Three cheers for Jason Robillard at Barefoot Running University for releasing a free download of his excellent Barefoot Running Book. This book provides a great introduction for those new to barefoot and minimalist shoe running and includes plenty of practical advice to get you out of your traditional cushioned running shoes.
Here is a brief review of the book...
Jason Robillard was one of the early advocates for barefoot and minimalist running.
I can recommend this book to any injured and frustrated runners who can't make progress with their running, both for its motivational and practical content. This book is for you if you are unsure about making the transition to barefoot running and need convincing and it is for you if you have made the decision but still need the practical advice on how to do so.
The book begins with Jason's personal experience of attempting a 50 mile untra race, with the all too familiar result of injury from overloading the body.
Then follows a brief history of running shoe development and a look at how well cushioned shoes actually contribute to running injuries rather than protect against them.
This argument for moving to barefoot running is well presented but not rammed down your throat, and the necessity of a gradual transition after a lifetime in shoes is heavily emphasised.
The core of the book guides you into becoming a barefoot runner, with a series of concepts and practical activities. This starts with pre-running, before moving onto beginning barefoot running then intermediate and finally advanced barefoot running. This section is the most useful as far as barefoot and minimalist running is concerned.
You are guided to overcome a natural impatient tendency to do too much before your body is ready Work first on form and technique, ignoring speed and distance until your body is ready.
The concepts are sound and there is certainly some overlap with Danny Dreyer's excellent ChiRunning.
There is a a chapter on non-barefoot specific guidance for ultramarathons. I'm not sure it really fits into this book and, for most runners by the time they start running ultras they will already have gained sufficient experience to know most of the advice here. Then follows a mish mash of other topics: nutrition, bad runs, running with others. All useful to runners but not specific to barefoot running.
After this, a long chapter on training plans. Again, no complaints but not specific to barefoot running.
There is a better than average chapter on cross training for running, complete with details of specific exercies. All good stuff, and with a real focus on working your entire body, not individual muscles in isolation.
Finally, Jason gives a personal and emotional account of his first 100 mile ultramarathon. A good read and motivation for anyone wanting to join the ultra club.
The book dispels a few common myths too, for example that going barefoot will give you hard, callused soles - quite the contrary as tougher feet are actually quite soft as I discovered.
Ultimately this is an excellent practical introduction to barefoot running, backed up by theory. My only gripes are that a lot of the content is not specific to barefoot running and in places it feels a little like it has been stitched together from several blog entries.
Nevertheless, very useful and recommended. If you enjoy it, Jason's blog at Barefoot Running University is well worth a read too.