Minimalist & Barefoot Running

Discover your natural potential

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Barefoot Running

Enter the name for this tabbed section: The Book

"...absolutely everything you need to know to get the most out of your running!"
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Daniel Lieberman

"I’m really impressed with this book!"
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Strength Running

"...A great number of tips, tricks and details on how to improve your running form."
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Run to the Finish

Inside the book, you’ll discover how to:

  • Use transition plans to get you started
  • Perfect your running form
  • Develop proper gait, cadence, & stride
  • Build strong feet and pads
  • Choose and use minimalist shoes
  • Handle various terrains & trails
  • Become mindful of your body and surroundings
  • Use Innovations in training, racing, & cross training
  • Deal with and avoid common injuries
Barefoot running is a new way to think about how we were meant to run. And, it all starts with you connecting to the ground. By allowing your feet to feel, flex, and respond to the earth, you will build strengths that you never even knew you possessed, from a robust body, to stronger legs and proficient form.

Broken down to cover the basics to the most advanced aspects of barefoot running with flexible transitional plans, information on what to expect along the way, and how to maximize your experience, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Barefoot Running helps you easily navigate your way through all the essential stages. Think of this book as your personal coach, teaching you step-by-step how to run more naturally by transitioning slowly, planning ahead, building upon goals, and listening to your body.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Publicity
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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Backstory
Running barefoot with perfect form
The barefoot running movement has progressed beyond a fad to become a revolutionary way to think about human locomotion. It has quickly shifted into the mainstream; proof is seen in the way major footwear manufacturers are pushing minimalist apparel. Runners are becoming aware that they do not need “more” on their feet to run better or injury free.

One of the first runners to begin asking questions of shoemakers was Dr. Craig Richards of Australia. He started a Website called “Barefoot versus the Shoe” that called for mainstream manufacturers to prove with scientific backing that their products prevented injury or helped anyone actually run better.
His work blossomed into findings that were expanded upon by a team at Harvard led by Dan Lieberman and published in the journal Nature that brought vast media coverage to the movement.

A high percentage of the larger brands ignored his simple call to back their products. They might have hoped that the questions would subside. No one could predict the actual revolution that would ensue and this book that would follow.

These factors led Dr. Craig Richards to begin conducting further research. His work has been published all across the globe and has led to the release of the book, co-authored by international coach and prominent barefoot runner, Thomas Hollowell. Both authors’ personal experience, research, and dedication to the sport make this the most thorough, reader friendly, and well-organized manual on the subject.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Chapter Outline
The book is separated into four main sections made up of four chapters each, equaling sixteen total chapters with several helpful appendixes. The first half of the book lays the groundwork to reveal how a jogger or runner can begin to run more naturally. The second half of the book expands upon this to teach runners how to continue advancing forward by trying different terrains, learning about managing weather and the wild outdoors, dealing with pain or injury, and avoiding common pitfalls or perils along the way. The final section teaches runners how to hone their training, race their best, and how to properly fuel the body.
Shoeless runners enjoying a trail
Part One of the book gives a thorough overview of the movement. Learn why shoe design has changed so much over the years. You will also learn why manufacturers always pushed their concepts as technological innovations, although plenty of evidence suggests otherwise. This section helps runners learn about the science behind the movement. What has been learned is that the foot is capable of handling the act of running on its own quite well; especially well when barefoot and skillfully even in minimalist footwear designed to allow the foot to flex, splay, and land naturally.

Chapter 1: Learning About Barefoot Running
Start at the bare beginning. Written for both joggers, recreational runners, and serious athletes, discover why running without shoes is healthy and beneficial. Learn about the true pros and cons of tossing your trainers and what science has to say about it. You can then assess whether barefoot activity is right for you and whether you should implement it as a part of your existing training program. The book shows you how you can do so.

Chapter 2: Your Barefoot Potential
Understand the reasons humans are actually quite gifted at endurance running, especially when compared to sprinting. Learn how your natural springs (unaided legs and feet) while barefoot are conducive to helping you run farther and faster, along with how shoes might very well be slowing you down, or worse, promoting injury. Further along, the book helps you realize your true potential by arming you with the skills you need to know before you transition to the sport.

Chapter 3: Evolution of the Running Shoe
Dr. Richards delves into the interesting and revealing history of the modern running shoe. He’ll describe possible reasons runners get injured, how the mainstream shoe threw science by the wayside, and why scientists on both sides of the debate have not proven or disproved that footwear (or bare feet) prevents or causes injury.

Chapter 4: Perceived Barriers to Running Barefoot
A few, often rare, medical conditions, certain injuries, or other factors might act as limiters to your running goals. Listed here in the book are genuine hindrances that potential barefooters might face before, during, or following their transition. Also discussed is the suitability of barefoot activity for those of all ages—from children, to adults, to the elderly.

Part Two of the book gets you started on the right foot by helping you strengthen and stretch the feet, legs, and body while learning to walk and eventually jog shoeless. This is when you can decide if you might like to undergo a full transition or simply implement what you have learned thus far in your training.

Chapter 5: Barefoot Running 101
While it will take some time to prepare the feet, legs, and body for the increased shoeless activity, it is in this part that you will expand your knowledge, follow a flexible plan of action, and begin reaching your goals. A detailed list of frequently asked questions will also help you understand what to except during the first weeks of the endeavor.

Chapter 6: Warm-Ups, Stretches, and Exercises
Now that you have a clear idea of the time, dedication, and best methods of preparing, learn how you should properly warm up, stretch, and strengthen the lower extremities for increased barefoot pursuits. Enliven, invigorate, and awaken the feet to keep yourself in optimal shape.

Chapter 7: Natural Running
Form matters. And, natural form matters most. Natural running goes hand in hand (or foot in foot) with shoeless running in ever way; it simply would not exist without it. Here, the authors of the book discuss the various facets of form, stride, and gait that will make you an efficient athlete from the ground up. Learn how and why barefoot running will alter your form for the better and what fundamentals you need to develop to run light and smooth.

Chapter 8: Improving Your Running Form
Master natural running form by becoming more mindful of your body in regard to the way you move over various types of terrain. Your feet, each made up of 250,000 nerve endings, will do an incredible job of relaying information to you while barefoot, so learning to adjust (or fine-tune) the placement of your body will help you prevent injury, run longer, and minimize energy expenditure. This part of the book is filled with drills to enhance any runner’s ability to move naturally, run efficiently, and glide over terrain with flawless technique.

Part Three helps you survive the elements by exploring minimal footwear, handling trails and the weather, and learning how to take care of your feet, legs, and body to not only assess, but to also prevent injury.

Chapter 9: Minimal Footwear Running
It is at this point that you can consider whether minimal footwear might be a good choice for your training program. Learn about minimalist shoes, what characteristics you should seek when buying a pair, and how each small difference in design can effect the body. Reviewed in the book are several models and top-notch manufacturers who are on the cutting-edge of shoe design and performance.

Chapter 10: Barefoot Trail Running
Now that you have strengthened the feet, allowed the body to transition, and become better prepared for the wild outdoors, it’s time to go off road with your barefoot trail running adventures. Not only is it fun and safe, but is the best way for you to work your feet and body in fun, unique, and beneficial ways in order to maintain strength and prevent overuse injury.

Chapter 11: Four Seasons and Two Feet
This part of the book teaches you to handle weather conditions in all the seasons; from hot sidewalks to snow-covered hilltops. The feet can adapt to nearly any type of weather you encounter if taught how to do so over time. When the going gets tough, acclimate to the conditions and protect the feet with the tips provided to keep you running safely.

Chapter 12: Dealing with Soreness and Injury
All runners must deal with soreness or even injury as they begin extending their running goals. Barefoot running in particular presents potential dangers to runners who are not adequately prepared or aware of what they ready to attempt. Learn to tell the difference between soreness and injury. Know when to use heat or ice. Learn how much time you should take off between barefoot bouts. And, recognize when you need special care to help you fully heal.

Part Four discusses how you can take your barefoot running to new levels by gradually focusing on distance and speed. This part of the book teaches you to train smarter, race better, and enjoy running like never before. This section also reveals the secrets of bare nutrition and the importance of proper fueling while training your body to move more naturally whether barefoot or in minimalist apparel.

Chapter 13: Creating a Barefoot Training Plan
If barefoot running for the long term is your goal, it is recommended that you plan well into the future. One way of doing so is to create a training plan adapted to your goals, abilities, and even dreams. Discover the best training methods for shodless runners and how to design, adjust, and implement a training plan to help you reach your goals.

Chapter 14: Going for Distance and Speed
For those who want to take their running to a higher level, distance and speed are the controllable variables that an athlete can enhance to reach their goals. From ultra-endurance events to short, fast ones, apply what you have learned to fit your training plan in order to accomplish your goals as you progress. The book will teach you the best methods to go farther and faster without injury, while barefoot or in your favorite footwear.

Chapter 15: On Your Mark: Racing Barefoot
Before you race without shoes or in minimal footwear, assess whether you are truly ready for the event. In this part of the book, prepare for short, medium, and long-distance races while understanding what to do before, during, and after a barefoot race. Once you are ready, prepare for unmatched freedom and speed!

Chapter 16: Food for the Sole
Discover foods good for your soul and your soles. Creating a balanced diet is important for any athlete and runners going the minimalist or bare route need to know what is best for their entire body and their feet. With a focus on bare nutrition, the book helps you discover how to plan meals, evaluate supplements, understand the needs of both young and older athletes, and find out what the best foods are for barefoot athletes in particular.

The appendixes at the end of the book detail sources, websites, and other places where you can learn more about barefoot running, what others are doing in research, plus more on the shoeless lifestyle, where to find barefoot-friendly races, and where to connect with minimalist runners. With photos, diagrams, and down-to-earth practical information, the book is great for both recreational and serious runners who want to learn to run more lightly, naturally, and efficiently from two of the top experts in the field.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Author Interview

The following is an author interview conducted by Abbie Mood here at Barefoot Running. We hope you enjoy!


What inspired you to write a book about barefoot running?

Well, I have to talk about “we” here. My brother and I [identical twins] have been runners for almost two decades and learned a vast amount about the sport from two top coaches, both in high school and at the university level. We have always tried to run with good form taught by these guys, who we considered mentors more than anything else. We always did drills barefoot, so they were quite innovative. In short, technique was always on our mind before we ever thought about putting a book about running barefoot together.

Author Thomas Hollowell displays the book
We hardly ever experienced running injuries, save for minor knee pain in high school. While living abroad in South Korea, my feet started hurting quite a bit and I started getting a massive bunion on my right foot, no matter the shoes I wore. It hurt badly. Then, I got an in-grown toenail. For the latter, I had to have quick surgery (when I was traveling in Africa) that left my toe all stitched up.

Back in Korea a doctor took out the stitches and I told her I was tired of all these foot problems. She said rather plainly, “go barefoot.” Those words shocked me out of some sort of foot-coffin daze. It made my feet tingle, literally. It was like: Of course!

I had seen Koreans walking barefoot on these rocky reflexology pathways and gave it a try. I read a book or two on the subject and decided to give it a go. I winced a bit at the pain, but it seemed to make my feet feel better. We joined in on the barefoot action and started walking and eventually running barefoot more and more. Wearing shoes on tricky terrain and in races, we were sold on the idea that taking of one’s shoes was healthy, natural, and fun.
So, I moved to North Africa and after some time started training for triathlons while also writing magazine articles and eventually having two of my books published in the States. It was at this point that I also began doing some coaching in hopes of spreading awareness about triathlons through the region. As I did, I continued my barefoot pursuits. My brother happened to be living on the East Coast in the US by that time and that was about the time the book Born to Run started garnishing tons of attention. So, more people were becoming aware of the importance of going barefoot.

We were running barefoot one evening in the summer and he said that I should write a book about barefoot running, that many people would be interested in learning how to properly transition while developing natural form. People would need a book to act like a beacon to guide them; we knew from experience that walking or running without one’s shoes takes an awful lot of time to get used to. It was a brilliant idea and I wanted to test the waters by starting a website. When it starting taking off, I began putting together a thorough book proposal. Running one summer evening, he said that the book should be a part of the popular Complete Idiot’s Guide series. He joked that smart people who wanted to learn more about the subject would recognize the series right away as the best how-to guide on bookshelves. I couldn’t agree more!

As I dug deeper, I knew that I would need to search for a potential co-author for the book who was involved in the field. I needed someone else of merit that had a background in the science and biomechanics of natural running. The choice became obvious that it would be Dr. Craig Richards of Australia. His breakthrough research and simple questioning of the current system of shoe design made him the perfect writing and research mate. Once I had my arsenal ready, my agent was on board. The wonderful team at Alpha / Penguin accepted the book and Craig and I began writing our hearts out.

Why do you think the barefoot running movement has gained so much popularity?

Ultimately, I think the movement has gained so much attention because runners are searching for inspiration—for something different. Some runners are beginning to ask questions and to realize that running is an art that is quite technical when it is broken down into its various elements. Running is both an art and a science and can only be learned from practice, coaching, and perhaps partially from a book such as ours . I think that at the grassroots level runners are standing up and wanting answers. They are questioning whether highly cushioned, motion controlling shoes are really the answer. They are realizing that we may very well have the inborn tools to run well, efficiently, without injury, and as naturally as a gazelle. Our book shows you how.

What’s the difference between barefoot running and minimalist running? Photo of Thomas Hollowell with his book and his feet.

The two concepts are based on the same idea—to run more naturally without hindrance from shoes. Barefoot running is exactly what it sounds like, as is minimalist running. I might argue that minimalist running is another room off the main foyer of barefoot running. We discuss it more in the book, but one must first pass through barefoot running before going into the salon de minimalist running. Pure barefoot running teaches you more in a week than minimalist running can teach you in a month. That’s the difference that is highlighted in the book. One should learn the skills and develop the feet slowly and carefully through the sense of feel by going barefoot and then throw on a pair of minimalist shoes if that is the room they wish to sit in for a time.

How did you decide what would go in the book and what wouldn’t?

This was difficult, but Craig and I brainstormed all the time about what would go into certain chapters of the barefoot running book. The editorial team also had their ideas. Organizing the book into a logical, yet fun sequence is the crux behind any successful how-to book. That was probably harder than writing the thing. We wanted it to really shine in regard to how it was put together, though. We succeeded but it took several gears grinding together to get it just right. The editors cut some material. We didn’t write some of what they might have wanted. In the end, it worked out very well and balanced. Basically, we would have to start with a seed to grow a tree. The barefoot running book blossomed and began growing wonderfully.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Well, with all the research, outlining, writing, and editing, it took us about six months. We wrote nearly 400 pages in three to four months followed by the editorial team’s work. Plus, we included some of our own pictures, charts, and diagrams. In this line of work, you have to be able to write quite a bit in a short amount of time. It is very much like running: you have to build a base, design specific workouts in order to reach your goals, and then go for gold!

What is the one thing you want the world to know about what you call “running naturally”?

Running more naturally should be every runner’s goal. Forget speed. Forget power. Forget pain and injury. The human body is an amazing running machine that can learn to handle incredible distances with efficiency. Learn to listen to your body from the ground up and you will have learned to run with the elements instead of against them. The answer is not how fast or long, but how many. How many years do you want to run? Running naturally using barefoot techniques will add years to your running lifespan and that means countless more miles enjoying the sport and the Earth.

We hope you enjoy the book!