James Enlightens a Running Store Employee

James in Bold Face Italics….”Runner” regular text (name removed for privacy) A long but insightful read.

So, as I was working at the run shop today, a very solid and seasoned runner, a doctor no less, said to me, “Runner, I tried chi running and running mid foot and so on and boy, did I get hurt. I asked him if he used proper technique and so on and was patient and he said yes. In the end, he just wanted more cushion. Some very good and seasoned runners tell this to me. So, perhaps I speak blasphemy here but alas, it is what it is. Humans are complex and does one size fit all? All of the specialty shops are honing in on minimalism as they see it as a growing trend. Now dc is not Northampton ma and or Shepherdstown. The population is pulled and swayed in many directions. So marketing and communication are key as is simply producing a running formula that creates an injury free runner. So, my experience so far tells me that there is no 100 percent silver bullet to this effort of running pain free. And so there is a marketing and running injury free message that needs cultivation in order to spread the message with conviction. Can we get Allen Webb to run barefoot?



I will apologize in advance because I cannot recall your background or history, but I will advocate my 2 cents worth. I have had many experiences with this and it will always be so. A few things worth mention regarding presenting considerations to customers:


I’ll be realistic and say I am aware there is no 100% solution to much of anything, but over 99% is convincing enough to me. When I hear of folks who give up or tell me it doesn’t work for them, it is usually because they do not give it time. I am convinced that if that 1% of folks spent the amount of time it takes to get their bodies back to how they were at the age of 2 or 3 that we would hit more like 99.5% success. The other 0.5% may have some sort of birth defect or disorder the body is incapable of adapting to for the act of running….mother nature wins on this one. The time it takes to undo 20+ years of interference from bad shoes, deformity in the foot caused by bad shoes prior to the age of 8, and sedentary hunched over lifestyles can sometimes require more than 2 years of patience and discipline….or sometimes it can happen within a few months. Some folks don’t want to take 2 years to rehab, much less 2 months. I took a year and a half to reach about 95% good…it is the best thing I have ever accomplished physically for my body and it 100% works. I am not into racing, but only since my gradual improvement in form and footwear started over 2 years ago, I have ran the fastest 5K, 10K, marathon, and 50 mile of my life back in November…all personal bests were within a 2 week period….the 50 mile was the first event in that 2 week period…..at the young age of 46. This was not my intention; it all just happened because I felt great and was enjoying running the most I ever have.


There is no arguing with nature and 3.5 million years or evolution…nothing can refute that this is how we function best. 30 years of misinformation and marketing of traditional (“normal”) running shoes and heel striking (“normal”) is tough to overcome….A quick look at “normal”….only 50 years ago it was normal for everyone to smoke cigarettes. Today it is “normal” for women to wear bikinis at the beach…..not true 40 years ago. “Normal” is not based on any form of logic or health considerations, it is simply what the majority does.


A lot of folks aren’t aware of the facts and evidence, or they don’t have the time to learn the facts, do not think they can, or should change, or they think it is not worth it because today they are A-OK (very similar position of a die hard smoker….no pun intended). These are the folks I do not put any pressure on at all…I provide the opportunity for them to become educated and obtain good equipment for a healthy running experience, what they do with it is up to them, but at least I have done my job. Again, I reference the volumes of evidence on our web-site….they can choose to ignore this if they like. I tell them to just take a look the next time they are laid-up from their next running injury. I can usually provide a few quick “no-brainers” to at least get them a little more curious.



20 of the last 22 winners of the Boston Marathon mostly grew up and trained barefoot….Africans from Africa (African-Americans suffer the same fate as most Westerners by growing up with our “normal” horrible shoes on, and leading our “normal” unhealthy lifestyles). In other words the African winners are not heel strikers, they have a cadence very near 180, they have never worn traditional running shoes, they run an extreme amount of miles this way, these many miles are run on natural surfaces of rock (concrete) and hard clay (asphalt) along with a lot of hard dirt and sand as well (not much grass due to hidden sharp objects), and they spend very little of their lives hunched over in a car or at a desk. Its no wonder we can no longer compete because we do so many of the wrong things, but continue to consider it “normal”. It is no doubt our marathon times will continue to decline until natural running and minimal footwear again become our “normal”. Natural running form and minimal footwear was the normal back in the 50’s and 60’s when we were competitive…..before the traditional running shoe and marketing propaganda changed “normal”.


80% of “normal” shoe wearing, preschool-aged children have foot and toe deformities that are not seen in children that go barefoot.


75% of children wear shoes 1/2 to 3-1/2 sizes too small during critical years that the foot is in development


These numbers show what good our current “normal” mindset is doing….basically no good at all. This is very convincing stuff even to the most skeptical. Someone has to make the effort to change this mindset across current generations or it will continue to perpetuate. I am making this effort as tactfully as I can manage.


Also, I am not trying to beat a dead horse but simply point out that there are different categories of runners. Some are naturally more efficient, etc and so even though they might not benefit from a simple low profile piece of footwear at the present, they might ten years down the road, etc.

Ok but what about people like Bill Rodgers(our greatest distance runner). He ran well and probably would have done so on any shoe


Hello Runner,


Bill Rogers did not wear traditional running shoes in any of the photos I have seen of him when he was in his prime…We have an Onizuka in our shop…it is a minimalist shoe. Most athletic runners of his time wore the minimalist Onizuka or something similar. 

I attached a picture of Bill Rogers Running….he is on the far right….he is not a heel striker….looks like good natural running form. I attached a picture of one of the shoes he used to put his name on….it is more of a minimalist shoe than a traditional running shoe. Looks like about 2 to 4 mm offset….traditional running shoe is 18mm heel offset.


Bill Rogers is actually one of the better examples of what we once were just before the horrible influences of the traditional running shoe started taking its toll on natural gait and human physiology: A great example of “2+2=4”.


On categories of runners…I consider that we are all very much the same….we are human bi-pedals…we are all born as naturally efficient runners and walkers.  Our genetics, engineering, function, design, etc. have not changed in the last 30 years. We can all be efficient runners with less injury if we use our bodies properly for the very natural movements of walking and running we are all designed and built for. This applies to a 13 minute miler or a 4 minute miler. 


My favorite question: Why do we need to add 3/4″ heels and arch support all of the sudden for running or walking? We did fine for over 3.5 million years without these things and our survival depended on it.

I challenge anyone to try to find just one single good reason they should add heel lift, arch support, and restrict the toes and midfoot, with a shoe; While I can find dozens of evidence based reasons not to.

Humans would not be the way we are if it didn’t work. We are only degrading our natural, efficient performance capabilities the more we interfere with our natural design and function.



I do not think bill ran in traditional or complicated running shoes because back in the day, there were so few to choose from. I mean the 70s and 80s were the early years of the run boom. Think about the shoes that Tarzan Brown or Jon Kelly used way back when? They probably threw on whatever seemed comfortable, what they were given for free and so on. So, we need to get back to the basics




Based on your replies, it does not seem that you are reading any of the emails I am sending you. If you are reading them, it does not seem you are paying attention to what I am telling you. Therefore, I will leave you with one last thing on your theory of “categories of runners” and then only respond if you promise you have read what I am telling you.

There is a “category of runners” that are informed and intelligent enough to drink water for a long run on a hot day, and there are other runners who don’t because they are ignorant of the science and evidence that staying hydrated is a more healthy way to perform the exercise of running. The same goes for running form and shoes….one “category of runners” will remain ignorant or misinformed of the most healthy way to perform the exercise of running (natural form and in flat shoes, minimalist shoes, or barefoot).

Like remaining properly hydrated, the benefits of healthy, natural running form, and proper footwear that does not interfere with it, has nothing to do with whether you are an elite athlete, or a pedestrian walker….it works for all humans – just like staying properly hydrated works for all humans. This is as clear as I can spell this out.


Believe it or not, back in the 50’s it was considered “normal” to refrain as much as possible from drinking much water leading up to, or during a marathon because popular belief was that it slowed you down and left one “sluggish”….this “is what it is”. Today we think of this approach as ridiculous, because science and the evidence have proven otherwise. We will think the same thing in a few short years of how ridiculous traditional running shoes and heel striking were, now that science and evidence have shown what most can figure out for themselves without “Big Box” Shoe Company providing us a marketing gimmick.




I hear what you are saying and truly understand it. However, I do think all human bodies are different and what is applicable to one or several people might not be to others. I have had the opportunity to visit the labs of big shoe companies and meet with biomechanics doctors assessing foot strike and subsequent muscle activation sequence and more. Barefoot/minimalism is applicable to many or maybe all but is it a must? In other words, will folks automatically get injured is they run in a regular shoe? I agree that running form is important but how many people have time to really delve into it? The same applies for anything really. So, you can take the purist approach or my way or the highway or try to accommodate the masses while using gradual and subtle methods to educate them to think about changing. Rome was not built in a day


OK Runner…


Not all people stay hydrated when they run…Is it a must? Can they get by without it? Will some folks automatically get injured or pass out if they don’t hydrate properly? Is it applicable to everyone? Do some humans need to be hydrated yet others do not? Is it healthy? Should someone who doesn’t hydrate properly change their ways if they choose not to delve into it? Come on Runner…you are not hearing the point. Everything about natural running and proper footwear is based on human physiology, just like staying properly hydrated….no difference. This has not changed in the last 30 (or 3 million) years no matter what some expert scientist at Big Box Shoe Company tells you or tries to sell you. I can only figure they enjoy the fact that 60-80% of runners wearing their shoes are injured every year…maybe so they can sell them a new batch of snake oil every 6 months? Are you really, seriously, accepting that these injury rates are OK?? It is starting to sound like it, and it bugs me to death most folks are like you when there is absolutely no need for this…especially in our youngsters. If football helmets had these kinds of injury rates you can only imagine how fast the sport would be outlawed.


I know about the labs & biomechanics’ doctors etc. The big shoe companies are feeding crap to the masses and they have admitted it…all of them….as well as all the folks I know who worked at multiple big shoe companies for dozens of years (and I know a few and have heard and read interviews from more). They sell shoes and market them without anyone ever even running in them to try them out…this is absurd….this is a fact and it happens all the time…has for over 20 years. They are all starting to “change their tune” even though the body hasn’t…they are afraid people are getting educated. The main man at asics forever has recently switched 180 degrees from condemning barefoot running only about 5 years ago to very recently recommending it as the best way everyone should run. If you are going to rely on their info, what else would convince you from these big box guys other than this guy?

Proper muscle activation sequence relies on communication thru the foots nervous system to even work close to normal…did they explain that this communication is nearly impossible when you have 18mm of foam under your foot? They have a great way of creating “foot strike” data. The biggest problem with this is that the foot never “strikes” anything if it is working properly…the human body does not enjoy striking anything…the foot, like the hand, is best at touching, feeling, landing, absorbing, communicating, absorbing and adapting, communicating some more, balancing, stretching & loading, and finally propelling. This is what’s called “natural foot function” and does not occur in the traditional running shoe. The shoe guys don’t get it….they want everyone to “strike” on the newest thing they can cram into an inch or two under your heel. This is all to make them more millions, not to solve the typical runners’ injury problems….that would be easy, but much less profitable.

The big box guys deal in marketing fashion and social acceptance of “normal” the way they create, and re-invent it….nothing to do with science and health.

You still haven’t told me a reason you might have come up with for why anyone requires an elevated heel, support under the arch, and a restrictive toe box. All traditional running shoes have these features, so there must be quite a few reasons we humans must need them for something. Good luck finding any science or good evidence on this….it doesn’t exist. I have seen a few shoe adds referring to “MAGIC” features in their shoes…I am not making this up, but millions of runners accept that it works. Makes me wonder if I should get more involved in a different, more intelligent sport….maybe football?





We live in a capitalist economy based on supply and demand. McDonalds is not good for you but there is plenty of demand. The same scenario repeats itself everywhere. Cars kill the environment but we drive them, right? So, regarding running shoes I agree with you that a no heel or barefoot or minimalist running shoe combined with proper form is the best way to go. With this said, will as Asics 2160 kill a guy who runs a few miles a week to keep some pounds off? Some folks might not be ready for full blown minimalism and thus, you do not want to discourage them for doing some fitness. As for the shoe companies, I really do not know the depth of their assessment of all this. I do know that they are making minimal shoes due to increased demand. So, the trend is growing. I do think it will end if too many people get involved too much and too soon and get injured, etc. Do you work in the run industry?


Well Runner….

not sure where you got the idea I would discourage someone from running or exercising?? There are many healthy products we offer and sell everyday as a transition for folks away from unhealthy footwear….we have never provided advice that would discourage…like I have told you, we are here to provide healthy opportunities and to provide accurate advice based on science, evidence and facts, not to make a buck with unhealthy gimmicks, fads, marketing, trends, or misinformation. Our customers see this, they absolutely love it, they tell all their friends, and they all come back for more…the consumer is craving this type of service. This has drifted from Big Box and their only focus has become $$. See our web site mission statement….it works. http://trtreads.org/About.html


We are here to be a part of, and help lead, the return to sanity of many years ago…not to profit from a trend. If you want to profit from a trend, like Big Box does now, keep selling the crap. Folks will continue to demand and use this stuff because they have been brainwashed for years, and many retailers will continue to reap the profits from selling the snake oil as long as they are comfortable doing it. I am not, and never will be comfortable selling or promoting the lies and misinformation of the seriously unhealthy product known as the “traditional running shoe.” I know better, but if you choose to be comfortable with this, enjoy. Yes, a 60-80% injury rate is considered “seriously unhealthy”…….to me.


I am curious where you want to fit into this…are you more comfortable working at McDonalds, selling Quarter pounders to overweight, type II diabetics, or would do you choose to sell just as many (or more) healthy choices to this person, the person who will benefit from it the most? The guy who runs a few miles to keep the pounds off, but is constantly discouraged from running due to injuries (60 to 80% of all runners), is an enormous market……we exist on this market and it works.


We are not “in-and-out” burger, we are “come in and make an informed choice for a better experience”. We are not a “shoe store”, we are a healthy opportunities and options store……We made a good dent into that 60-80% of injured runners number this year, and even did better just getting folks started, or re-started with walking or running when they didn’t think they could, or should, based on: #1- they receive bad advice #2- because they were doing it wrong #3- because they were wearing unhealthy footwear. Sometimes all 3…….this success we enjoy is a good feeling each time I see it, get the e-mails, and talk to the re-invigorated out and about or back in the store for a visit. The success stories are people of the full spectrum: Performance athletes, folks battling obesity, battling or recovering from cancer, pregnant or just gave birth, 70 year old recovering from 15 years of heart and lung disability and running first marathon, 16 year old trying to compete again in senior year track season, middle age getting back into running after years off from pain that made them quit (our biggest, most successful market), and many more. The most common fix to keep or get these folks going again was to just offer them a chance to experience their exercise in healthy footwear. With some motivation and a few tips on how to run or walk properly, those who give it some time enjoy a success rate of 100% at their level of capacity. Most become hungry for more and expand to higher goals.


There is a huge demand for cigarettes and many other unhealthy choices for consumers. Do you want to open a tobacco shop and sell these to people who will eventually develop emphysema, lung cancer, or many other health problems? Or do you want to open an organic grocery, or a healthy lifestyle based retail store that doesn’t stock cigarettes? (how about a shoe store that only stocks healthy shoes, but no cigarettes?) This is your choice….you can easily open either store, and they will have demand and income and are both legal and based on capitalism. If you choose to be comfortable selling cigarettes in your health based store, you had better be prepared to smoke them, and advertise & promote them, or you are only proving you are not committed to them to your customers. You have to be willing to sell cigarettes to 18 year olds (legal age)….possibly providing an opportunity for them to ruin their health for life…is it legal? Is there demand? Will you earn a profit doing this? Yes, but is this really what you want to do when there are healthier, just as profitable and as much “in-demand” products available for you to sell?

I use cigarettes as an example, but there are many other unhealthy, legal, high demand products out there you can replace that word with if you don’t like me using it. Politics and Nazi’s have nothing to do with your choice to offer only healthy products so I will not comment on that.



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