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Is Chi Running right for you?

by Tyler Hurst » on Dec 07, 2010 8

Chi Running stems from many Tai Chi principles.

I never really learned how to run. I played basketball, tennis, baseball and soccer as a kid, and in those sports, running was either part of the game or a punishment. Until I started running in Five Fingers in September 2009, my versions of running were fast, slow and gingerly in an attempt to avoid more pain.

14 months later, that really, really didn’t work. I’ve tried leaning forward, running fast, heel striking, landing on the side of my foot and absolutely nothing – none of those worked very well.

But today, after watching about half of the Chi Running video, I ran again, taking a quick four-mile jaunt around the block.

I f***ing love Chi Running. Absolutely and completely. It will forever change the way I run and here’s what I experienced my first day:

1. My feet were never pointed straight
My right foot always pointed diagonally away from my body and my left slightly less so. I had no idea the havoc this was wreaking on my knees and IT band until I rain correctly today. My hip abductors are sore, but that goes away after some stretching and ball work.

2. I was landing on the outside of my foot and rolling in
I always thought this was either natural for me or a way to not make any noise when I ran (I thought that was a good thing). I was deathly afraid of landing on my heel for any reason and that was a mistake. Now I’m landing more evenly and flat footed.

3. Running feels looser
My hips, level after listening to the Chi Running video, are now more level and rotate side to side instead of swaying side to side. This means less work for the rest of my body and my groin area, previously sore after running, is refreshingly comfortable.

4. I’m not really any slower

Most runners fear changing their form because they’ll lose mileage or speed. I ran four miles in under 10 minutes per mile today, which is consistent with my previous long runs.

5. My calves sure are sore
I know this is from my body not being straight enough – they call this your column – as well as me pushing off a little bit. Still, sore muscles, and not sore joints or IT bands, is a welcome issue to have.

Anything you want to know about Chi Running? Want videos showing what I’ve learned?


  1. David Stretanski

    December 07th, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Congratulations on your first ChiRun.

    It will take some time to make adjustments; patience and gradual progress. With a subtle forward lean and VFFs (no heel) your calves/Achilles will need flexibility to stay midfoot/fullfoot. A key to ChiRunning is relaxed lower legs/ankles/feet. The hinge at the base of your column is fluid; otherwise you resist your forward fall.

    1. Loosen: Ankle Rolls Body Loosener
    2. Stretch (when warm): Calf and Achilles Stretches
    3. Less: Less effort in your whole lower leg; with the sensation of using its structure as a post for momentary support.
    4. Practice on soft surfaces (ie. sand) with no expectation of speed … “A good runner leaves no footprints”. – Lao Tsu


    PS. Thank you for posting my ChiRunning Simplified! video to your blog.


    • Tyler Hurst

      December 07th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      Your video was very helpful.

      Yeah, I’m excited. The problems I’m experiencing all seem fixable.


  2. The Trail Jogger

    December 08th, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Hi Tyler,

    Thanks for this interesting post. I have struggled with calf muscle injuries over the last few months. I think the problem is related to my running form. So after some research I landed on the ChiRunning method. I am almost finished with Chapter 4 of the book.

    You mentioned that your calf muscles are sore. Do you think this is normal for someone trying to learn the ChiRunning method? I am concerned that this might further bother my calf muscles.

    Your thoughts?


    • Tyler Hurst

      December 08th, 2010 at 9:36 am

      Normal for someone just learning? Yes. I admit I may have not paid complete attention to the entire video and I’m damn sure I ran farther than I should have (four miles).

      I pulled my calf muscles when I first started running in Five Fingers and while Chi Running did make my calves sore, it was more of an achilles thing in my lower leg instead of a calf pull in my upper.

      With time and patience, I’ll be fine.


      • The Trail Jogger

        December 08th, 2010 at 9:47 am

        Makes sense. I’ve heard that moving to FF people typically move to a forward food strike, which would put pressure on the calf and achilles. ChiRunning promotes a midfoot strike, which will reduce the strain on the calf and achilles. So I’m hoping it will improve my calf issues also.

        Good luck to you!


        • David Stretanski

          December 09th, 2010 at 8:12 am

          Another consideration for calf (and specifically Achilles) is keeping your feet pointed forward. If you feet evert outward, then there is the possibility of rotation in the lower leg. This twists/torques the knee, shin/calf/achilles, ankle, foot. This can result in unnecessary stress and tension (and therefore more stress). If you are new to VFFs or less heeled shoes, your lower leg is already under stress if not relaxed and landing fullfoot (midfoot).

          The feet should track forward as if running *along* a line. Use a real line or an imaginary one. Run the lines at the track instead of the lanes.

          The feet generally evert out due to conditions up above in the pelvis/hips, such as:
          – A pelvis which is tilted forward (anterior tilt).
          – Tight piriformis muscle.
          – Tight psoas muscle.



          • The Trail Jogger

            December 09th, 2010 at 8:16 am

            Great advice. Thanks David. I am going to try my first ChiRun today.

          • Tyler Hurst

            December 09th, 2010 at 9:41 am

            Keeping my feet pointed is definitely a struggle. I can feel my hips working to keep them straight and hopefully with more practice, the soreness in my Achilles will go away.

            But thankfully, it’s only soreness and not anything worse. I’m happy to deal with a few aches for what will hopefully be a lifetime of non-injury.

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