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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one & only essential guide!, 23 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Barefoot Running Step by Step: Barefoot Ken Bob, the Guru of Shoeless Running, Shares His Personal Technique for Running with More Speed, Less Impact, Fewer Injuries and More Fun (Paperback)
My favourite time of day is my early morning runs along the coast but like the majority of runners, I'm regularly plagued by injuries which have prevented me from going out for weeks at a time. This has ultimately made it difficult to get into a regular routine & has made we wonder how in the long-term I could continue doing the sport I love the most without causing myself some serious problems. So when somebody mentioned the seminal Born to Run & how it touches upon barefoot running & its unparalleled effectiveness for keeping people injury-free, I was instantly intrigued. It totally turned my preconceptions on their head - for instance, did you know that the more expensive the running shoe, the more likely it is to injure you? And that running-related injuries have not decreased in the last 30 years, despite all the advances in technology by Nike & their rivals? But when you think about it, it makes sense - after all, our ancestors would run barefoot for hours, literally chasing animals on the savannahs until their prey collapsed from exhaustion.

However, this is an area where just a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I read Born to Run before this book came out & was impatient to get started, so armed myself with a bit of advice from a few random websites. While I utterly enjoyed the tactile sensations of my first barefoot run, afterwards my tendons were so sore due to bad technique that I had to rest them for about 10 days. Thus I discovered the hard way that you really do need to build up slowly & learn the correct skills. And as this book has been written by one of the barefoot movements' pioneers, it's the perfect introduction.

This is a very informative guide, crammed with advice that has been tried & tested since the late 1980's. There's also lots of testimonies from different runners, not just the authors themselves. Ken Bob can ramble somewhat when he starts on his anecdotes, bless him, but these tend to be kept separate from the actual pages on technique, so can be skimmed over if desired (although they are rather charming). This makes it easy to pick up & get what you want from it.

While the advice is practical, the authors are also keen to emphasise the importance of fun. Not only does enjoying your runs keep you coming back for more, they say, but it also helps to keep you relaxed (particularly your calves) & thus capable of absorbing more impact. As most of their tips focus on good posture & relaxation, they remind me in essence of the Alexander Technique.

This book has enabled me to figure out what was causing the tendon issue & adjust my technique accordingly (I was arching my feet to avoid heel-striking & landing too heavily on the ball of the foot, so now I'm letting them fall straighter & more naturally, although still front-first). It has also added an incredibly enjoyable dimension to my running. Even running on pavements has become an incredibly tactile experience & no, so far I've never stood on any broken glass or dog muck - or even seen any on the roads I run on. If you want to run barefoot, then I believe this book is a necessity, being much more practical than its competitors.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Jul 2011 23:24:05 BDT
J. Timmins says:
Good review. However you misquote (in my understanding) the more expensive shoe and injury bit. The more expensive the shoe the more likely you are as a runner to be injured not that the shoe is more likely to injure you. I suspect it's like I experienced; because I could afford it and was suffering twinges I progressed up the shoes in price. The "better shoe" just allowed me to keep running without noticing my feet's strength decline and the injuries I was accumulating. I've been running in minimalist shoes and barefoot for about two years now. Still learning. Might give this book a go and then pass it on to friends who want to have a go.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jul 2011 10:40:20 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Aug 2011 11:22:40 BDT
Sam Woodward says:
It's not just that more expensive shoes with thicker soles will enable you to run with bad technique for longer & thus gradually worsen impact-related injuries. According to research quoted in Born to Run & Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth, the thicker the sole, the harder the impact, thus th greater chance of injury.

This seems counter-intuitive but one of those books (can't remember which) equates it to walking on a mattress - the soft surface naturally makes you step more heavily in order to balance yourself. And while thicker soles make runners heel-strike harder, a few mere centimetres extra of padding isn't going to do much to counteract the impact caused by most of a persons' body weight. Thus the more expensive shoes with thicker soles will actually increase the likelihood of injury.

These books also point out that a lot of great runners who use trainers (Haile Gebrselassie & Zola Budd, among others) initially learned good technique by running barefoot at a young age, which enabled them to counteract the effect of heel-striking.
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