I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalist running lately and the way we are built for running. Also, I’ve been contemplating our “holistic” running system (nutrition, feet, breathing, and mind). I’m in the off-season and this is a time of year I reflect.

I just started running again after some short time off after Ozark Trail 100 and I’m using this time to transition to a more minimalist running shoe. I’ve already been dabbling in the Vibram Five Fingers. I walk around town a few days a week in them. Do short jogging sessions in them. Spend time barefoot.

I’m also weaning myself off an aftermarket insole I’ve used for years. My feet have been locked up since 2003 in some kind of insole (e.g. plastic orthotic, then flexible orthotic, then aftermarket insole)…I’ve been slowing weaning myself to more and more of a neutral shoe with a over the counter insole. Now it’s time to make the final switch. My shoe of choice to go to is the New Balance MT 100. The runs I’ve done in them have been short but good. I’m doing it slowly as my feet adjust. It definitely feels better to run without the insole in a lightweight trainer (more nimble, more sensitive to the terrain)…but, I know I have weak muscles in my feet for a full out switch over. Baby steps. Every other day. Then when I feel good, the final transition.

This minimalist approach got me thinking about how we breathe when running with regard to how to teach my son to breathe while running. My wife and I are raising two kids that are being introduced to running. My young son just completed a fall session of a kids running club and he had some issues with side cramping. I jogged next to him on one of their little XC time trials and realized he was breathing through his mouth very sporadically. Well, this got me thinking about breathing and how to teach it. I came across a very interesting article by a running coach called Josh McDougal is a Perfect Example of What is Wrong With High School Track by John Raucci and I thought I’d share it. He covers feet, breathing, mind, training…the building blocks of a lifetime of running. If you have the time, read this very long, but very good article. Giddyup!

Minimalist Running—tapping into your natural runner

8 thoughts on “Minimalist Running—tapping into your natural runner

  • December 3, 2009 at 1:00 am


    I like the MT100 too. I ran the OT100 in those for the 1st 43.5 miles. They are great if your'e ready for some lightweight wear.

    I've also been using VFF's for about 1 year now. I've done very little running in them, but I play indoor volleyball in them twice a week and wear them around town about every chance I get.

    Thanks for sharing the article – looking forward to reading it!

    Let us know how your transition to the MT100 goes. I learned from the brand manager that the insole is, in fact, removable. It's barely tacked in there with a tiny bit of glue. The reason I bring this up is I'm considering removing them is because my feet slide on them just a bit when I'm cutting hard on the switchbacks. Just thought I'd share that tid-bit in case you were wondering.



  • December 3, 2009 at 7:09 am


    I've been messing with VFF for about a year too…I've been more off and on with them. Spent a lot of time playing running games with my kids in them and at one point in the summer ran 40 minutes in them with a few walk breaks (after several times/wk of 10-20 minute sessions)…all low intensity jogging, with some 10-20 yard sprints getting away from my 7 year old during tag.

    I did take out the insole when I first got the MT100s (before the heat of my foot really solidified the glue strips on the insole). Tried other insoles but didn't really like the heel fit it caused.

    So, I'm trying to transition to the zero support insole. Ran 55 minutes today in Asics Gel Hyperspeed 3 with stock insole. I'm a little tight in spots on my lower legs, but not bad. Going to add in 2 short VFF jog sessions this coming week to help boost the feet strength. Peace.

  • December 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Great article, I really enjoyed reading it. Some excellent points are raised and fits along the lines of "Born to Run" without as much "hoopla."

    The breathing part is what I found most interesting. I had really never thought about it much before. Mainly I just try to tell myslef to be relaxed, but it apprears that is an area that I could benefit from tuning into more.

    As far as kids go. I have a 2 year old that mostly wears low profile, flexible shoes with little or no support. I think this is key to building up that foot and lower leg stregnth from a young age so that if she chooses to run some day she does not have to spend time transistioning to the minimalist shoe.

    As far as shoes go, I have the MT100 also, I like it, but not as much as the Inov-8 230. That's what I am working down towards on the trail. I have a pair of Inov-8 301's that I have been using at the gym and on the treadmill as slight support shoe on the hard surfaces.

  • December 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm


    Agreed. I did the same for my kids…Robies or PadRags early on, then I look for the old-school pumas for my son now (Puma Mesh Speeder or something similar). Plus, they go barefoot in the house and barefoot 80% of the time in the summer outside.

    I found the breathing thing interesting too. I did a 55 minute run yesterday with a 5 or 6 minute tempo pick-up in the middle 100% nasal breathing. It will take some getting used to, as I find my nose is not used to being used so much (it's lazy). I think this kind of "nose training" could be very beneficial for endurance stuff.

    I've had the Inov8 230s for over a year (blue ones). I didn't really like them initially (back when I was still in a more aggressive shoe, but now I find myself being drawn to them again. However, I think I lean toward the New Balance, as the MT100s fit my foot shape better. Funny you mention them, I just was digging them out 2 nights ago from my garage shoe stash to run in again. :)


  • December 4, 2009 at 1:08 am

    I just ordered some MT100s as my winter trail shoe. The RL-3 last that New Balance uses to make them has a wide forefoot. I'm not sure if that really translates to an E width, but I'll know soon enough.

    When you feel that your feet are up to it and the weather's warmer, give one of Ted McDonald's huaraches kits a try. I've really enjoyed running with the neoprene soles for the last few months, far more than when I've used my VFF Sprints. Mud is their weakness though. Next spring I'm going start experimenting with different strapping patterns to help hold my feet in place while mud on the foot bed dries or washes off.

  • December 4, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Good luck with the MT100s. I've checked out BTs huaraches. Pretty cool. Happy running.

  • December 5, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Good luck with your transition over to minimalist running Jeff.
    I made the switch about 3 months ago.
    I'm falling into the camp of no shoes if possible but VFF's as a last resort.
    I ran home from work yesterday and did 4km in the VFF's and 10km barefoot on concrete and bitumen paths and roads.
    The feet get a little sore but recover remarkably fast.
    I have rediscovered running after 30 years of running with corrective shoes and orthotics, for the first time I can run without pain.
    Keep it up.


  • December 6, 2009 at 6:14 am


    Checked out your blog…love the Terra Plana shoes…local running shop is thinking of carrying them. I'm trying to get a pair.

    Ran a hard 5k race today and I just got back from a 12 minute VFF night run to shake out the legs. I've been tacking on VFF runs at end of normal runs or as easy night runs. I'm starting to go through the 1.3 mile loop with no soreness at all. Good sign. Can't barefoot right now, we're in the middle of winter…below freezing today. But the VFF neoprenes are splendid for cold weather.


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