feel that easy runs either barefoot or in a very minimal shoe is really helpful.

          • Pete, I’m in total agreement with you. I challenge the people who make comments like Becki’s comments above. Speed work will get you better at doing speed work. It has little to no effect on form while running easy. Again, this is why so many track runners can’t and or refuse to run at an easy pace. I know plenty of guys who aren’t comfortable running unless they are UNDER 7:00 minute pace. These are guys who’ve run in the 2:20s for a marathon, yet THEY CANNOT RUN AT AN 8 MINUTE PACE! And these are the same people mocking barefoot runners and saying working on technique is useless. I find it ridiculous that these runners can’t even go for an easy 8 minute pace run with a group of friends because it physically hurts them to run at 8 minute pace. Why? Because their form sucks at that speed, because they never worked on it.

            I think this advice from track runners to just do speed work and or high volume to improve form is outdated and unethical since there is no evidence that speed work or high volume improves form. If anything, those who do speed work have a higher chance of injury (as Pete has stated above). It’s a bunch of N=1 studies based on feelings that happened while under the influence of the cascade of chemicals being released during the track workout. Yet the track and field zeolots continute to tell runners to just run more and run faster to improve their form????

            So if we know that higher speeds increase risk of injury. And we know that people are interested in form because they want to run injury free, then why would we tell people to run faster to get better form to run injury free? Seems like the opposite of what makes sense and is logical – slow down and re-wire yourself to have good form.

    • If someone were only concerned with running fast, then yes, I would send them to an NCAA team. If someone cared at all about running injury free an NCAA team would be one of the last places to go. If someone cared at all about running into their 50s and 60s an NCAA team/coach would be the last place I’d send them. When I ran in college, most people thought injuries were inevitable…that they just randomly happen, you deal with it, don’t make any changes and keep pressing in. Thankfully we now have coaches and writers who are aware of just how insane it is for the average runner just trying to finish a 10K to copy what elite runners are doing. Elite runners are the last people someone should copy if they want to be healthy and running injury free.

      • Pete Larson says:

        When you make a decision that running fast and performance are a priority, you have to accept that level of injury risk will go up. Studies have shown that speed is more damaging when it comes to injuries like stress fractures than volume. High level runners are always on the knife’s edge with regard to injury risk, and though speedwork can be great for working on form, it may not be for everybody, just as barefoot running is not for everybody.

      • Of course there’s a higher incidence of injury among NCAA and elite athletes. These athletes are constantly on the edge, pushing their limits as far as they can go for the sake of performance. It’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll push it too far. They’re not “random,” but it’s also usually not the fault of shoes or form. It’s just doing more than your body can handle, or not giving yourself enough recovery time, and ignoring the early warning signs of injury.

        It’s all a matter of priorities. Obviously, getting faster and staying healthy are somewhere on everyone’s priority list. Getting faster is impossible if you’re hurt all the time, and everyone, even back of packers, loves a PR. However, you still have to choose what’s more important. I could run 50 slow miles per week and never get injured (and for my particular biomechanics and physiology, at that particular volume and intensity, I doubt that it would matter what shoes I did it in), but I’d also never improve. I’ll take the injuries if it means coming as close as possible to my speed potential. I did the running to be healthy rather than running to be fast right after college, and within months, I decided it just wasn’t for me. Other people make the opposite choice, and that’s fine. Different strokes.

        Really though, the comment about the NCAA teams was meant as a tongue in cheek remark about how that video is making it sound like McDougall found this lost drill that no one has done in years, when in actuality, high knees are a pretty common form drill.

  8. Pete,

    This is the best commentary you have written to date on the running
    ‘controversy’ (form and equipment, i.e. shoes).  You have stated very simply what many try to make difficult (that is the meaning of eloquence). 
    Needless to say, bad running form leads to injury and no shoe can compensate for that.  But simpler is better, less is more.
    What goes around comes around and we are now experiencing a return to simplicity (though many deny it).

    Barefoot is ideal, though not practical.  Shoes are a necessity, but cannot compensate for bad form.  The shoe industry has tried to accomodate everyone but has compounded the problem of just plain bad running form.
    Running may seem natural enough but like every sport, there is a right way and wrong way.  The right way reduces injury and does away with the need for ‘overbuilt’ shoes.  I have learned this from experience.  New AND experienced runners need to study and progress in their running form.

    Shoes will not correct poor form, but good form can run in even poor shoes. 

    Shoes are simply for protection not correction.  

    Keep up the good work Pete.  This is the most comprehensive and informative running site out there.

  9. I think it’s hard not to become a fanatic or cultist when you see dramatic improvements in your own experience.  It’s even harder when you have been plagued with injuries for a couple decades due to big shoe corps pushing a bunch of BS shoe tech based on marketing instead of science.  I can empathize with McDougall’s bitterness towards Nike because this is my experience too.

    I’m not a barefooter, but I do run in minimalist shoes with great success.  Neutral shoes with a heel wedge were disastrous for me in high school and college.  For a long while I thought stability shoes were the savior to my defective, over-pronating, flat feet.  Turns out the heel wedge was the culprit all along. 

    I didn’t even consciously try to change my form.  The lack of heel lift just fixed me almost immediately.  I know it’s not that magical for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a shot for someone still running in heel lifted shoes.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Each experience will be different I think. I ran fine in traditional shoes, and run fine now in more minimalist shoes. I seem to be one of those lucky runners who can run in just about anything, though my preference now is toward the minimal end of the spectrum.

  10. Marcus Forman says:

    There you go, being all moderate and intellectually honest.

    I feel pretty lucky too actually; I never had a problem before I started running minimally but I wasn’t really enjoying myself.  I actually give friends who ask two reasons for switching 1) something hurts and running shouldn’t hurt and 2) they are bored and need a little change in routine.

    I fell into category 2 and my life hasn’t been the same since.

    • Pete Larson says:

      For me it was just that the logic and science behind it made sense to me, and I couldn’t resist trying it. Glad that I did.
      Sent from my iPad

  11. Paul Joyce says:

    Pete, it is articles like this that make this my favourite running blog. While the whole barefoot/minimalist discussion has a tendency to become a tad religious I sense that the discussion is becoming more moderate and rational. 

    I do all my running in zero drop shoes and am enjoying my running more than ever but believe that shoes are only part of the equation. The most important thing is good running form (in its various guises). Then find a shoe (or barefoot) that supports or encourages that form. While I find it difficult to run well in shoes with even the smallest heel I know plenty of people who run perfectly well in big-heeled cushioned shoes. 

    Keep up the good work, Paul.

  12. George Lin says:

    I really couldn’t have said it any better.  And count me as another who loves this blog because it’s not fanatical about barefoot/minimalist running.  

    I myself have transitioned to more minimal shoes, but not quite zero drop yet.  More importantly, I feel my form has improved, and, that’s really good enough for me and I think it’s the most important part anyways.  To me the whole minimalist debate may never get settled, because you can always come out with 2 studies that have contradictory restults.Great article Pete!!

  13. Stephen Hancock says:


    I thoroughly enjoy your site, I started running for training last year and have had a nagging injury, I’ve see Sports Medicine Doctors, RMT’s, Sporth Chriopractors and the professionals at high end running stores. They all tend to agree that I supinate and that no shoes will help. Any idea’s if they are right or can you point a supinator to the right place?


    • Pete Larson says:

      What’s the injury? Have you had your gait filmed?

      • Stephen Hancock says:

        Its pain only on the inside of my left shin, post tib, or so I have been told. I have been filmed on a treadmill and on the ground. Nothing ‘abnormal’ was seen although one chiropractor saw a bit of ankle instability (live, no film). I did have a minor knee scope 7yrs ago on that leg and have always had weak ankles. I have started reading ‘Born to Run’ and am wondering if a complete reboot of running form with a “Nike Free” type shoe is worth a try. It seems I’ve tried everything else, it just seems that supination is very rare and not a lot of research seems available to the average (or below average) runner.

        Thanks for your time,

        • Pete Larson says:

          Posterior tibial tendonitis or shin splints? I always get a bit wary when people claim that they are diagnosed as supinators as we all supinate prior to contact. How much is too much is the more important question. If what you are doing now has not been working, trying something different makes sense, but you just want to be sure that any change does not make the problem even worse.

        • Jeremiah M. Wean says:

          Stephen, I have a similar pain/problem.  I seem to notice it and it works it self out with new shoes.  Something about when the shoes break down seems to cause pain in the left lower inside shin.  I’d say I 
          supinate as well, since I had to wear special shoes as an infant to try to correct.  Still my natural walking gait has me walking towards the outsides of my feet. I seem to have to spend more time streching calves as well.  Good luck.

  14. Steve Running to Lose Weight says:

    I am a beginner but have noticed that I am much more comfortable and feel lighter on runs when I run in my bog standard berghaus lightweight trainers. As soon as I put my asic’s my run feels more clunky.

    But am I better sticking to my asics with their better support as a beginner to avoid injury? or should I keep going in flatter more minimal shoes?


  15. Hadleyster says:

    Pete –
    Just happened onto your blog. Good stuff.

    I wonder though: Where’s the data that any of this (different form, different shoes) makes a difference in terms of injuries? The anecdote to controlled study ratio seems to be very high in this debate about shoe type/form. Not that anecdotes are a bad thing but it seems at some point a few good studies need to get done to clear things up, and these have to be large enough to deal with the variability that is bound to exist (which seems to get lost in all of these articles about the evolution of running — evolution thrives on variation!)

    Anyways, If you have some a good citation or two that provides good evidence that shoe type and form matter, I’d appreciate the info.

    Many thanks – interesting blog,

  16. Angiebeehotz says:

    My husband is a soft landing heel striking barefoot runner. He is slowly but surely switching to a forefoot landing but he just glides along and has improved tremendously in his distance, stamina, and speed, and all with a heel first landinand barefoot no less.

    Having taken Lees Vivobarefoot coaching course and having a spouse that runs completely contradictory and successfully to the touted barefoot truths made me really evaluate what is “right” and “wrong”……there is only the gray area. Terrain, body type, experience, compensations for weakness, ect make the variables endless.

  17. An effective training plan focuses on both skill and
    energy.  Skill comes from proper form and
    efficiency training. Energy development comes from balancing out speed,
    strength, stamina, and threshold workouts. 
    For readers who want to know more about how better form can
    help improve their running, this video series will help you.
    Form Video Series>>>>   http://www.TransFORM-Your-Runn
    Coach Ken at 5 Speed Running

  18. Brian Martin says:

    Great post Pete. But people won’t take you seriously if you keep up with this rational line of thinking :-) You were right about the drill also, very much just a bouncy high knees drill. Don’t think it’s been lost for 100 years.

  19. Sorry kind of off topic but just wondering when the full review of the brooks pureflow is coming out?

  20. Curb Ivanic says:

    Great post Pete. I share your POV completely. I think the barefoot/minimalist approach has gotten the message to the average runner that form does matter. But I think the pendulum has now begun to swing too much in the other direction and form is being presented as the only factor that matters. We all have our own particular musculoskeletal limits. Exceed those, even if running with “perfect” form, and you will get injured. Your advice to experiment cautiously and to listen to one’s body is something every runner should take to heart.

  21. Adam Klein says:

    I like your blog Pete, and I like the fact, that finally, after all these experiments :) you came to a long time ago proven conclusion that human body behaves optimal from the point of view of the brain trying to minimise the risk, so we run the way we are ready to.

  22. Felix Frank says:

    Listening to your body is the best way to know what works best for you.  What’s perfect for me and my running routine is not the same as what is best for the next person.  If I get too caught up in obtaining the latest and greatest I lose focus on what really counts – a good run. 

  23. Sustainableglory4 says:

    Thank you for this article and info. I will put it to good use.

  24. good article I cant wait go get back to running like blog lots of good info, mobility key for me right  i am rehabilitating ankle injury ~  keep up the good work


  25. Ben Sargent says:

    That was great! thanks!

  26. Check out my video to see how Nike Customer Service responds to customer complaints:

  27. Excellent article, Pete. Your blog is my favorite out of all the running blogs out there and keep up the great work!

  28. Walk Thin says:

    I’m firm believer that the foot (and everything above it) is a pretty well designed mechanism.   Sometimes the best thing we can do is keep it simple.

    To me, this happens to mean wearing something that offers protection from rocks, debris, etc. while still allowing my body to work as designed. However, to each his own.

    Great article, btw.

  29. yes…to be able to run is a gift..not everyne have that gift=)

  30. Spitzley says:

    Ok, my first attempt at a comment…let’s hope this goes well.


    Here’s my story…

    In the late 1980’s as a high school distance runner I was
    experiencing various types of leg pain. 
    I went to see a podiatrist who informed me that I had collapsed arches
    and that I should wear orthotics and quit running.  When I informed my coach, he recommended I
    get a second opinion from a guy he knew that had treated a number of other
    runners.  This guy (Dr. Boven) talked to
    me about running form and even had me run barefoot in his parking lot.  He talked to me about landing on my forefoot,
    focusing on the balls of my feet and not letting my heel touch the ground
    (theoretically).  Dr. Boven gave me a
    series of exercises to work on.  No one
    ever mentioned “barefoot”, “minimalist” or any other specific name I can
    recall, but it really worked.  I never
    changed my shoes, but I got faster (~15:30 5k) and ran for years pain free.


    Fast forward a bit to somewhere in my mid-twenties and life
    has gotten the better of fitness and running time gives way to job searching, house
    searching, family time, etc.  Finally, in
    my mid-thirties after more than 10 years off from running, I decided that it
    was time to get back to an activity that I enjoyed (and loose the more than 40
    pounds I gained in the meantime).  It’s
    frustrating at first because I can’t run like I used to, but I gradually work
    up to 3-5 miles per run over several months trying to keep the same form I had
    as a teen and twenty something.  One day while
    out for a run it feels like my calf has instantly turned to a painful form of
    concrete.  I foolishly try to let it rest
    a day or two and then run on it again – more pain.  After several more attempts at my foolhardy
    approach to recovery (which likely worsened the injury), I went to see a
    physical therapist who helped me work through a proper recovery.  During a subsequent recovery when the injury reoccurred
    a few months later, I had something of an epiphany – this running form that had
    been so effective when I was young was forcing my calves to compensate for what
    my feet were not doing.  I thought better
    running shoes would do more of the work and let my calves get a break.  Enter stability shoes and a decreased
    emphasis on forefoot running (which despite years of training, never felt
    natural to me).


    It has been more than two years of running with a less
    forefoot style (not over striding, but not the extreme of a barefoot style
    either) and very expensive stability shoes and I’m not sure what to think.  I’ve had minor re-occurrences of my calf
    strain (I know how to manage these much better now) and I now run with calf
    sleeves.  I’ve also been reading a lot
    more lately (including this blog – it’s excellent) about running form and the
    potential for reducing calf injuries.  I’m
    starting to wonder if none of this makes any difference and I should just
    expect to keep dealing with injury every six months or so.


    The bottom line is how do I know what form is “perfect” (or
    as good as it gets) for me?

    • I also find that running with tight knee-length socks helps! It compresses my calves more and I swear I have no pain after running like I do when I don’t wear them!

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