Christopher McDougall talks about his Vibram Five Fingers

Interview with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall where he talks about his running form suffering from shoes and the switch to Vibram Five Fingers causing an improvement in his form.

Be sure and check out my interview with Christopher McDougall!

In it, Chris talks about denying your nature, the sports shoe industry, getting to barefoot, cross-pollinating ideas, and more!

Christopher McDougall, author of the recently released Born to Run, talked to Ron Hogan about how he had regressed in his running form after switching back to wearing running shoes. The solution? Keeping his form honest by wearing Vibram Five Fingers. Here’s the video, and I’ve transcribed much of what McDougall says below:

And if you prefer to read it, here’s my transcription.

Christopher McDougall:

“I thought that once I learned how to run like those [ultra long distance runners] do, my problems are gone forever except that while I was writing [Born to Run] the problem came back. I started getting this heel pain and I couldn’t shake it. I spent nine months trying to shake this stupid heel pain.

“And I thought well it can’t be the way I run because now I run perfectly. I’ve learned perfect biomechanics, it can’t be that. I went through the same cycle of seeing sports medicine doctors and nothing helped. I went to see a guy who is a barefoot running coach. He took 30 seconds of video and he’s like “Okay. You’re cured. Problem solved.” He showed me the video and I had regressed because I had gone back to wearing running shoes and I had just lost that sense of contact with the ground and I wasn’t aware of where my body was in space. I regressed back to that old running form and that was what was causing the heel pain.

“So now I wear these [Vibram Five Fingers] because they keep you honest. You can’t be sloppy in these things because there’s basically nothing to them. It’s basically like dipping your foot in paint . . . it’s just a chunk of rubber and a velcro strap.

“A lot of barefoot runners have taken to these things like wildfire. They really love them. The cool thing is that once they are on your feet you forget you’re wearing them. It’s like you’re barefoot all the time.

“Even when you’re in the house. Ordinarily you’re in the house you kick your shoes off – you forget you’re wearing these. You just leave them on all the time.”

Justin here. I don’t know about you, but my copy of BtR is presently in the mail from Amazon (Update: read and reviewed Born to Run — read the review here). I thought this was a great video from McDougall and it really illustrates how even knowing the correct way to run is impaired by the “noise” caused by running in your typical running shoes. Knowing you run wrong, and knowing how to run right just isn’t enough. The best solution is to minimize the interference between your feet and the ground. This means running completely barefoot (Ideal) or wearing only a minimal amount of footwear (As in with fivefingers or huaraches, for example), if anything.

In the video, McDougall is wearing KSO Five Fingers (I’ve reviewed the KSO FiveFingers here. You can get find KSO VFFs at a authorized Vibram Five Fingers retailer).

Finally, I’ll echo Christopher’s comment about VFFs in the house. I frequently throw them on for some reason (say to run outside to take out the trash) only to come back in and forget to take them off. A few hours later I’ll think, “Why am I still wearing these things?”

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By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

9 replies on “Christopher McDougall talks about his Vibram Five Fingers”

Neat video! I just finished the book a couple days ago – very very good. Hard to put down! I’m getting a copy for my dad for father’s day.

Enjoy it when it comes to you!

My pair of Vibram Five Fingers arrived yesterday. I chose Classic in black – they’re the most feminine looking, in my opinion. I have had an amazing time wearing them, even on a pebbly trail – they are so comfortable! I have toes that curl under a bit and have a bit of webbing yet these fit so well. I wore them for something like 6 hours in a row.

They’re great for dancing too – much better than any other shoes I’ve worn, and better than bare feet thanks to the padding which buffers impact a bit.

Sept 3 I am scheduled for a total knee replacement in the Mayo Clinic. I have been so crippled up with my bad knee bone on bone I started limping severely. I ready the book two weeks ago, bought sandals, changed my walking pattern from landing on my heels or at best flat feet to the balls of my feet.
I know this will sound goofy but two days later I had no knee pain or back pain. I have been walking around Mayo Clinic in Rochester for the pre surgery tests and not one twinge of pain walking in sandals, at home I even walk on marble floors with no shoes and no pain, which is unheard of for people headed for knee replacement.
All by reading you book and relearning to walk.
I still will get the knee replaced since the problem is bone on bone and twisting causes knee pain when I try to play golf.
My friends are mostly my age 60+ and of course skeptics maybe even cynics but that doesn’t stop me from telling them about my results with my new walking method.
Every walker or runner should read the book and try walking the way it is described in the book and see if it works for them, like it did me.
By the way if this endorsement sells millions send money, just kidding, and thanks for taking the time to figure out how we should be walking and running.
Jim McPeak

It’s interesting to note that Arnold Shwartenegger used to squat and do calf work without shoes. Stength and fitness expert Pavel Tsatsoline recomends squating without shoes because it stimulates the extensor reflex receptors. Doing calf work without shoes on gets you to articulate your foot, strengthing the foot muscles. With sneakers on it turns your foot into a one piece slab.

my husband and father have always been upset with me for hiking in the White Mountains without supportive shoes. Eight years ago I kicked their ass, wearing the light support shoes that I always felt comfortable in…husband wanted me to get supportive shoes… could not hike any thing after that. So I threw all my shoes out. Very fast walker now.
Am still the in North Country living with crazy Ice Climber Moutain Man…and we still argue about foot wear…he wants support, I want to be warm… Would like a barefoot shoe that I can ski in and strap into snowshoes. I know that I am nuts, but I also know that ancestors must have found a solution

I’m just over halfway through the book and loving it.

I have never had the classic running injuries but I switched to trails because pronation runs in my family as does stuffed knees as a result.

I do get knee pain when running long distances (so got orthotics) and have had constant lower back / hip pain for almost 10 years now (funnily enough it goes away while I run and returns with a vengence when I stop!)

I’m a typical barefoot / flip flop wearing Kiwi so I can’t wait to retrain my feet and learn how to run properly – hopefully adressing this chronic condition in the process.

Hola, from San Antonio. I just this minute finished the book. Fascinating. I teach Bikram Yoga. I used to be a runner, but gave it up. My hamstrings were just so pissed at me for so long. Still kinda are. A very big, tall, former basketball male athlete, come yoga teacher, turned me on to the book. It all makes such perfect sense. Wow. I used to coach CC & Track, and have a son who runs. I got the book for him, then he passed it to me. Now we are going shopping for the Five
Fingers. I figured if they work for the big yogi mentined above, then maybe I can have my freedom to run back and my hamstrings will forgive me.

My brother-in-law handed me the book while I was laid out with my fourth knee surgery in four years. I hadn’t been able to run without extreme pain since the first injury that I got while running. After reading the book and learning how to walk again, this time barefoot or in Fivefingers, I’m now running up to four miles per day totally pain-free, and I was on crutches just a few months ago. Mr. McDougall’s lessons have brought a lot of joy back to my life, and I am very thankful.

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