I returned to Portland earlier this week for the second class of my Minimalist Monday running workshop. No, we haven't actually started running yet. The first class, with special guest instructor Michael Sandler, focused on barefoot walking. The lesson there was to get out of your shoes and try going barefoot a little each day. This class was all about footwear. Specifically, it addressed the question of what you should wear on your feet for those times when going barefoot isn't possible or preferable.

This second class is the reason I first heard about Minimalist Mondays. Dr. Sanatan Golden, one of the workshop's instructors, asked me if Soft Star would be interested in presenting shoes for this class during the previous winter session. Soft Star had an associate in Portland who gladly attended the class and talked about our shoes back then, but this time I volunteered to do it.

Dr. Ray teaching about shoes

There were two other shoe vendors there, Robb from FitRight with a spread of Inov-8s and another guy from Foot Traffic I'm sorry to say I didn't get a chance to talk to. We all set up our displays and Dr. Ray gave a talk about features to look for in a shoe that will allow natural foot function. Qualities to avoid are tapered toe boxes, toe springs, raised heels and arch supports. He recommended pulling the innersole out of a shoe, if possible, and standing on it to make sure your toes have room to spread in the space provided. Here's a pre-recorded video of his explanation:

As a minimalist shoe elf, none of this was news to me, although it did remind me how spoiled I am regarding footwear and my job at Soft Star. Finding good barefoot shoes isn't a challenge for me like it can be for others (I'll save the showcase of all the RunAmocs in my closet for a future post). I did learn that through Northwest Foot and Ankle, Dr. Ray offers a service of modifying conventional footwear to be more minimal and allow extra toe space. Very cool.

After the shoe lesson and a brief Q&A, he turned the class loose on us vendors. I don't often get to be the face of Soft Star, but I enjoyed it. It's especially fun when people are excited about your product, and I was definitely in the right crowd for this. These were my fellow minimalist junkies and many of them had seen our shoes online but never in person. It's easy for me to rant about Soft Star and why I think they're great. Usually I have to cut myself off when I realize I'm boring people who couldn't care less about barefoot shoes, but not today. These folks spoke my language.

Not a huge display, but I got the point across

That would have been the whole class, except that Sanatan offered to take a free video recording for anyone interested in having their running style analyzed. I jumped at the chance. After all, this is exactly the kind of unique opportunity Sanatan and Dr. Ray are offering in this workshop. How often do you find a minimalist running expert who will analyze your gait for free?

Sanatan gave me a route to run across the park and followed me on his bike with a camera. He'll let me know what he thinks after he studies the video. On the walk back, he explained that his and Dr. Ray's primary concern, aside from preventing injuries, is to make running enjoyable. It sounds like they're not set on giving us a fixed running method, but helping us find ways of running that can be adjusted for different situations while avoiding unhealthy habits.

Next week, we delve into the real running mechanics. I'm looking forward to it.

By the way, if you're interested in finding good minimalist or barefoot footwear, here's a great infographic I created for Soft Star that you can print out and take to the shoe store with you. I think it sums up the key points well, even if you use it to buy other shoes. Click on the image to open as a PDF:


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