For tips on how to make 2014 a better running year, let’s turn to my friend Danny Dreyer, the founder of Chi Running. Running shoes have gone from thick to thin to thick and to everything in between since 2006, several years after Danny first started writing and teaching that the keys to healthy, enjoyable running were skill, form, pace, and a mindfulness to one’s physical activity.
Thank you, Danny, for sharing with NRC readers your valuable wisdom on what all runners should focus on this year. — Dr. Mark
Be a Minimalist Walker or Runner, Regardless of the Shoes You Wear
by Danny Dreyer
We’ve all been hearing about minimalist shoes; they’re thin and flat, and bear little resemblance to the over-built shoes that have plagued walkers and runners for the past 40 years. We’ve been seeing these new minimalist shoes entering the market in increasing numbers because research is starting to show that “more of a shoe” doesn’t necessarily make a better shoe. In the case of shoes, less might be better. In fact, my definition of a good running or walking shoe goes something like this: It’s the least amount of shoe you can safely walk or run in, given your current biomechanics, and your longest current distance.
At this point the minimalist shoe pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the middle because of all injuries people have incurred. People are getting injured for two reasons: 1.) Using minimalist shoes without practicing good technique; and 2.) not allowing enough time to transition into their new “nothing” shoes. That puts us all right back into the middle of even more marketing from the shoe companies selling us an even larger spectrum of shoe styles.
But, what gets lost on most people is that it is not about the shoe! It’s about how you run and how you walk.
I’d like you to take a minute, from a minimalist point of view, and look to see if your technique is as “over-built” as most shoes are.
A. How do you run or walk more efficiently without losing any of your current speed?
B. How can you gain speed without working as hard as you do now?
C. How could you accomplish more (speed, mileage, weight loss, relaxation, enjoyment, medals, PR’s) by doing less?
How much extra effort are you exerting now that could be reduced if you spent time practicing good technique? And, watching and listening to your body? What if you held less tension in your body? What if you weren’t toeing off, over-striding or running or walking too upright? What if your breath was deeper and more relaxed and your heart wasn’t pounding so hard? What if you could minimize all the misaligned movement and over-exertion that leaves you wiped out at the end of your workout or injured at the end of the week? Ask yourself what that would feel like?
When people ask me, “What do you feel when you’re Chi Running or Chi Walking?” I tell them, “Well, it’s not so much what I feel, as what I don’t feel”. I don’t feel pain, discomfort, impact, strain, soreness, tension, or any of the other “downside” attributes that are often associated with running and which should be associated with poor walking technique. What I do feel is freedom in my movement, lightness in my step, expansion in my chest, and the warm sense of abundant chi flowing through my body.
When we can learn to deeply body sense, and rid ourselves of unnecessary effort by learning and practicing good technique, we become truly minimalist runners and walkers, regardless of the shoes we’re wearing.
Danny Dreyer’s essay originally appeared here.