Hunter Gatherer

Brimming with ideas and a fascinating read. STEVEN PINKER, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Buy Now

BOOKD: Born to Run

BOOKD is a cool new web show — sort of a curated and condensed book club. Here’s their first feature, Born to Run, featuring Dan Lieberman, Chris McDougall, and yours truly. It’s well done.

Dwyane Wade runs barefoot

From a WSJ profile of Dwayne Wade’s fitness regimen:

Mr. Wade also started running on the beach this summer. “Running on the sand strengthens your quads and calf muscles,” he says. He adds that he used to avoid running because it gave him shin splints, but running barefoot in the sand has helped him avoid that.

His diet appears to avoid some industrial foods, but seems to adhere to low-fat diet dogma.

Mr. Wade says he always avoided vegetables until he turned 30. “I hated all of them,” he says. But “I knew it would help me in the long run both mentally and physically” to start eating them. His solution was to have his personal chef turn them into juice.

He now starts the day with a juice that might include celery, carrots and beets. His chef sticks to healthy, low-fat, high-protein meals that often include grilled chicken and rice. He doesn’t splurge often, but when he does he has a burger, fries and a Coke. “That is heaven to me. I have a favorite burger spot in nearly every city. Sometimes I might even order two.”

Full article here, including the addition of yoga and pilates to his workout regimen.

Dogs don’t need running shoes

Sketchers is, hands down, the stupidest shoe company in the world.  A dog in running shoes should make us question why we need running shoes in the first place, not make us buy more of them.  If you see someone wearing a pair of Sketchers running shoes or shape-ups, feel free to make fun of them.

Sh*t barefoot runners say


Thanks to Jon for the link.

More evidence on benefits of barefoot running

Dan Lieberman recently published two new papers on running.  Here’s a good Wired article summarizing the findings.  I should note that these papers aren’t about barefoot running so much as forefoot and rearfoot striking, plus minimalist footwear in the first paper.

I was a data point in the first study, Effects of Footwear and Strike Type on Running Economy.  It was fun.  They hooked me up to a breathing tube to measure my oxygen usage, which took a little getting used to.  I had to run with a forefoot strike in VFFs as well as conventional sneakers, and then do the same with a rear-foot strike.  Let me tell you, it’s seriously unpleasant to run with a rearfoot strike in minimal shoes.

Here are the results and conslusions:

RESULTS: After controlling for stride frequency and shoe mass, runners were 2.41% more economical in the minimal shoe condition when forefoot striking and 3.32% more economical in the minimal shoe condition when rearfoot striking (p<0.05). In contrast, forefoot and rearfoot striking did not differ significantly in cost for either minimal or standard shoe running. Arch strain was not measured in shoes condition but was significantly greater during forefoot than rearfoot striking when barefoot. Plantarflexor force output was significantly higher in forefoot than rearfoot striking, and in barefoot than shod running. Achilles tendon-triceps surae strain and knee flexion were also lower in barefoot than standard shoe running.

CONCLUSIONS: Minimally shod runners are modestly but significantly more economical than traditionally shod runners regardless of strike type, after controlling for shoe mass and stride frequency. The likely cause of this difference is more elastic energy storage and release in the lower extremity during minimal shoe running.”

The second study is even more compelling: Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study.  Lieberman has been collecting data on the Harvard cross country team for years.

RESULTS: Of the 52 runners studied, 36 (59%) primarily used a rearfoot strike and 16 (31%) primarily used a forefoot strike. Approximately 74% of runners experienced a moderate or severe injury each year, but those who habitually rearfoot strike had approximately twice the rate of repetitive stress injuries than individuals who habitually forefoot strike. Traumatic injury rates were not significantly different between the two groups. A generalized linear model showed that strike type, sex, race distance, and average miles per week each correlate significantly (p<0.01) with repetitive injury rates.

CONCLUSIONS: Competitive cross country runners on a college team incur high injury rates, but runners who habitually rearfoot strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who mostly forefoot strike. This study does not test the causal bases for this general difference. One hypothesis, which requires further research, is that the absence of a marked impact peak in the ground reaction force during a forefoot strike compared to a rearfoot strike may contribute to lower rates of injuries in habitual forefoot strikers.

2X difference in injury rates?  That’s HUGE.  It’s only a matter of time until all collegiate cross country programs teach their athletes how to run properly, with a forefoot strike.

The 100-Up Technique (video)

Here’s a demonstration of the 100-Up Technique that Chris McDougall writes about in his Times Mag piece.  It’s supposed to help develop good running form, using a light heel-strike. Gonna give it a try today.

It’s not about the shoes (NYCBR in the Times Magazine)

This is cool.  The upcoming Times Magazine features the New York City Barefoot Run in an article by Christopher McDougall.  The article is about people who wear minimalist running shoes, but still run with bad form — and an old technique to get improve your form.

If everything comes together just right, you’ll be exactly where Larson was one Sunday morning in September: peeking out from behind a tree on Governors Island in New York Harbor, his digital video camera nearly invisible on an ankle-high tripod, as the Second Annual New York City Barefoot Run got under way about a quarter-mile up the road. Hundreds of runners — men and women, young and old, athletic and not so much so, natives from 11 different countries — came pattering down the asphalt straight toward his viewfinder.


But the article makes an enormously important point: running in minimalist shoes doesn’t guarantee good form.

“Barefoot-style” shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry. But simply putting something different on your feet doesn’t make you a gliding Tarahumara. The “one best way” isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.

That’s what Peter Larson discovered when he reviewed his footage after the New York City Barefoot Run. “It amazed me how many people in FiveFingers were still landing on their heels,” he says. They wanted to land lightly on their forefeet, or they wouldn’t be in FiveFingers, but there was a disconnect between their intentions and their actual movements.

Take a look at these heel strikes at the NYCBR in minimalist shoes…and even barefoot.

This is one of the areas, incidentally, where Vibram has failed on a massive scale.  They’ve sold millions of pairs of FiveFingers, but they’ve done next to nothing to help those people run with proper form and avoid injury.  With every pair of VFFs sold, they should be providing basic instructions on barefoot running form.

We’ve got to re-wire our nervous system and get rid of the bad habits.  McDougall writes about an old training technique he re-discovered that helps people develop the proper form.

I was leafing through the back of an out-of-print book, a collection of runners’ biographies called “The Five Kings of Distance,” when I came across a three-page essay from 1908 titled “W. G. George’s Own Account From the 100-Up Exercise.” According to legend, this single drill turned a 16-year-old with almost no running experience into the foremost racer of his day.

For the actual technique, go read the full article.  And don’t forget to attend the 3rd Annual New York City Barefoot Run next year.

Running a barefoot marathon…in a tuxedo

By now, barefoot running is old news.  Running a barefoot marathon is a little passe.  Which is why Bob Ewing is running a barefoot marathon…in a tuxedo.  

Check out the video below, most of which was shot at the NYCBR this year.  Yours truly is in there — SHIRTLESS — at 2:15, as well as the very last scene talking about why it’s a good idea to wear a tuxedo whenever you’re barefoot.

Bob is running for a good cause — Swab a Check, Save a Life for the bone marrow registry to help lymphoma patients.  

What the Bible says about women who won’t go barefoot

Deuteronomy 28: 56-57:

56 The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,

57 and toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.

The lesson is clear.  Beware women who say they are too delicate to run barefoot.  Beware women who get pedicures all the time.

This ancient wisdom is directly in line with my experience here in New York City.

Update: My Biblical interpretation may be off, as one commenter points out, and may be more along the lines of “This is what happens when you disobey…even the tenderest become evil.”

(Thanks to Ira for the pointer.)

Little kid goes barefoot on the jungle gym

It might be socially awkward for an adult to go barefoot in a variety of situations (especially if you’re not a prince).  I get that.

With kids, however, it’s easy.  And that’s the most formative time in the development of the foot.  So we should let our kids go around barefoot whenever possible — on the playground, at home, in the backyard.

This is a short clip of the young daughter of Jeanne, one of our core team at Barefoot Runners NYC.

Says Jeanne:

“There was another family there who was asking me a ton of questions about how I got my child to be so agile.  I told them I take her to the playground about 2x a day and let her go barefoot — so she can grip better & have better balance.

She got completely soaked in the sprinkler, so I took her pants off — the family promptly took off their 2 year old’s shoes and his pants — so their son could move freely too.  This was the first and only time someone has copied my barefoot parenting tactics — immediately!

Go figure!  It is catching on.  Barefoot has gone viral.”