Dr. Mark’s brilliant Natural Running video

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running | Posted on 07-03-2012

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella is not only FAST (he won the US Air Force Marathon this year), he’s committed to understanding the facts of barefoot running (and minimalist, too).

As a physician, professor, and owner of Two Rivers Treads running shoe store, Mark is all about getting people running safely, enjoyably, and easily. Plus, he’s a really nice guy.

Mark just released an incredible video about “Natural Running.” His emphasis in the video is about running barefoot, but his point is that if you run with a natural gait, you may be fine in a minimialist running shoe, too.

Check out this video and let me know what you think.

One of my favorite parts is simply seeing mark run… FAST. There are so many critics who say “You never see barefoot runners who have any speed” (forgetting, of course, Abebe Bikila, Zola Budd, Ron Hill, and many other fast, barefoot Olympians).

I also like how Mark doesn’t emphasize exactly how your foot is supposed to hit the ground other than “don’t heel strike.” A number of us, including Mark and Pete Larson (of have been saying, “There will be individual differences in how you land on your foot — from flat-footed, to fore-foot — that will depend on your physiology and biomechanics as well as how fast you’re running and whether you’re running uphill, downhill, and even on the surface.”

That said, most new runners may want to focus on a forefoot strike at first, if for no other reason than many of us have lost our proprioceptive skills from years of wearing shoes and may think we’re mid- or fore-foot landing when we’re still heel striking. I’ve had more than my share of runners try to convince me that their heels never touched the ground, even when looking at video showing them clearly heel striking.

Thanks to Mark for this great addition to the world of barefoot and natural running.

4 Reasons NOT to Run Barefoot

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Barefoot Running Shoes, Huaraches, Training for Running | Posted on 29-12-2011

[This post is guest-authored by our friend Rob Raux from]

Being barefoot and running barefoot is a blissful and consciousness-expanding endeavor. The feedback supplied from the ground is powerful enough to force even experienced runners to try it for only a mile or so, if they make it that far. Barefoot running, however wonderful, should not be subscribed to dogmatically.

There are myriad resources available expounding on the benefits of being barefoot. Most of their reasons, methods, and warnings have merit. Unfortunately many of them sway to heavily towards the one-size-fits-all solution.

Experiencing life unshod isn’t always the best option. Putting on a pair of huaraches or other minimalist shoes can serve a number of beneficial purposes:

  1. Technical Trail Running.
    Many people worry that the rocks, twigs, and roots on a trail make barefoot trail running impossible. Not true. First, you use your eyes and avoid what worries you. Second, your feet aren’t rigid and can grab and grip and mold around many “obstacles.”

    That said, while there’s nothing better than feeling the grass beneath your feet, having your heel land on an embedded rock leaves something to be desired. To be more specific, it could leave behind a bruise that will take at least a week to heal.

    That doesn’t include the chance of damaging the fatty tissue which protects your heel bone from impacting the ground. If any of this sounds painful, trust me, it’s worse than you’re picturing.

    A trail has hazards which you may not wish to risk if you’re still an inexperienced barefooter. When a single false step means a week of no running, it’s just not worth it to be ideological about keeping yourself unshod.

  2. Additional mileage
    Your body may be able to take additional mileage, but the bottoms of your feet may not be ready to support it yet barefoot. Now, if you’re looking to become a better barefoot runner, this is good news — when your skin tells you to stop… STOP! Over time it’ll adapt (not callous) and you’ll be able to put in more miles.

    Until then, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your precious footsies, but only if you know your form is correct. If you are transitioning from shoes to barefoot and have yet to perfect the change from heel strike to mid foot strike or a forefoot strike, don’t ask for trouble by adding more miles in a minimalist shoe. You’ll find yourself injured promptly and thoroughly.

    If you are comfortable in your stride, you will find that your feet hit a natural point where further barefoot running may only lead to blisters (that usually means your form has broken down and you’re pulling/pushing the ground, instead of placing/lifting). In these cases, adding a protective covering will give you the opportunity to add those additional miles you crave.

  3. Racing
    A foot covering increases your margin for error while running. Proponents of barefoot running tout the pain feedback loop as a beneficial aspect. Any foot covering blocks the pain receptors, which allow you to cause more damage to your body.

    In a race, this can be a necessary evil. A reduced pain feedback loop allows you to run a longer duration of more intensity. The covering may also absorb some of the mistakes you may have made barefoot (stepping on that rock in your mental fatigue).

    There’s obviously a very fine line to be ridden here, and one that you can certainly go too far with. Go with the least amount of covering possible and you should be able to dampen and absorb just the minimal amount of error to improve your results.

    I’d love to say, “If you’re not comfortable running that distance, don’t race that distance.” But I know how some of us… I mean, YOU… can be ;-)

  4. The bitter cold
    Mother nature yields to no man. Don’t even think about getting the best of father winter.

    If you live in a climate that has a true winter, you know what frostbite feels like. Now try running barefoot.

    Amazingly, there are folks who do it, and enjoy it. And check out Steven shoveling snow in his huaraches. Frankly, I’ve tried it and even I think that’s crazy. Most people are going to need something to keep their feet protected from the elements (wind, snow, slush, etc.). Each person has a different tolerance, which will adapt as they get more comfortable with the colder weather.

    When dealing with the elements it’s best to be safer than pull up limp 3 miles from your house and walk the rest of the way home.

5 Common Stride Missteps

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Running Sandals | Posted on 08-09-2011

Let us guess, you ditched the cushioned clodhoppers only to find a new host of issues to deal with. Blisters on the bottom of your feet? Sore hips? Calves aching so much you can’t walk? Soak in some Epsom Salt and give yourself a break. No one said changing a lifetime of running habits overnight would be easy. No matter what shoe (or lack thereof) you wear, if you don’t change your stride, it won’t matter.  Not sure if you’re “doing it right?” Below are five common missteps to set your stride straight.

Misstep #1 Incorrect Stride Rate

When it comes to running, we get into a groove and find a familiar, comfortable place. We expect things to feel a certain way. Traditionally, runners trod along at roughly 120 steps per minute. With a forefoot or mid-foot stride, you need to speed up your stride rate and shorten your steps to roughly 180 steps per minute. Initially, it will feel very strange and awkward, and you may need to do some game time internal persuasion to stay consistent. Stick with it and you will be surprised how quickly you become accustomed to your new stride (and the pain-free knees that accompany). Remember, forefoot/mid-foot striding in a minimalist shoe requires stronger calves, Achilles, tendons, ligaments and bones – you will slow down initially, but as you strengthen so does your speed. Take your time and slowly work your mileage up.

Misstep # 2 Over-striding

Over-striding jars the body and puts unnecessary strain on your ankles, knees and back. Watch your feet closely as you run. Do your feet land under your center of mass where they should or in front of your body? The closer they are to you, the better. It is also common for runners to kick their legs out in front, then land lightly on the forefoot, rather than keeping a normal stride. Think of it as a modest can can dance in running form. Why add the extra stride and expend extra energy without the payoff?  Keep your stride short and land under your center of mass.

Misstep #3 Pushing/Pulling Your Stride

Are you taking off for a run only to find a nasty blister swelling on the ball of your foot afterwards? When you push off for your stride, or pull your foot back towards your body to complete your stride, you’re smearing your foot across the ground. All of that extra friction is sure to create an uncomfortable blister or two. Keep your stride light and eliminate the foot smear and you will quickly find your blisters long gone.

Misstep #4 Incorrect Placing and Lifting of the Feet

Are you jamming your foot to the ground and using a heavy stride? Going lighter and minimalist not only includes your shoe but your stride as well. When you run, imagine you are sneaking up on an elk in the woods or running on hot coals. Place your forefoot or mid-foot on the ground, then quickly lift it back up. The faster you move, the better.  Doing this will keep your stride light, fast, and put less strain on your body.

Misstep #5 Asymmetry

Have you experienced a blister or soreness on one foot, but not the other? Pain in only one shoulder? Stronger strain in the right Achilles but not the left? Your symmetry is off. This is easy to do but also easy to fix. If you consciously try to have your feet, legs and arms move symmetrically in the same way, you will find most of your problems cease immediately. This becomes more crucial at the end of the run when you are fatigued and your stride isn’t as precise, your arms aren’t as stiff. Strive to keep yourself strong and symmetrical to the last step.

Of course, there is the granddaddy of all missteps – the heel strike. We hope that no one is shedding their shoes only to pound their heels into the pavement (ouch!) Be sure to take on a forefoot or mid-foot stride and let your heel gently touch the ground as you roll through your step.

Have you done any of these? We know we have! If you’ve overcome any stride challenges, do share. Your experiences may help someone else out there.

Feel the World!