Running naturally

There has been a lot of controversy over the last few years about what shoes are best for runners. There is more and more evidence why running naturally is the best choice .

These are just my own insights from a lot of trial and error over twenty-five years or so of endurance running and Ironman Triathlons.

Everyone seems to have a theory these days about what the best choices are for foot-wear for runners.


There are people out there who would not be caught dead paying less than $125 for a pair of running shoes–at a minimum. You can easily spend closer to $200 for a pair of name brand running shoes these days.

The conventional wisdom is that if a running shoe costs that much, they must really be great for your feet and will no doubt get you to the finish line faster.

However, it is looking more and more like the fancy built-up shoes of today are actually harmful and perhaps all they are really doing is making you look good.

About seven years ago I wrote a page for my Ironstruck website where I said that it made more sense to buy cheap running shoes with little support rather than paying out top dollar for shoes that may be doing more harm than good.

natural running

Many runners are heel-strikers.

I got a lot of flack over that at the time.

Everyone seems to think Born To Run is a great book and almost an entire chapter is dedicated to the benefits of running in cheap shoes with little or no support.

Hey! That sounds familiar.


When you think about it, when you encase your foot in all that protection that is supposed to make you a better runner, you are not running the way you were meant to run.

For eons mankind did just fine with little or no footwear. It was the natural order of things that when their foot hit the ground it was able to flex and absorb the impact and at the same time balance the body with each stride.

Runners for the most part have become heel-strikers because it is virtually unavoidable when you are wearing a shoe that has built-in heel support.

A good way to experience what it is like to run the way we were meant to run is to run in bare feet.

Right away there is a dramatic difference. Try it on a sandy beach sometime. Take off those shoes and run bare-foot. The first thing you most likely notice is how great it feels.

What you will also discover is that you are not heel-striking. You are actually landing more forward on the ball of your foot and your toes……the natural way to run.


One of the most devastating running injuries is plantar fasciitis. Not only can it mean the end to your season, it can also become chronic and hamper you for years to come.

This never used to be a big problem before the advent of the ultra-support running shoes.

Something has to give if your feet are constricted and not allowed to react the way they were meant to when they hit the ground.

It could be a knee injury, shin-splints, or fasciitis, and most likely a better choice of running shoe would eliminate many of these injuries.

I lost almost an entire season to plantar fasciitis. I had to drop out about 3 miles into a marathon and even with a cortisone shot in my heel had to drop out of Ironman Canada just 10k into the marathon.

natural running

Notice how in this minimalist five-finger running shoe that there is virtually no heel build-up. Also, the finger technology allows feet to flex more naturally on impact.

I am almost certain it was caused by the running shoes I was wearing at the time.

I had my best Ironman marathons when I found a pair of racing flats that had little or no support and were light as a feather. I put them in the closet every year and would bring them out on race-day.


I will use Born To Run as an example again.

It claimed that over and over again the top Ultra-runners in the world had much more success and far fewer injuries when they chose minimalist foot-wear for their training and racing.

The closer they got to wearing nothing on their feet, the more natural they ran and the better it felt and the more successful they were.

The book went on in great detail about how some of the biggest shoe giants in the world woke up and smelled the coffee and began to manufacture running shoes with the less is better philosophy.

Abede Bikila-why running naturally is best

Abede did just fine running naturally, but it was unacceptable to the running world and they stuck shoes on his feet.

Talk about an about-face, but it’s all about the money and they have no choice but to go with the flow or be left in the dust by others who can see how the minimalist philosophy is being bought into by many runners around the world.

Perhaps more attention should have been given to Ethiopian Abebe Bikila when he won the 1960 Rome Olympic Marathon in bare feet. Instead, a major shoe company did everything they could to put constricting shoes on his feet.

Although bare feet might be a bit difficult in this day in age with nails, glass, and God knows what covering the ground it seems that going to a lighter, less built-up running shoe would go a long way to helping people avoid injury and run naturally as they were meant to like the fleet-footed, bare-foot caveman ran down the mighty mastodons.

Somehow it is hard to imagine them dashing through the Savanna wearing bright-colored runners with a swoosh on them.

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