Natural Running: Which comes first, the form or the footwear?

A symphony in motion
Here is the big running secret….you are wired to do it.  Running is ingrained into your DNA.  There are a number of attributes that make humans such phenomenal long distance runners, but perhaps none more amazing than the instinctual sense of where to land and how to move most efficiently.  Running is a symphony of motion.

The most awesome part…you are born with the perfect set of tools to master this action and it is something your body naturally does very well.  There will never be a shoe that cushions or stabilizes as well as the human foot, no matter how much you pay for it.  Never.

I would make the case that rather than this be indicting on a generation of runners, this philosophy is the most liberating.  This view point puts the running experience in complete control of the runner by learning and practicing efficient running technique.

I appreciate and welcome the movement of minimal shoes that promote a more natural running style.  The truth is that all a shoe can do is create an environment, it is an athletes job to dictate the movement.  How you move is more important than what you buy.  You can tattoo that on your foot.

The function of running shoes should be that of a tool, as they should play a very specific and limited role in the running experience.  The optimal running shoe is one that allows that foot to move as it is designed and gives accurate feedback as to what the ground looks like.  That’s it.  Your body is more than capable of doing the rest.

As the owner of a store that sells natural and minimalist running shoes, I would be amiss to say that if you just buy our shoes your running woes will be gone.  You won’t hear it here, not from me.  My message is that you are born a running machine.  If you can develop the things your body does very well, you can be in greater control of what your running experience looks like.

I have been hurt enough times and blamed a huge list of external factors (shoes with too much support, shoes with too little support, pavement, trails, no cross training, too much cross training, jeans that were too tight, etc.).  The reality is that when I got hurt it was the result of bad form and more stress (in terms of distance and intensity) than my body was ready to handle.  I ignored all the warning signs and logic.

This is the ultimate in athlete accountability and this philosophy is a double edged sword.  When you have a great run, it isn’t because of external factors.  It is because you had a well executed plan and you dominated the things you could control.  And conversely when things don’t go well or you get hurt, it isn’t because of external factors.  It is because the things you could control got away from you.

Initially I wasn’t open to this idea, as there was no way I could be the problem (famous last words).   But this philosophy has gone from personally indicting to become incredibly empowering.  I want to be in control of my running experience.  I want to be accountable to the good and the bad.  This isn’t for everyone, but it’s a really good fit for me.

Now go identify and dominate the things you can control.  Don’t worry about too much else.



About this punk: Patton Gleason is president and founder of and the Flow Running teaching method.  He is a running industry veteran and loves the irony of promoting barefoot running and owning a store that sells shoes.  He lives in McKinney, Texas with his beautiful wife and three children.  He has got a thing for long runs, burpees, pumpkin pie and bluegrass music.  Seriously send him some pie.  


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