Originally posted on: March 15, 2013
A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to review "The Runner's World Complete Guide to Minimalism and Barefoot Running" by Scott Douglas (who I was lucky enough to meet for 5 minutes at the #RWHalf back in October), so of course I accepted.
Disclosure: I was provided this book at no cost by Runner's World to read and then review on my blog.
This is one of those books on running that I read very quickly and enjoyed quite a bit. It was very readable and easy to follow where the author was going. I found myself nodding my head so many times and saying, "this is what I have been thinking about or gee this is what I needed to know".
When I started to move back in this direction, see my post on Is Barefoot Running Right for Me? from January 2012 and how I attempted to move too quickly to minimalist shoes last year in my Who is the Running is the Running Minimalism Dummy Now? post, the minimalism/barefoot "fads/movements" were peaking and sometimes getting more balanced information like Scott has provided in this book was difficult.
Notice that I said move back in this direction...Like the author, (who I am a little older than), I have been running since the early 70's when most, if not all running shoes would be what we now consider minimalist shoes today, so minimalism is in my mind more about going back to my roots.
It was fun for me to read Scott's thoughts about these issues and look at how his thoughts compared to my own. I know that I did enjoy reading about his research and interviews with others in the running communities about minimalist and barefoot running.
Something that he says on page 6 of the book that really stuck with me:
The basic premise of this book is that minimalism and barefoot running are a means to an end. That end is running with better form and less injury, both of which should make you faster and help you enjoy your running more.
Isn't that what all runners want - ways to be a better runner and help you enjoy running more.
Then he goes on to talk about the difference between secrets to improve your running, versus best practices (and I agree there is a big difference):
"There are no secrets" also means keeping the importance of this or any aspect of running in perspective. There's no one element of running that deserves obsessive focus while you under emphasize other contributors to successful running. What you have on your feet and when you run matters a lot. So do a lot of other things: how much and how far you run, how strong and flexible you are, your diet, your running form, and how you spend your non running time. Zealotry never works out over the long term in running..."
With this basic framework in place, how successful was Scott in writing about the benefits of minimalism and barefoot running?
Personally, I believe that the book does a very good job of what it set out to do. Douglas does a great job of explaining the pros and cons of both minimalism and barefoot running. I really liked that it was not just the this is the only right way, super hype of this movement, that I have read from some of the other more radical advocates of these running styles.
I found what he wrote a very informative book about the subject, but with a slant that minimalism and barefoot running can be a positive part of a runner's training regimen if time is taken to transition to this style - which I do agree with. However, Scott did not attempt to gloss over the the difficulties runners could encounter with minimalist or barefoot running.
What does the book talk about?
Chapter 1 - An Introduction to Minimalism
Chapter 2 - Why Bother?
Chapter 3 - A Brief History of Minimalism
Chapter 4 - Facts on Form, Footstrike and Footwear
Chapter 5 - The Many Modes of Minimalism
Chapter 6 - Steps to Minimalism
Chapter 7 - Reasonable Barefooting
Chapter 8 - Minimalism for Life
Chapter 9 - Minimalism in the Long Run
I enjoyed reading about Scott's research and conversations with others about these topics, many of whom, I have read their blogs and books, so the names were familiar to me. Also the vignettes about real people and their stories about their experience with minimalism and barefoot running were very interesting.
This quote (pg 180) sums up how I feel about running styles, what equipment we use and so on.
we're all an experiment of one.
I am taking it out of context of the way in which Scott used it in the book, but I strongly believe that what works great for one runner, may work differently or not work at all for someone else. It is up to each individual runner to find what works best for themselves, but using resources like this, does help to make it easier to find what might work for you.
The reality is that I have been moving back to lighter, lower drop minimal running shoes (with a few blips here or there) and when it is not winter heah in Maine, doing barefoot strides at the track, both of which I believe have helped to improve my running.
Scott's book validated many of my own thoughts and beliefs about minimalism and barefoot running, plus I learned more than a few tips and tricks that I plan to add to my own running.
That is what I liked most about the book - it gave "real world" advice on how to incorporate these styles of running/training into your life, which is not always easy to do.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Scott Douglas' "The Runner's World Complete Guide to Minimalism and Barefoot Running" and strongly recommend it to runners who are interested in learning more about minimalism and barefoot running.