Chi Running: The Closest Thing to Barefoot Running without Ditching your Shoes
Once again, the midfoot strike, barefoot running, and the diabolic results of over-built running shoes and heel striking hit the news in a significant way on January 27th, 2010, when a Harvard University study about barefoot running was released. Not surprisingly, the Chi Running technique is in alignment with the results.
Daniel Leiberman, Ph.D., Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and his colleagues studied the foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot running versus shod runners.
The study found that “Fore-foot and mid-foot-strike gaits were probably more common when humans ran barefoot or in minimal shoes, and may protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact-related injuries now experienced by a high percentage of runners.”
For those of us who are not ready to ditch our running shoes, who want to keep our feet warm and unscathed by rocks, glass and gravel, the Chi Running technique teaches us to run using a natural running form that most people have lost due to over-built running shoes and poor body mechanics. Chi Running starts by teaching correct posture and uses a slight forward lean so that your center of mass lands directly over your midfoot strike. The result is a more efficient running technique, with less pain and injury.
Chi Running founder Danny Dreyer has recommended a minimal shoe to his students for the past 10 years. He recommends making the transition to barefoot-like running gradually so that your feet and body can adjust to the new movements. In workshops across the world, Certified Chi Running Instructors teach the Chi Running technique through a systematic method that allows safe and effective progress. The primary focus of Chi Running is injury prevention and energy efficiency.
Chi Running has been teaching runners to run with a midfoot strike since 1999, when Dreyer first held classes in San Francisco. His book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, was released in 2004, along with a companion DVD, with revised editions published in 2009.
The Harvard University Study follows on the heels of an earlier study by Lieberman that reignited the phrase “Baby, We are Born to Run.”
And, boy are we! An LA Times article reporting on Lieberman’s first study begins with “Humanity was born to run,” and continues:
“More than by brain size or tool-making ability, the human species was set apart from its ancestors by the ability to jog mile after lung-stabbing mile with greater endurance than any other primate, according to research published today in the journal Nature.
Indeed, human beings evolved as the cross-country stars of a primordial runner's world 2 million years before the advent of jogging shoes, tracksuits and arthroscopic knee surgery.
Mounting a challenge to the conventional wisdom about human origins, researchers at Harvard University and the University of Utah concluded that the ability to run long distances was the driving force shaping the modern human anatomy.”
One phrase you can be sure to hear in Dreyer’s workshops is, “It’s not running that hurts your body or causes injury, it’s how you run that is the culprit.”
Chi Running, the natural, injury-free alternative to barefoot running, has a significant following and community of runners who have heeded Dreyer’s advice and learned to run like they did as children.
The following is a host of articles on barefoot running and the danger of over-built running shoes, including a piece in the New Yorker from April 2008 and the LA Times article about Lieberman’s first study. Also included is a story about the Chi Running technique and the benefits of landing with a softer, midfoot strike... covered in an NPR piece 3.5 years ago in 2006!
BBC, 2010: Shoes may have changed how we run
Harvard Science, 2010: Barefoot running easier on feet than running shoes
TIME, 2010: Toe Huggers
NPR, 2010: Study: Humans Were Born To Run Barefoot
NPR, 2010: Americans Long Way From Running Barefoot
New Yorker, 2008: You Walk Wrong
NPR, 2006: ChiRunners Poised for Softer Landings
LA Times, 2004: In Evolutionary Race, Humans Went the Extra Mile, Study Says
 Lieberman, D.E., et al, Nature 463,531-535 (2010). Entire article may be found online at:
- midfoot strike,
- barefoot running,