This Year, Be a Minimalist Walker or Runner.... - Chi Living

This Year, Be a Minimalist Walker or Runner….

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Jan 7th, 2014, 15 comments

This Year, Be a Minimalist Walker or Runner….

This year, be a minimalist walker or runner… Regardless of the shoes you wear.


We’ve all been hearing about minimalist shoes; they’re thin and flat, and bear little resemblance to the over-built shoes that have plagued walkers and runners for the past 40 years.  We’ve been seeing these new minimalist shoes entering the market in increasing numbers because research is starting to show that “more of a shoe” doesn’t necessarily make a better shoe. In the case of shoes, less mightbe better. In fact, my definition of a good running or walking shoe goes something like this: It’s the least amount of shoe you can safely walk or run in, given your current biomechanics, and your longest current distance.

At this point the minimalist shoe pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the middle because of all injuries people have incurred. People are getting injured for two reasons: 1. Using minimalist shoes without practicing good technique and 2. not allowing enough time to transition into their new “nothing” shoes. That puts us all right back into the middle of even more marketing from the shoe companies selling us an even larger spectrum of shoe styles.

But, what gets lost on most people is that it is not about the shoe! It’s about how you run and how you walk.

I’d like you to take a minute, from a minimalist point of view, and look to see if your technique is as “over-built” as most shoes are.

Being a minimalist runner or walker means you always have the intention of trying to sense what you could do to make yourself more efficient, with these questions in mind:

A. How do you run or walk more efficiently without losing any of your current speed?
B. How can you gain speed without working as hard as you do now?
C. How could you accomplish more (speed, mileage, weight loss, relaxation, enjoyment, medals, PR’s) by doing less?

How much extra effort are you exerting now that could be reduced if you spent time practicing good technique? And, watching and listening to your body? What if you held less tension in your body? What if you weren’t toeing off, over-striding or running or walking too upright? What if your breath was deeper and more relaxed and your heart wasn’t pounding so hard? What if you could minimize all the misaligned movement and over-exertion that leaves you wiped out at the end of your workout or injured at the end of the week? Ask yourself what that would feel like?

When people ask me, “What do you feel when you’re Chi Running or Chi Walking?” I tell them, “Well, it’s not so much what I feel, as what I don’t feel”. I don’t feel pain, discomfort, impact, strain, soreness, tension, or any of the other “downside” attributes that are often associated with running and which should be associated with poor walking technique. What I do feel is freedom in my movement, lightness in my step, expansion in my chest, and the warm sense of abundant chi flowing through my body.

When we can learn to deeply body sense, and rid ourselves of unnecessary effort by learning and practicing good technique, we become truly minimalist runners and walkers, regardless of the shoes we’re wearing.

15 CommentsLeave a comment below

I started to run bare-foot at the end of June 2013, initially training in the neighbouring unpaved back lanes (Winnipeg, Manitoba). What a good feeling of freedom! One would think it is harder to run on gravel than on asphalt, but it is the other way around. Gravel has give, asphalt is tough. In training, I experienced two factors: 1) the sensitivity of the soles; 2) the sensitivity of the foot and ankle structure. This winter I am working on the second factor by running in moccasin slippers on hard-packed snow covered surfaces (back-lanes, side streets, sidewalks), all the while hoping to resume bare-foot in the spring.

Teri Chamberlain Jan 8th, 2014 03:58pm

I began by purchasing the Chi Running book and studied the technique as well as I could.  I was given a Birthday gift from my husband to attend a running seminar given by Danny in Orlando Florida (I live in Indiana).  What a gift!! It changed my running life.  Danny encouraged me to toss my orthotics which I had been wearing for several years!  I suffered from IT Band Syndrome and was in pain all the time! I knew I had to change the way I ran.  I have been running for 20 years and have ran pain free since attending the seminar.  I ran a mini marathon in November and didn’t feel any muscle soreness the following day.  I just am not able to express how much joy I feel running now.  I will never take it for granted.  Thank you Danny for all your help!  And thanks to my hubby for one of the best Birthday gifts I’ve ever received!!

Teri Chamberlain

Fred Guenther Jan 8th, 2014 04:29pm

I practice ChiWalking mainly because of what I feel, not what I don’t feel.  To do it correctly, I have to pay close attention to the details and to unify the inner (mind and spirit) and the outer (technique).  This takes me to a higher level of consciousness and feels wonderful.

Mark Cucuzzella Jan 8th, 2014 09:49pm

Right on Danny.  Everyone can learn something by reconnecting with and retraining the foundation.  What you wear and do with your feet all day is more important than the running unless you are running 8-10 hours a day.  Lems, Barefooters, Vivobarefoot, Primal Professional….all great for the day job.  Mark Cucuzzella MD

Ajit Thomas Jan 8th, 2014 10:19pm

I have been Chi Running for the past two years and have gradually transitioned to minimalist shoes in the same period.  I feel totally comfortable in these shoes now, however, I feel that I am injury free because I changed my running to the Chi running method.

Michael Angelo Canopio Jan 9th, 2014 05:32pm

I started running using stability shoes and it ended up having a lot of injuries like from the shins and knees. I shifted to minimalist when I started practicing Chi Running and I noticed a big improvement not from the shoe but with my running as well. I’m currently using barefoot shoes. Less support but more freedom in running. I just learned how to run with less impact now I must say that the lesser shoe with allow you to learn chi running more…

Kurt Vanhaesebrouck Jan 11th, 2014 05:39am

Thanks to Chi Running, I can run 20km barefoot!
Thank you Danny,

Hello Danny,
Last August, in your Montreal workshop, you said that somehow users of Vibram Five Fingers often had a tendency of overusing their calves.  And I was a genuine representative of this tribe…
It would be useful if you could tell more on the reasons and solutions for this. 

Jeff Carnivale Jan 14th, 2014 02:19pm


There are at least a couple of reasons for this; one being that most barefoot/minimilist runners land on their forefoot without allowing the heel to come all the way down. This puts extra impact and pressure on the lower leg and foot muscles and means the calves are engaged and working all the way through a push off. If the landing is mid-foot and the heel touches and you are running with a slight lean, then it is no longer necessary to push but to simply lift the foot and let the road sweep your leg back. With that lean however, comes a more acute angle at the ankle. If this is not done in a relaxed state, the calves and achilles will take the brunt of the load. Hope this helps.

Thanks for the comment Jeff.
In my case, I believe the mid foot is good as evidenced by an even foot track left in sand or snow.
The push off is the issue and the lack of a “relaxed state” to use your words.
I will pay close attention and work on that.
Thanks for the guidance,

Richard M. Osgood Jan 28th, 2014 12:04pm

I am a 76 year old who has been running for 42 years and racing for 39…...I adopted the Chi Technique in October and I’m doing it the best I can. My times are a bit slower but I see progress. My question, however, regards my low back (soft tissue) problems that I’ve had for 30 years in different degrees. Danny, do you think that if I continue the Chi Running approach that just maybe someday my back issue will be solved?

Jeff Carnivale Jan 30th, 2014 01:43pm


I so wish that there was an easy yes to your questions, but so many factors are involved. Certainly creating the correct posture in your body and engaging your abdominal muscles will take the load off the back. Some isolated training of the core stability muscles and balance work will also help. Wish you luck.

Im not quite reassured here.Not all foot types can possibly run with this technique and all foot types should have been mentioned.
Unless i overlooked something
I have pes caves feet radically high arched and narrow i supinate. i cannot even walk barefoot unless in sand.
I require orthotics in sneakers which must be narrow sneakers and a great deal of cushioning.i rarely see anything written on pes caves feet for running .  gee i can’t be the only one with small narrow high arched feet!

It is true that some conditions such as this are not often mentioned. However, no matter your foot type or the shoe on your foot, everyone can improve their running/walking technique with many of the focuses on posture, lean, relaxation, etc.

hello I am new to the running world and was born with short heel chords I’ve recently developed plantar fascitus in my right foot . just wondering is it safe for me to continue running it seems like its never going to go away. wondering if I could benifit from chi running/

What are your thoughts?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Top 100 Runnning Blogs award

Over a million happy runners can't be wrong.

Watch our FREE video series and run easier and better than you ever imagined. Feel the difference in your next run!