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January 30, 2011

Natural Running Book Review and Giveaway

Shortly after reviewing the Newton Terra Momentus shoe last fall, I received an advance copy of the book Natural Running by Newton cofounder Danny Abshire. That book is now available to the public, and I have an additional copy to give away at the end of this post - but first, the review.

I have to admit that I was intrigued to hear what Abshire had to say about the whole barefoot and minimalist running phenomenon, because his business and professional background sometimes seems at odds with the underlying philosophy of barefoot activity. Before starting Newton Running, he spent many years making custom orthotics for athletes in a variety of sports, ostensibly to ensure a level position and proper balance of the lower extremities regardless of what type of footwear was used. And Newton has made its mark in the endurance sports community by straddling the two often-disparate worlds of natural foot motion and high-tech shoe construction.

So what exactly is natural running? Is it the science of correcting and augmenting the position and motion of our feet towards a certain set of objective parameters (weight distribution, center of balance location, lower leg geometry, and so on)? Or is it the willingness to let go of all the science and conventional wisdom of the modern shoe era and let your feet function as if they were completely unencumbered? And was this simply going to be a 170-page advertisement for Newton shoes? Those were some of the questions I had before starting the book.

With those thoughts in mind, Natural Running is a very interesting read. Abshire – along with contributor Brian Metzler, who has written extensively about barefoot running for Running Times and Outside magazines – explains the basic biomechanics of midfoot and forefoot running, and how the modern running shoe has progressively prohibited runners from practicing this technique. He presents a nice synopsis of how the conventional wisdom of running shoe design has evolved over the past four decades, and how recent biomechanics studies are causing the entire industry to rethink everything they thought they understood about how their products contribute to performance and injury prevention.

More than anything, though, this is an instruction manual for how to give up your heel-striking habit and learning to run more forward on your feet. If you think of Chris McDougall’s Born to Run (see my review of that book) as the battle cry for running naturally, consider Abshire’s book the field manual. He emphasizes proper posture, forward weight shifting, and the correct positioning your center of gravity, which in turn leads to a shorter stride length and correct foot strike. In addition to detailed explanations, the book is filled with multiple photos and diagrams that make the concepts of natural running form very easy to understand.

Abshire’s approach is fairly conservative, which is generally a good thing, with several reminders to adjust your running pattern gradually and to progress from traditional to minimalist footwear in small doses. From my standpoint he’s a little overcautious when it comes to true barefoot running – for example, recommending that you get your feet screened by a doctor to determine whether they’re they right “type” to run barefoot – but I wholeheartedly agree with his assertion that you get virtually all of the biomechanical benefits from a good pair of minimalist footwear as you do going barefoot.

Speaking of footwear, let’s return to one of those questions I had to start with: whether Natural Running was mainly an extended promotional brochure for Newton shoes. To his credit, Abshire keeps his bias towards Newton fairly well-contained, with his emphasis strictly on natural running form, without much regard to the kind of shoes you’re wearing. Of course, most people (myself included) will tell you it’s a heck of a lot easier to do this with minimalist footwear, but Abshire essentially leaves this decision up to you.

As an instruction guide, I was fairly impressed with how extensively and effectively Natural Running makes the case for changing your running form away from heel striking and toward midfoot or forefoot striking. I’ve already sent my copy of the book into circulation among my fellow training partners, and I’m happy to be able to offer an additional copy to one reader as well. Leave a comment below this post, and I’ll pick one random winner to receive a free copy of Natural Running, with the winner announced this weekend.

Otherwise, the book is now available in bookstores, and for $13 from Amazon.com as well as other online booksellers.

*Book provided by Backbone Media
**See other book reviews on sidebar at right.

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Jared 1/30/11, 9:08 PM  

Sounds like a great read. Thanks

krystyna47 1/30/11, 9:10 PM  

It sounds super interesting, please put me in the draw to win! Cheers!

June 1/31/11, 2:34 AM  

Would love to be entered to win...just recently started running barefoot to rid myself of plantar fasciitis.

wayne 1/31/11, 2:35 AM  

I'm devouring everything I can on the biomechanics of running and would love to read this book!

Caleb 1/31/11, 2:35 AM  

I've been wanting to read the book as Newtonist

Thorsten 1/31/11, 4:04 AM  

Sounds like a very interesting book to read .. I'd love to have it!

The BIG E 1/31/11, 4:41 AM  

Having run a long time in Newtons before ditching them for more minimalist footwear, I can say they are a good starting point. Would love to read what Danny has to say about running form.

Lisa 1/31/11, 4:44 AM  

Would love to read this book -- I have been running in minimalist shoes for about 3 months, but am still not sure I'm doing it right! (Thanks!)

Eddie 1/31/11, 4:46 AM  

Sounds like a good read. Count me in.

Tomislav 1/31/11, 5:21 AM  

Sounds great.
Since I injured my back in November last Year I'm thinking about going barefoot - since my posture could be one of the reasons of my injury this could become handy.

Mamarunsbarefoot 1/31/11, 5:48 AM  

Gotta say I've tried the Newtons... don't like them. The forefoot is still too stiff for me. But I'd love to have the book!!

JimDog 1/31/11, 6:25 AM  

Count me in! Thx.

Mike E 1/31/11, 6:50 AM  

Please add me to the drawing mix, thanks!

Alex 1/31/11, 6:53 AM  

Count me in, I am glad its not just a newton ad, but i do like my newtons not going to lie

RD Jim 1/31/11, 6:55 AM  

I'll take the audio version so I can listen to it while running... barefoot.

rbrown10 1/31/11, 7:01 AM  

I wonder how this compares to the POSE Method of Running.

Michael Shane Helton 1/31/11, 7:03 AM  

I share your initial skepticism. Would be an interesting read.

Tammy 1/31/11, 7:19 AM  

OH.. I love my Newton trainers-- been waiting for the Momentus to arrive at our local store so I can try them. I receive a lot of skeptical comments and criticisms from some of our local long time runners in regards to the shoe and natural running form- would love to have a copy of this book to provide some great facts and information for the skeptics in regards to form... as if my pain free and faster running were not enough proof!!

Anonymous,  1/31/11, 7:35 AM  

I was going to wait for the e-book edition but I'll most deffinately go for the free-bee.

Anonymous,  1/31/11, 7:36 AM  

Having trouble posting...e-disability, Ha!

Tyler S.,  1/31/11, 7:37 AM  

Newton or not, it would be interesting to get Abschire's view on natural running. Sounds like a good read. Thanks!

becky 1/31/11, 7:45 AM  

Solid review...would love a copy of the book to share with the kids I coach! Thx!

TheRunningNobody 1/31/11, 7:53 AM  

Nice review ! ... seems like a good read :)

Matthew 1/31/11, 8:27 AM  

Thanks for the review. I was initially concerned about bias, but now I feel comfortable giving it a shot.

ajones 1/31/11, 8:27 AM  

You have definitely piqued my interest.

Joni Taylor 1/31/11, 8:38 AM  

Newton Running Shoes and Danny Abshire changed my running life when I met him at Kona Ironman 2008. Been a "Newton" Runner ever since and I can't wait to read the book! Nice Review!

Rebecca A 1/31/11, 8:40 AM  

Excellent review. I'd love another copy to share with friends.

Mike Manna 1/31/11, 8:48 AM  

Excellent review!!

Denise 1/31/11, 8:48 AM  

Just getting back into running after an injury. Would love a copy of the book!

Meron 1/31/11, 8:50 AM  

This sounds like something I'd like to read, though in truth it would be preaching to the choir.

I switched from conventional shoes to Vibrams back in May and went to Newtons in December. I used to run in knee braces. Used to is the operative word.

Mike 1/31/11, 8:51 AM  

just switched over to newton's in the last year and will never run in anything else. looking forward to picking up the book to help refine my form. thanks for the review!

Five Fingered Pesci 1/31/11, 9:00 AM  

Been in Newtons for years, tried Vibrams and developed achillies issues, now going back to Newtons. Look forward to reading. Thanks for the review.

John Nguyen 1/31/11, 9:03 AM  

I wonder how many people have injured themselves after the switch to minimalist running. I believe in minimalism too, but I've developed a soleus injury that's been giving me some problems... Sighs... It could also be a result from all the ultras I did as a rookie in 2010...

FiveSix 1/31/11, 9:13 AM  

Looks like a revealing read. I was inspired by Born To Run and would love to follow up a little more

Lucid Moon Studio 1/31/11, 9:22 AM  

I recently switched to running in Newton's and have been very interested in this book. I would love to win one!

roger 1/31/11, 9:22 AM  

at 48 going from 286 lbs to 200 and from walking 7 blocks down the street to can trail run 10km without walkung a single step , its very confusing what to go for. used to walk run in pegasus but now running more and faster nimbus 12 help me a lot to avoid pain in legs knees. yes I am a heavy runner . what I have to do ???

pristine.r 1/31/11, 9:40 AM  

Sounds interesting- I have had a few injuries with my feet/ankles before so I wonder if this would even still be an option! interested to learn more though

Dan 1/31/11, 10:14 AM  

I'm in.

Morgan Hill

sherry 1/31/11, 10:21 AM  

I learned about barefoot running a few years ago, but just got my first pair of newtons last year. So far the best thing i have ever done for my feet.

~ Cee ~ 1/31/11, 10:22 AM  

I am very interested in this concept, and would love to read more about it. Thank you for this giveaway! cee
ceevegnashville [at] gmail [dot] com

Shoeless Joe 1/31/11, 10:39 AM  

looking forward to reading this

Freer 1/31/11, 11:23 AM  

Thanks for yet another opportunity

worm 1/31/11, 12:08 PM  

as a guy who had to suffer 4 knee surgeries before figuring out my running mechanics were to blame, I'd love some more help becoming a Natural Runner. thanks.

Matt 1/31/11, 12:42 PM  

I'm interested in reading this, I just assumed it was a newton brochure disguised as a book, nice to hear it's not.

Giuseppe 1/31/11, 12:54 PM  

Seems like a great read.

Asko 1/31/11, 1:14 PM  

Hmmm. Sounds good. Can't beat a book on running.

lindsi 1/31/11, 1:26 PM  

I loved Born to Run. And have really wanted to read this one after setting a couple of PR's in my Newton's! Thanks!

Ross 1/31/11, 1:39 PM  

I like many others loved Born to Run, it was like it was talking to me, pushing me onwards to take on the challenge of ultras. I'm looking forward to my legs being fully recovered from injury so I can get back to spending hours on trails. And to extending into hours on top of the hours, going to a new place.

I've been watching Badwater videos getting super inspired but making the transition from "traditional" shoes to minimal is something that I'd love some advice on, so this book sounds great.

I think you might have already drawn the winner but I'm going to add this to my Amazon wish list and check back on your blog later.



ross 1/31/11, 2:37 PM  

As I only just found this blog, due to a brief downtime at work, I thought I was late in replying but then on looking again realized that it was only posted yesterday!

I love my Newton Momentus shoes but am yet to take them to the trails as so far I'm a little nervous of being too far away from home base in case something happens. But the weird thing about that is, that if something did happen what is the first thing most people would do? Take off our shoes, which is exactly the point behind wearing the Newtons and Vibrams, to return to the real traditional way of running. Crazy huh!

Ok, moving on,

Chris 1/31/11, 2:40 PM  

Sounds like an interesting book. I'd love your extra copy.


Emily,  1/31/11, 3:28 PM  

Count me in!! I've been thinking about try minimalist shoes for months, but all I do is stare at them in the store. I think I just need to take the plunge already!

N. Price 1/31/11, 7:58 PM  

I like to read, but not while running.

D-A-D-D-Y,  1/31/11, 8:35 PM  

Working on the switch from shoes to Vibram FFs, would love some additional guidance/motivation!

islander 2/1/11, 5:50 AM  

Sounds like a good read, count me in. Thanks!

Anonymous,  2/1/11, 6:59 AM  

It's great to have more barefoot runining info and products coming to market .Looking forward to checking this stuff out. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Anonymous,  2/1/11, 8:54 AM  

Thanks for your perspective on the book. Whether all subscribe to the natural barefoot movement, it's important runners understand the philosophy and application to achieve it. Looking forward to another great read on running!!

p.s. Have been running in Newton's Gravity since 2008 and have noticed a significant improvement in posture and running efficiency.

Anonymous,  2/1/11, 1:05 PM  

interesting review and book
steeplechaser29 at yahoo (dot) com

jbgodfrey,  2/1/11, 1:59 PM  

Thanks for the offer!

Boris Terzic 2/1/11, 7:11 PM  

Sounds like an awesome read, put my name in the hat!

Jim P. 2/1/11, 9:45 PM  

Despite regular runs w/ a friend that works at Newton, I have much to learn. Would love to read the book.

Mr. Liporto 2/2/11, 7:09 AM  

Sounds like an interesting read!

Jobu007 2/2/11, 6:08 PM  

Count me in...Thanks!

r(un)on 2/2/11, 8:18 PM  

this might be the book to get me out of my 5" heels...

buchacho 2/3/11, 2:21 PM  

Will have to pick this book up, sounds like it has a lot of good info.

Anonymous,  2/3/11, 6:58 PM  

I've been running for over 30 years - with 31 marathons under my belt - and about a year ago my body really started talking to me. Knees, sciatica, foot ... super tight muscles, too. I am not ready to give up a sport I grew up with - and love! - and would love to read this book. It would go to a good home if I was the winner.


Lesser is More 2/4/11, 8:22 AM  

Sounds like a worthwhile read - count me in!

Scott 2/4/11, 1:21 PM  

I'll add my name to the hat. Thanks.

John 2/5/11, 1:39 AM  

I look forward to reading this book.

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