Breathe Easy On Your Runs!


In my teens I was diagnosed with exercise induced, and later full-blown asthma. I thought I could just will my way through it, until I started honking like a freight train in races.

Even on multiple inhalers and pills, when the going got tough, my air passages would get inflamed, clamp down, and then it was day-over for catching my breath.

I learned quickly, I had to try and calm myself down fast, and back off (not great when the pack is leaving you behind) until I could catch my breath. It was frustrating, but also my inspiration, for I knew if I wanted to compete at the top, or simply keep myself out of trouble, I'd have to find a better way to breathe, and fast!

That's when I tripped across the book Breathe Play, a 1980's book that introduced me to the idea of controlling your breathing and that by making your breathe a conscious activity, you could expand, strengthen, and even heal your lungs.

I was told I had tiny lungs, and that there was nothing I could do about it. But working on my breath, I went from having teeny tiny lungs with only 60% of the average capacity, to something like the top 1% or better of lung capacity for all people out there my size! (A big surprise to my docs after they tested me!) I went from sucking wind in races, to having extra air. And I went from struggling to get up hills, to making them my forte.

I can remember when people would yell at me in races saying "Shut Up Michael, can't you tell I'm suffering." I just had so much air and was having so much fun, I just wanted to talk! By doing breathing exercises mainly during my workouts, but also on their own, I pretty much doubled my lung capacity, and got off of all the meds and their heavy side-effects.

I often talk about focusing on your breath. But what does that mean? First, it means breathing deep. This is something we're all unfamiliar with in the west. In fact, here in Hawaii, the derogatory term given to white people when they first arrived many years ago, was Haole, which means short breath. When Westerners first came to Hawaii, they were seen breathing with a very shallow ineffective breath. It's what we've all grown up with, but need to unlearn.

So we don't want to be Haole, we want to breathe deep. This means focusing on your breathing (this means shutting off the ipod so you can listen for a few minutes) both in exercises before, and while you run.

There are dozens of great exercises you can do. We'll be introducing many of our favorites in our upcoming Mindful Running Video series this fall. But the simplest, easiest, and perhaps most effective breathing technique you can do to get started is to focus on the exhalation.

We have a Tai Chi and Qi Gong, master who tells us "No one thinks of the exhale. They always say inhale. But it's your exhalation that is most important! When you exhale, you blow out unwanted CO2, you blow out the bad stuff, and you blow out the stuck energy. Then you can get more clean air in. The more you focus on the exhale, the healthier and stronger you will be."

We completely agree. When you run, blow out as much air as you can in each breath. Don't worry at all about the inhalation. It will take care of itself. In fact, try this now, while you're reading this. Take a good deep breath, then blow, blow, blow, blow, blow out all of the air you can as you watch, and feel your stomach squeezing in (if you don't see it, place your on your stomach to feel and help it along). Then relax, and let the air rush back in and see your lungs and belly expand. To your amazement, you'll find it took ZERO effort to get in all the air you just expelled. Even better, it's EASY to strengthen these muscles to move air fast, and breathe deeper.

When you breathe this way, you'll take more steps between breaths, and feel more oxygenated, or more powerful with each breath. Before you may have been running 2 steps inhale, two steps exhale, and now you'll find yourself 3 and 3, or even perhaps four and four. The number's not important, but it means you're getting more air in with each breath.

More air means happier lungs (less chance of the dreaded honk I used to experience), happier legs, less lactic acid buildup, a lower heart rate, less fatigue, and means you can go faster too!

Practice this each time you run. Concentrate on the exhalation, and watch yourself fly!

Side affect: You too may find people telling you to stop talking so much as you run together, as they're panting hard, and you're comfortably breathing deep. Don't sweat it, but feel free to teach this too them as well. Then you could have a conversation!


RunBare Footwear Mini Review - Surprisied by Xero Amuri Clouds

I must admit I'm in love. Or at least, I'm in like at first sight. As a die-hard barefoot runner who's been kicked out of more places than you can imagine (including one Whole Foods in Boulder, where the security guard literally had his hand on his gun,) it's hard to get me into a shoe, ANY shoe.

But I know there's a time and a place for everything. And many runners want the benefits of barefoot training, but then want to be able to run fast, or on challenging terrain, back in a  shoe. So we need to give them options.

And so, we're out trying shoes, and surprisingly, having fun. After a hobbling of a year, I'm finally back running on the trails, rather than just wobbling. It's still slowly-slowly as our Tibetan teacher likes to say, but it feels great to be back out there. Yesterday Jessica and I ran on a chewed up sharp-lava and soft-dirt trail, quite the juxtaposition! It was NOT a place for barefoot running, unless you have skin of steel...and I'm still regrowing my "shoes".

So I tried the Xero Amuri Clouds. Now for me to try out Xero's is pretty radical. Though the founder Steveen Sashen was a member of our barefoot club (and therefore I admit, we're good friends with him), and though Jessica or I may have been a slight influence in his starting a company, I have quietly steered away from his shoes for years. For one thing, the string on top of them always irritated nerve damage I've had on the top of my foot since my severe accident 8 years ago. But that was the minor thing, the biggie was a fear, that the formerly floppy front of the Xero shoe's (back when they were "Invisible Shoes") would get sucked downward or flip under while on the road or the trails, and I would "eat poo poo and die." This eat poo poo factor successfully scared me away from trying them.

But you know, I've been wrong before, and I want to try to review everything we can for our mindful running series and for you, our readers. So I asked Steven to send me the latest shoes he's got, and I'm so happy I did. The Xero Amuri's are thin and light, but not floppy in the front! They also have a double-strap or string across the top of the foot, which didn't irritate my nerves. This meant I could try them! And without the dreaded poo poo fear factor. (Sorry Steven!)

And try them I did. Now I'm not that fast at the moment (grandma and grandpa with their walkers or canes could certainly take me in a sprint!), and I was only daring enough to wear them on a steep uphill, rather than the downhill. But wow. The freedom I felt was amazing. Okay, I couldn't feel the dirt beneath my feet, and that's a bit of a bummer. But hey, I wasn't on dirt, I was on razor-sharp lava...and these worked miracles for that! They didn't suck under, I didn't trip on them, and I barely knew they were there. I do think they changed my gait a little bit, which I'll have to watch, as I felt a slight twinge in the shins. I also kept on having to tigthen them to keep them from slipping off, something I hope goes away after I get them settled in. They also weren't quite as grippy as I'd like them to be (I did slip a bit on a few steep loose downhill sections), but I'm not sure these are touted as full off-road vehicles anyway.


1. They weren't too thick to where I couldn't feel what was going on under my foot. And yet they protected me from lava.

2. I could still grab with my toes thereby supporting my arches and letting my feet be feet.

3. They were super light, I didn't feel like I had anything on under my foot (we'll have to get them on  a scale to get an exact weight.)

4. My feet could breathe!!! That's why they felt so great to me. I never knew my feet could feel so naked, and yet still have a certain amount of "protection."

I'll need to do longer runs in these before I have a definitive opinion on them, and I'll need to run downhills, where I'm still a bit concerned "will they catch anything and send me flying?" I'm guessing the answer is no, but I'll way till I have more of a leg under me, before I give that a go.

And speaking of giving things a go. Jessica tried out the Topo ST's on the run. Now she's a LOT faster than me (understatement) as a 4 x 400 state champion in high school. Her get up and go is something truly special!

She found the Topo ST's too narrow for her strong wide we're checking with the company to see what else may work. This made the uphill a bit uncomfortable for her. But running fast in them, or taking off on the downhill ("bye Jessie, don't forget to write!") she didn't feel the width challenge so much.

What she did find, is that should could fly in them! They helped her get on her forefoot on the trails (though they are slippery and decidedly NOT a trail shoe. They have different models for trails) and she felt like she was springing ahead. I couldn't believe how fast she was on the downhills on them, and I swear she got more air in them then most full-suspension mountain bikes! She felt she could fly!!!

We'll have more of a review on the Topos to follow. And for a complete Xero Amuri Cloud review, check out our Mindful Running Video Series later this year.

So that's it from here for today. It's back to barefoot for me now, I'm just so happy to be running on the trails again. And happy to have an option for when the going gets tough. A great thing about the Xero's is I could slip them on and off, almost without thinking about it. This means I can be barefoot over 90 percent of the time, but if I hit the lava, they can be on lickity split. Thank you Steven, I must eat a little crow now (better than something else), and admit I'm quite impressed!

Preparing Bare Feet for the Heat

Springtime, before it gets too hot, is the best time to start growing your skin strong.

Strong skin requires two key components - heat and pressure, and pressure comes in two ways. First, the surfaces you run on. The harder (and sharper) the surface, the more pressure. This doesn't mean go out and run on gravel to temper the skin. Though it works, it's NO fun and NOT necessary. Instead, moderately challenging surfaces like asphalt work great. And sidewalks, depending on their condition, work too. Just keep in mind, the older the sidewalk, the more challenging, as erosion from pedestrians and weather take their toll.

On that note, skip the ultra smooth cement, sometimes found as new sidewalks or along bicycle paths - these ultra smooth surfaces cause our feet to slide and abrade. Generally, the more challenging surfaces thicken the skin quicker. Just be careful not to abuse your feet with a surface that is too rough.

Pressure also comes from running up and down steep hills. As you press down on the feet to carry you up, you stress and strengthen the skin. And as you decelerate with each step on the way down, you test and toughen your skin as well.

Overwork, overstress, and overstimulate your feet with heat and pressure, and the skin will grow extra strong.

But the key is moderation. Going too far not only hurts, but sets you back, erasing any gains you've made. When it comes to the skin maximum pain doesn't equal maximum gain. So to be clear, if you live in a place like Phoenix, I do NOT want you waiting until mid-day to go throwing your feet on the frying pan. You'll guarantee yourself a trip to the ER.

The great news is, once tempered, our skin can handle the most incredible heat, even that of Death Valley (as I've personally experienced). If you think of ancient man running on the African Savanna, you likely envision images of sun-baked riverbeds, hard as cement and cracked from summer heat. These are the surfaces our feet once adapted to run on.

And we can run on such surfaces, such as hot pavement again - we just need to build into them slowly.

The nice thing about spring... typically, anyway, is that it gradually warms up, and as the temperatures rise, the feet gradually adapt to the heat.

So now's a great time to get out while it's warm, and get the feet used to the temperatures. Warmth and heat underfoot is the greatest stimulus for skin growth. As the temperatures rise, your skin will grow stronger and stronger.

If it's already getting hot where you are, there are still some things you can do.

1. Run earlier in the morning to get your feet used to more moderate temperatures first.

2. Alternate part of your run on a hot surface, such as pavement, and part on the grass (such as 50 yards on one surface, 50 on the other...alternating as the feet need).

3. Bring your "handweights" aka your footwear with you, as your skin heats up, don't be afraid to put your shoes back on.

Your feet can adapt to almost any heat, if we build in slowly enough, but if not, WATCH OUT. The only time I've really blistered myself barefoot (trying minimalist footwear not withstanding) is thinking I could go just "one more mile" to get home once my feet got hot. I got several tremendous blisters under my forefeet as a reward. Now granted, once they healed the skin was incredibly strong in the area, but there are much kinder, gentler, and friendlier ways on the body to achieve such results!

Key Note: If you feel the ground temperature getting warmer, it means your feet are getting more sensitive and it's just about time to stop. If it continues to get hotter, or you start feeling every grain of sand beneath your feet or every pebble under foot, you've done enough, get off of the feet, or get them protected, don't wait for a blister to start).

If you have gone too far, get off of the heat immediately, if not sooner, get back in shoes, or find the kindest, safest, easiest way home. It's a personal choice, but I recommend lancing blisters to help them heal faster and relieve the pain. However, I'm not a doctor, please don't take this as medical advice, and get medical attention if you need it.

If you do lance, sterilize a needle, clean the foot with alcohol, poke the blister from the edge so you don't tear the skin, and squeeze and remove as much fluid from the blister as you can (sorry for the pain), and then clean up with something like betadine or peroxide. Whether you've blistered or not, get straight aloe (not a skin lotion) on your skin fast. The faster the aloe goes on, the better your feet will feel, and faster your feet will heal. 

Follow the advice well above, and you should never need to see a blister, or aloe up your feet. But then again, aloe feels good after you've run, even if you haven't burned.

So enjoy the spring, listen to the birds chirp, and play in the gentle warm temperatures. The heat's just around the corner, time to get ready!

What Runners Can Learn From a Boxing Legend

I was just watching the movie Cinderella Man about the unexpected come back of James Braddock for the heavyweight title of the world in 1935. In 1934, completely untrained and having lost his license to fight after a series of terrible bouts, he was brought back out of retirement to fight the #2 contender in the world, since no one else could fight on no notice. And guess what, he WON.

Why? And how in the world does boxing relate to running. Well, simple. James Braddock was an amazing fighter until he got injured, and then he fought injured, after injured after injured, and just kept losing. Why? Well, it was the Great Depression and fighting was his only chance to put food on the table for his family (wife and 3 kids). That's not a bad reason to keep on fighting. It was only after he lost his boxing sanction and had to take time off and work on the docks that he began to heal and grow strong again. In fact, working on the docks he had to work his weak left hand (he always had a weak left hook) and it grew equal in strength to his other side.

So when he was brought out of retirement as a no-hoper, with no training, but NO injuries, and better body balance he no longer had to fight with one hand behind his back, so-to-speak, and he won perhaps one of the most miraculous comebacks in sporting history!

So what does this have to do with us?

Chances are, if you're like me, you've run with nagging aches and pains, or weakness or imbalances, or constantly sore or tired. You just didn't want to quit, or take time off, or get out of shape, or a bit of a belly...I get it, I understand the reasons.

But STOP. Just STOP.

If you're sore or on the verge of injury, you need the chance to recover. So many athletes that I've trained who were working toward big events, did remarkably well BECAUSE they had to take time off they didn't want to, rather than because they didn't time off.

(And how many of us, push to get that one last fast or long run in, only to get hurt before the big event)

No one wins when we're over-trained and broken.

And yet, we all feel guilty taking time off, veering from our training plans, or heaven-forbid, spending several weeks on the couch.

But as James Braddock found out, time off from your normal training routine could be the best thing in the world.

I used to work with a lot of Japanese runners. They learned a lot from me, and I from them. One thing they taught me is that down time is anything but rest time. When you're not running, that's when you get your foundation in order. It means looking for muscle imbalances, tight muscles and immobile joints. It means growing the core strong. Working on cross-training and muscle groups you wouldn't normally work on, and generally speaking, growing strong from the ground up.

Taking time off is your greatest chance to rebuild your foundation and grow stronger than ever.

I remember one of my good friends, Yasuko Hashimoto, went from a severe knee injury and forced time off, to walking obscene distances (up to 8 hours a day) before running again on an underwater treadmill and then only two months later WINNING the big marathon and qualifying and going to the World Championships. It was unbelievable, until you looked at what she did. She rested, recovered, and worked on every other aspect of her body. I know because I trained with her.

And that's what I want to make sure you do to.

The year is long, heck, the summer is long, and whether   you're training for fun, or for a big event this fall, you've got time. You owe it to yourself to get some rest, and get recovered.

In future posts we'll be looking at some key things you can do to get strong, and get limber while you're resting. And remember, you're not down, and you're not out, but you're growing the body of a champion.

You'd never drive a car with a flat tire? So why do we keep running or lie to ourselves?

Instead listen to your body, and don't be afraid to take the time off you need.

It's a HUGE investment in your future, AND your long-term happiness. For we're never quite happy and at peace when we're injured.

Yasuko did it, James Braddock did it, and so many of the others you see on the world stage or on top of their games did it too.

So take the time you need. Stretch, strengthen, recover. Then fly!

My Near Death Accident - A One Year Perspective

A year ago today I slipped and fell on a creek crossing, and lay dying on the rocks. I'd taken my last breath, was bleeding out internally, my vision grew dim, and the whole world was fading away. But I looked over at Jessica, freaked out by my side, and thought, I can't die, NOT TODAY. I can't die. I won't die, I am NOT going to die. And so I fought to find my breath, or force myself to breathe. For the next hour, though I'd lose over half of my blood and be in the most grizzly pain of my life, unable to move, bones stabbing into me, and stuck half in a freezing cold creek, I fought to keep myself breathing. I focused on the sunlight above, and the love all around. And I said to myself, breathe in light,breathe out love.

On that day, I would have done ANYTHING to be where I am today. To be able to wake up next to my wife, to be pain free in a bed, to be able to breathe and know another yet another would follow.

Life really is all about perspective. When you think you're going to die, even, or especially, the little things, seem like the most precious gifts in the world. Because they are. It's just often hard to remember that. But having a bed to sleep in, or being able to sleep in a bed, and having family, pets or a loved one, and being able to put two, or even one foot on the ground in the morning, what precious gifts these are.

In a sense, though they really matter, all the rest are just details.

One year ago today. I can't hardly believe it, and it leaves me scratching my head in disbelief. I'm walking, riding, swimming, and jogging again. My bone has healed, and though I'm still working on the soft tissue, I am strong...and amazingly, an inch taller to boot! I'm back coaching, and especially doing healing work with people now as a way to give back, and it feels great. I've written two more books (we're still working on getting them out), nearly finished our next video series, and am miraculously still in our beautiful home, something that felt touch and go with the mountain of medical bills and me laid up on the couch.

But you know, it's not about the doings, or the havings anymore, though I certainly like "accomplishing" and having nice things in my life and certainly invite them in. But it's about the little things, or the not-so-little things. The loved ones who are still around. The time I have to sit and meditate in silence in the morning. The ability to move pain free. And the hope I have for the future. When you're broken, when you're really down and out, it's so hard to have hope. And yet, that's when we need it most.

But then, that's when it's most important, to just focus on the breathe. There is ALWAYS a brighter tomorrow.

I always believed, everything in life happens for a reason.

Ultimately, it's the love of Jessica, coupled with this hope and faith for the future, that carried me through.

And so, I give thanks on this weird, wonderful, and beautiful day, for all that happened, all that's still occurring, and all that will transpire. It truly is a miracle to be here today, and to see what tomorrow will bring. But for today, I'll live in the now...which is really, quite, miraculously perfect. I'm not sure I would have believed it a year ago, as I lay bleeding out or in on the rocks. But I am still here.

I leave with these words, which I managed to "sing" to myself through forced breaths, trying to keep myself smiling and alive, just before the EMT's arrived...thank you Jimmy Cliff:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshinin' day.
It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day.

Oh yes, I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is the rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshinin' day.

Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies.
Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Here's the rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshinin' day.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshinin' day.
Real, real, real, real bright, bright, sunshinin' day.
Yeah, hey, it's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshinin' day.

What&'s the Best Natural Running Shoe?

I must admit, today's a pretty exciting day. It's the first time in over a year we'll be getting in new "natural" footwear to test for our readers. Though we're not big fans of most footwear, it always feels like Christmas when new shoes start coming in. Today I believe we'll get in the Topos, or the minimalist shoes envisioned by Tony Post, former CEO of Vibram, who (along with Born to Run and Barefoot Ted) helped spearhead FiveFingers. Our goal: We want to test anything out there that will help runners keep their natural form, while giving protection to the foot. Ultimately, that's what we see footwear as, protection for our soles.

That's what it was for Native Americans, who started using hides to protect their skin from sharp cactus and other dangerous obstacles. And that's what it still is for the Tarahumara, who use strapped on retreaded tires to make the most bomber, unsupportive sandals they can; so they can run over some truly rugged and rocky terrain. Indigenous people haven't made sandals and moccasins for thousands of years to "support" their foot, or give it "motion control" or give the heel more "cushioning" to protect their knees, they just wanted to protect their skin and allow the feet to move lightly, freely, and fast.

So we'll be testing every "natural" footwear out there, trying to get beyond the hype, beyond the claims, and beyond the marketing machines to see what really works. And we'd love your input, what do you like, what do you want to see us test, and what have you found hiding out there, as the most innovative shoes, often come from the little guys, before they make it big. What are your favorites, and what would you like to see us test?

We'll be looking at some key footwear criteria, in essence, to try and determine how naturally they allow us to stride. Language is interesting, and in particular when it comes to the shoe. I've never liked the term "minimalist" as what does that really mean? I often joke, a tank's pretty minimalist compared to a battleship, but not compared to a honda...with the dozens of "minimalist" shoes out there, the term got watered down and became pretty meaningless. And then Vibram got sued, and now NO ONE wants to use the minimalist label. Instead they've switched to "natural" footwear...ironic, since there really is no such thing. But, I like the label better, because to me, it's about which shoes allow you the most natural form. Now whether these shoes live up to their new label or not...I'm suspect, but we're going to find out.

In general, when looking for footwear that allows the foot to move more naturally, we're looking for the most "moccasin-like" footwear we can find. Footwear that doesn't encumber the foot, that keeps us close to the ground, that allows the foot to flex, and bend, and roll, to pivot, to spring, and to fly. This means no heavy toe spring, or curl up in the front. It means no high heels...ever seen those on a moccasin? It means no clunky sole that doesn't flex much more than a brick. And it means NO arch support. The arch is our sacred spring, and one of the greatest designs in nature. It's what protects our foot and our entire body. Lock out the spring, and you're jamming force upwards, EVERYWHERE.

So the search is on, it'll be exciting to see what we find. In an age of "maximalism" where marketing has swung the pendulum 180 degrees from more natural footwear, it'll be interesting to see what's out there. Our goal, to inform you, our reader and viewer, and to help you find the best footwear to support the most natural stride possible. Of course, it'd be great if we could be barefoot all of the time. But in the city, or on sharp lava, in the winter, or when we're racing and want to go fast, that's just not always possible. So we'll do what we can to help you make the most of your adventure, by finding you the best footwear to help you fly like the wind, dance on the trails, and do your best to run free!

Photo - 3D printer concept design by The idea, wear a shoe with sensors for a test-run, then come back to the shop, and have them print out the "perfect" (in theory) custom shoes. Of course, it'll all depend on the paradigm they're operating under.

Plantar Fasciitis, Fasciosis, and Going Barefoot - The Other Side of the Story

Recently, I was asked an interesting question by an interviewer who was talking about Plantar Fasciitis. He said podiatrists were very anti-barefoot (except that it would give them more business) and would I share the "other side" of the story. And then he asked an interesting question, would I recommend going barefoot to someone who does NOT currently have any foot problems.

Below is my response, along with an addition by Dr. Ray McClanahan, a leading podiatrist in the Pacific Northwest who specializes in getting people's feet back in shape again.

Dear Blogger,

Thank you for reaching out to me, I'm happy to respond to your question about going barefoot for people who are not struggling with Plantar Fasciitis yet, and whether they would benefit from some barefoot time. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the "other side" of the story.

However, it's strange that you call it the "other side" of the story...presuming there's an argument. There's no argument, though admittedly, some podiatrists say they're happy for the increased business from "barefoot running" (typically, from people overdoing it in their "barefoot running shoes.) But we're all SUPPOSED to be in this together; the goal, to help people have happy healthy bodies, whether for running, for walking, or for living a quality life and being able to get things done pain-free.

Podiatry has their methods of doing this, typically, they involve a crutch, such as propping up the arch with orthotics, assuming the foot is too weak, and that the "intrinsic" muscles can't grow strong enough to support our body weight...something that makes no sense in evolutionary terms. But in the short term the orthotics often help tremendously. I know I really benefited from them (or so I thought) many years ago. Trouble is, it's a short-term solution, because if you lean against something, you inherently get weaker and less stable...needing a stronger and stronger crutch until there's no place to go.

Plantar Fasciitis in its simplest terms is a social condition created by a weak foot. If the foot muscles aren't strong enough to do the job of supporting our body weight, it falls on the rope like connective tissue on the bottom of our foot. Unfortunately, CONNECTIVE tissue, inherently is designed to CONNECT, not to support, and it fails miserably at doing the job the muscles couldn't do. So it gets ticked off, inflamed, and if you push it long enough, either begins to rip and tear (major OUCH!), or it pulls on it's attachments, creating bony calluses called HEEL Spurs. This is all corrected by getting the foot STRONG, once the inflammation has gone down of course (you can't strengthen until acute inflammation is down...and no, I'm not a doc, please always seek professional medical advice, I'm a coach, I'm the guy they come to when they want to get running or walking again).

Orthotics weaken, supportive shoes weaken, and the worst offender? 99% of today's shoes which are mis-shapen to the foot. They nearly ALL are tapered in front for the 3rd toe to be the longest...but no-one's is. This means that it forces all of the other toes together, making a less-stable platform (the foot is supposed to be shaped like a triangle, not a tube or an ice-skate blade). This inherently makes the foot wobbly, doesn't allow the toes to engage and support the arch (the muscles of the arch attach in the back at the heal, and in front at the toes, if you cram the toes, they get weak, and they can't support the arch. And so the shoes themselves cause your arch to "collapse" and create a plantar fasciitis condition.

So why get people out of shoes who do not have any condition?

Well, I'd say a middle-road in everything is best. If you're not injured now, then it's the perfect time to work on injury prevention. And how do we do this? By strengthening things, by getting you out of the offending footwear, by reducing your need for "support" or orthotics/insoles. So spending a modest amount of time training barefoot (beginning with only 100 yards, every-other-day, and adding a maximum of 100 yards each time you go out...and always BEFORE your shod runs, when your muscles aren't fatigued, and your skin isn't sweaty, is always best). Small, modest amounts can help you build the strongest, healthiest feet out there, AND by feeling the ground, and the feedback you get (for instance, if you hit your heel on the ground barefoot ONCE, you'll never ever do it again!) you begin to learn the lightest most, natural stride possible, helping not just your feet, but your ankles, shins, knees, hips, back, shoulders, and neck.

Barefoot time will also help increase circulation throughout the legs, because when you go barefoot, your feet have to do more work, requiring the body to send them more blood flood, nourishment, and oxygen. So you get better circulation (perfect for the hot weather, and especially for the cold next fall) and become even more injury resistant.

And you get better posture too, helping your whole body feel better. Often we don't think we have anything going wrong as runners, but typically, an overuse injury is just around the corner. Tight IT bands (caused by the high heeled running shoe) can be completely avoided with some barefoot well as a tight or sore back, and so many problems of the knees. By spending a bit of time fully barefoot, we help strengthen the ENTIRE body, by working small muscle groups oft neglected when we're in a shoe, helping build the strongest, most injury-resistant runner that runs light, more efficiently (aka less effort), with less impact, who stands taller, has better balance, and a better cooling system (aka better circulation) to boot...PLUS there are even more health benefits, such as reflexology (stimulating the bottom of the feet helps boost all systems of the body, such as the immune system) and even can reduce blood pressure.

So just because you don't have a foot problem today, doesn't mean you couldn't benefit from a modest amount of barefoot time. Oh, and did I mention, it's FUN. Just ask any five year old out there...they'd LOVE to strip off their shoes and run through the grass.

And so would we!

With blessings,


Michael and Jessica

P.S. I forwarded this question along to Dr. Ray McClanahan, and here's what insight he had to share.

Dear Michael,

I agree with everything you have written.  I would also like to
suggest that attention be given to the a fairly new study (10 years old),
done by one of my mentors, Dr. Harvey Lemont, of Philadelphia.(Journal of
the American Podiatric Medical Association).  His study confirmed
pathologically, that the irritated tissue of plantar fasciitis is actually
dead/necrotic tissue.  This was seen in all 50 of the subjects in his study.
For that reason, he suggested a more appropriate, accurate clinical term for
the condition, would be plantar fasciosis.  His study should be on my
website.  I have also published on this entity with Dr. Glenn Ingram, our
article is also on my website, titled plantar fasciosis. Fasciosis

The only thing I would add to your excellent description Michael, is that there is often a
circulatory component to this problem, that originates for the malposition
of the big toes, of most shoe wearing people.  When the big toe is pushed
towards the second toe, and lifted above the ball of the foot(tapering
toebox footwear, and footwear with toespring), the abductor hallucis muscle
partially strangulates the inflow and outflow of blood to the plantar medial
heel. This can be demonstrated easily.  I have a video of this on my site

Thanks for including me Michael. 

Best to you!

Ray McClanahan, DPM, BS Ed.


Vibram Lawsuit - It is not about the shoe

Recently, Vibram settled a lawsuit about their minimalist shoes and what they claimed they would or would not do. They agreed to pay 3.5 million dollars to those who purchased the shoes, with or without a receipt. 3.5 million may sound like a lot, and in my bank account in certainly would be, but to them, it was a fractional cost of doing business in a very competitive market.

The lawsuit claimed Vibram claimed health benefits that were never backed up with science. But the truth is, no claims in the footwear industry are backed up by science. That's what Christopher McDougal brought to light in Born to Run, and that's what started this whole natural running movement.

But somewhere along the way we got lost. We thought running was about buying a thing, a widget, a "shoe" that could suddenly make us better. What we forgot is that it is us, our practice, our awareness, and our attention to form that makes us better and keeps us injury free.

It's not about the shoe.

It never was, and it never will be.

One of the reasons I got into barefoot running was how it helped me heal and get running again. That was because I could feel the ground and learn my lightest stride. That's what I want every runner to learn, what his/her lightest stride is. There's no one stride that works for everyone, each of our bodies is unique. But we each have an incredible nervous system, an awareness system, or a mindfulness system, all connected by thousands of nerve endings to the bottom of our feet.

Learn how to run light, and you can carry that form back with you into a shoe...into many shoes, though certainly not all of them. But once you learn how to run naturally, and run light, you will leap forward in your evolution as a runner.

Then you can wear a Five Finger, or a no finger, a 150, a Gel blah blah, a Free to be me, or a born to be free, and you'll run light, you'll run far, and if you chose a shoe that doesn't squash or inhibit your feet, you may run injury free for years to come.

Just remember, it's not about the shoe, it's about your natural running form. And for me, that comes from being mindful, from feeling the ground, and listening to my body.

Despite the Wall Street Journal - Barefoot Running isn&'t Dead, Nor Heading Into the Sunset


I'm here to report, contrary to what you may have read in the Wall Street Journal, barefoot Running is not dead.

If it were, our children would all be born with Nikes on their feet.

But they're not, and there's a reason for it. Marketing, and dollars, always trumps what's real, what's natural, and what's hard to profit from. And yet, thousands of runners have experienced greater health, better running careers, and improved overall wellbeing by shedding their shoes.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article, 'Barefoot' Running Heads Into the Sunset: After Initial Burst, Thin-Soled Shoes—Some Looking Like Gloves—Lose Steam.

Now I'm not typically one to comment on articles on whether barefoot running is good or bad, that's really up to each individual. But I thought I'd take a look at this article in particular, to try and shed some light on what's really going on. In short, the article isn't about whether barefoot running is good or bad, but whether minimalist running shoes are making a lot of money or not.

With that said, the first, and most important thing, is that the article misses the point entirely. Barefoot Running was never about what shoes you's about, GOING barefoot. Or as Christopher McDougal says in a second WSJ article on a lawsuit against Vibram, "When did I ever say, 'buy shoes'? Never."

Barefoot running may never be trendy, it may never be the hippest way to run, but it very well may be the kindest, gentlest way on your body. But that's really up to you. In the article, it talks about people getting blisters and sore calves. Well guess what, they're right, if you don't start slowly enough. That's why I go on in all of our books, talks, clinics, retreats, and in our DVD and video series about starting slowly. I cannot emphasize this enough. You can't change your stride, even to a more "natural" stride, (meaning one where your body tells you what to do and how to land, rather than your footwear dictating it to you), without going slowly.

ONLY 200 YARDS. That's what I tell everyone, everywhere, all of the time. You start with 100-200 yards max, and increase by 100 yards every other time.

Where people get into trouble, is when they try to make the transition in footwear, such as the FiveFingers. Now those shoes are fun, but they can actually be WAY too much fun in the beginning. Because they help you run with a bit more natural of a stride, BUT without the full feedback you get from the ground (aka you can still "cheat" and heel strike in them and get away with it, something you'd NEVER do fully barefoot) and because they protect your skin.

Weak skin is perhaps natures second greatest protection mechanism, right behind PAIN sensors. Pain sensors stop us, and weak skin quickly brings us to the point of pain, which stops us too. Protect the foot with rubber, any rubber, and we veto this mechanism, or blindfold our senses.

Trick is, the weak skin is protecting the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and even bones on the inside. If we want to switch, we need to give EVERY part of the foot and leg time to catch up with our new stride.

And that's where we come back to the article. The article's not about barefoot at all, but about footwear, and really about DOLLARS. I hate to say this, but footwear manufacturers do NOT have your best interest in mind. Think I'm wrong. Look at your shoes, chances are they come to a point in the middle...yet no-one no-where, ever has a third toe that's longer than all the rest. They did this for fashion, because a tapered shoe presumably looks fast, and looks cool.

The footwear industry is about fashion trends. When there was money to be made in a new trend "minimalism" they were all over it, and rode it for all they could get...not informing customers that they needed to start slowly, or looking at what minimalist shoes worked and which didn't (we saw lots of shoes that actually HURT people more than their overbuilt counterparts). And now that minimalism has run it's course, they're working on maximalism, trying to get the most cushioned shoe out there, saying minimalism didn't work.

It's a dangerous swing of the pendulum, a bunch of marketing hype designed to get money from you, the consumer. They want in your wallet, not just in your shoes. Unfortunately, the consumer (and your feet) gets hurt by all of this.

Which is why I want you to step back, look at the hype, and try to figure out what's best for you.

Now I'm not saying go barefoot all of the time. Heck, I don't do that...though I certainly prefer it. But what I am saying, is that barefoot running is an amazing tool to get you healthy, and help keep you healthy...and more connected to nature. It also helps you run with a quieter mind, or in more of a mindful state as you run. You can do this too in a shoe, but it's much more difficult. So spend time out of your shoe training, growing strong, learning the best stride, and then you can carry that back into a shoe.

Jessica chimes in here: "Barefoot running helps you learn YOUR most natural stride which is unique to YOUR running expert out there anywhere would argue we all should have the same stride,  to the contrary, they call it an "experiment of one". So how do you learn your own stride, by feeling it out, feeling the ground and seeing what feels best. Then you can carry back into a shoe."

But look for the most NATURAL fitting shoe possible. There are still a few out there, and if we keep buying them, hopefully more will still come to market, just don't expect them from the major shoe manufacturers, at least for a while, but that's okay. Let's support the little guys who are the true innovators out there!

I'll be going into detail in an upcoming post on what to look for in a shoe, but here are 5 quick tips:

1. Look for shoes with the widest toe-box possible, one that isn't tapered in at the front, or doesn't come to a point.

2. Look for shoes that are FLAT and close to the ground, preferably with as much flex to the sole as possible.

3. Look for shoes that have NO high heel (this kind-of goes with the above).

4. Look for shoes that have no arch support, or that don't inhibit the movement of your arch in any way. (Often arch support is hidden by making a shoe NARROW or pinched together in the middle. Flip the shoe over, if it tapers in the middle, then when you lace up, the material will wrap up and around your foot and voila, hidden arch support.)

5. Look for shoes that don't have funny multi-direction or asymmetrical tread patterns on the bottom of the shoes. These cause your feet to go where the shoe wants them to go, not where YOU want your feet to go...often resulting in shin splints, IT band syndrome, or a general pain in the knee.

Overall, look for the most moccasin-like shoe possible. That's a design that's stood the test of time for THOUSANDS of years over the most challenging terrain possible. The more your shoes are moccasin-like, meaning flexible, close to the ground, wide all around, and floppy, the more it'll let your foot move like a foot. That's what I'm personally looking for in a shoe, how naturally does it let my foot move. And how naturally can I run in them.

Whether you're a full-time barefoot runner, or just dabbling to get yourself stronger, remember, let your skin and your body be your guide. If something doesn't feel right, in or out of a shoe, rest, and then try something different. Always make small, incremental changes, listen carefully to your body, and have fun!

More soon from RunBare headquarters. Listen to your footsteps, dance out on those trails, have fun, and Run Bare!

With blessings,

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee

(Your RunBare Team)

Top 10 Mindful Running Tips for Springtime

We've got a studio set up for filming right now, so we thought we'd share some quick tips to help you get healthy and keep you strong this spring.

It's so easy to overdo it in the springtime and get a nagging injury that sticks with you through the year; or to catch a cold or even the flu from overdoing it. So we came up with a list of top 10 mindful ways to get running with greater health this spring. We touch upon everything from transitioning, to terrain, form work, strength, nutrition, footwear (for those who aren't barefoot) and more.

It was fun making this video, because we want to help you have your best running season ever. So watch alone, watch with a friend, or simply listen in the background as you go about your day at work. Either way, enjoy the tips, be mindful and have fun!


Due to technical difficulties, please use the upper left menu to read other posts, do not click the link below.


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