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Chi Running in Five Fingers

by Tyler Hurst » on Dec 05, 2010 3

Most runners will tell you to push through pain. Be a tough guy. Unless you’re injured, most long-distance runners will say that pain is a natural part of the running process and while it’s a sign of possible impending injury, it’s usually just you being weak.

In the barefoot/minimalist world, that advice is crap. Running shouldn’t hurt, save for sore muscles after, and pushing through pain is one of the dumbest things a five fingers runner should do. Pain is a sign that something isn’t right, that your form is off or your equipment is malfunctioning.

I limped the last three miles of my last marathon and boy, it sucked. I vowed for that never to happen again and promptly took a month off. Now that I’m back training – and very sore from the time away – I wanted to pay a bit more attention to my form than I used to, so I bought the Chi Running Instructional DVD to complement the book on the same subject I read and pretty much ignored.

Chi Running, the company, promises that any runner, whether shod, minimalist or barefoot, can achieve better results and expend less energy if they use a specific form taught by the book. It’s full of references to your column, leveling your hips and leaning forward, which don’t SEEM like hocus pocus, so I’m going to give it a try. Here a few basic tenets that I’ve briefly researched thus far:

1. Chi Running says you should land on your whole foot
Landing on your entire foot distributes weight evenly, allowing for less shock to the body. Makes sense.

2. Your body doesn’t need you to push off to get it going
This has to do with the lean that Chi Running always talks about. By placing our feet under our body and leaning forward, we don’t have to push off the ground. Less energy expended is a good thing.

3. Your body must always be straight
This has been my toughest one, as I am usually slightly bent forward at the waist with my butt out. This is wrong in the Chi Running world.

4. Quick, light steps are good
Pretty much what I already knew. The more steps you take, the less chance you’ll be pushing off and the better you’ll transfer your weight. Pleased to see some similarities.

5. Your upper body, except for your arms pumping forward and back, shouldn’t move
Another tough one, but it makes sense, too. Any motion that doesn’t propel a runner forward is wasted. If we can use our hips and not our shoulders to generate that slight twist, it will require less energy to run.

I’m excited to check out this DVD. It worked for Allison!

Submitted Comments

  1. Tyler,
    Nice post. One comment on Arm Swing: In ChiRunning the Arm Swing emphasis is mainly to the rear. This helps with balance as you lean (subtlely) forward. When something goes forward, something has to go to the rear to be balanced. The key phrase here is to “avoid reaching your elbow forward passed your ribs”; if you do you will likely also reach forward with your legs. There are a number of add’l Arm Swing concepts which support alignment, relaxation and balance in your position/motion.


  2. Tyler Hurst says:

    Excellent tip. I’m watching the video tomorrow, so hopefully this will dispel any misconceptions I have.

  3. Here is a 10 minute video on the key principles.


    Brief ChiRunning Video: This video provides a summary of the key principles and an analogy to put the potential difference into perspective:
    – ChiRunning Simplified!, Efficient and Injury F–r–e–e Natural Running Technique:
    – Note: The same principles apply to ChiWalking.



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