Running: Skill or Innate?

Is running a skill, or something that we are born to do?

According to the recent book, The Running Revolution by Nicholas Romanov, running is a skill that needs to be practiced. Romanov claims that running technique needs to be mastered through rigorous practice.

To me, it seems unlikely that mother nature would’ve forgot to hardwire humans with the ability to run properly. Every living creature on the planet learns to move properly without  instruction; so why would we need to be taught to run?

Born to Run

Anthropologist believe that humans are a running animal and that running gave us a distinct survival advantage. Running allowed us to capture animals like deer and antelope in the mid-day sun. Antelope lack sweat glands, which causes them to overheat and collapse when chased for long periods. Humans have an abundance of sweat glands which allows for cooling in the mid-day sun.

As a running animal, running is encoded in our DNA. Dramatically altering your stride beyond what comes naturally is like telling a bird  how to fly. We are already hardwired to run properly we just need to get rid of impedances like modern thick-soled running shoes.

We humans tend to think that we can make things better through tinkering, but sometimes mother nature has beat us to the punchline. Should you teach a deer how to run, or a bird how to fly? Fortunately for us, evolution has already beat us to it.

bird flying
Is this bird using proper flight technique?
deer running
No one taught this deer how to run
ostrich running
Should an ostrich be taught how to run?


Rather than learn a new skill, allow your body to re-learn how to move properly by removing your shoes.

Most of us are used to wearing thick, heavy-soled shoes. These significantly alter our gait, causing us to land heavily on our heels, and weaken small supporting structures in the foot (for an in-depth look at what modern shoes do to our feet, check out my interview with podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan).

Moving to Minimalist Footwear

Walking or running barefoot can itself cause injuries and needs to be done gradually. Your foot has been in a shoe for most of your life. Start with walking barefoot in your home. Consider adding Dr. Ray McClanahan’s correct toes, to help the transition when around home or at work.

Buy a pair of shoes that allows your foot to act naturally, something with minimal support that will let your foot do the work and get stronger. Look for shoes that mimic the shape of the human foot, that have a wide toebox, flat – without a raised heel (aka zero drop, or minimal drop), no arch support, and minimal toe spring.

Here are a few of my favorite models: TOPO Runduro, Vibram Bikila, Vibram Spyridon, and New Balance 730. Some other brands to consider are Altra, Lems and New Balance Minimus.

Take Away

Since moving to minimalist footwear, I’ve seen a big improvement in my running. Running has become effortless. Minimalist shoes have allowed me to run 4 marathons and 1 ultramarathon, while remaining injury free. As you move to minimalist footwear, try not to overthink your running; just run like an animal.

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