The Complete Idiot's Guide to Barefoot Running is a comprehensive, informative, and essential guide for anyone interested in barefoot running and who wants to do it well. Authors Dr. Craig Richards, a podiatrist, and Thomas Hollowell present a very readable and thorough introduction to barefoot running and they also provide some depth for seasoned barefoot runners. They respectfully explain why we should "avoid motion-control shoes and any high-tech, mind-numbing claims that promise you they can do better than you can naturally" and provide a step-by-step description of how to get back to running naturally.
Most barefoot runners become so for physiological reasons like a desire to reduce injury, improve balance and proprioception, and get faster and the guide documents these well. The guide also discusses the mental and emotional benefits. The authors offer a nod to spiritual benefits and "the potential to put you closer to nature," which are often why barefoot runners remain committed to barefoot running. Personally I would have appreciate more emphasis on the `getting back to nature part' but I shouldn't really expect that from the CIG style.
I'm still not entirely sold on the Complete Idiot's Guide style - it feels better suited for learning software than something like barefoot running. But the bottom line is that the format works. The handy "The Least You Need to Know" bulleted summaries of each chapter help when reviewing the material and a quick scan of the table of contents reveals the book's comprehensiveness, in true CIG style.
The things I appreciated most:
- Plans for easing into barefoot running - similar to other guides
- Discussion of "Barefoot vs Minimal Footwear," which, in my opinion, is much more realistic than the position that of a lot of advocates of barefoot running
- Discussion of types and brands of minimalist shoes, including brands I that are new to me
- Head-to-foot discussion, with photos, of good running posture
- New barefoot running drills, strength exercises and the discussion of nose breathing
- A word against the cult-mentality approach to barefoot running ("A Balanced View of Barefoot Running")
A few things I would have liked to see:
- A few more images, particularly to complement the discussion of the foot and its complex structure.
- Complete references, particularly for scientific papers
- More discussion of reflexology
- Two more criteria for selecting minimalist shoes: the factory working conditions and the ecological impacts of manufacturing the shoes
Ultimately, I expect to buy this book for a few people, including some runners who are new to barefoot running and some who have been doing it for a while. Two big toes up to the Complete Idiot's Guide to Barefoot Running!
My favourite quote from the book:
"As you make barefoot running a part of your overall running toolkit, it becomes a part of who you are more than a part of what you do."