Michael Sandler Visit and Workshop – Barefoot Walking Book Review and GIVEAWAY!
We're big fans of Michael Sandler at Soft Star. We met the barefoot guru and his wife, Jessica Lee, shortly after they released their first book, Barefoot Running, in 2011. Several members of our staff befriended the happy couple after attending one of their touring workshops, and they visited our Soft Star workshop the next day. Michael's interest in a running shoe with a flexible leather sole led him to become one of our shoe testers, which eventually resulted in the introduction of the tough leather sole we now offer for Design-Your-Own RunAmocs and Merry Jane Metros.
Michael and Jessica have stayed very busy since then. They continuously tour the country offering barefoot workshops and sharing their knowledge with the world. Last summer they released their first DVD, Barefoot Running, the Movie. Never ones to sit idly by, they have followed up the success of that movie with a new book titled Barefoot Walking, which became available for sale earlier this month.
Michael has hit the tour road again, this time teaching techniques for healthy walking that will strengthen your feet and connect you with the earth. When we learned that he had scheduled workshops in western Oregon, we called him up and asked if he could present his class to our staff at Soft Star. He happily obliged and met us earlier this week.
We have a lot of fun with Michael, and we always find something new to learn from him. This time was no exception. He had plenty of insight about the importance of staying connected to the earth and introduced us to fun exercises showing how much of a difference changing your footstrike can have on your whole body. He also demonstrated a variety of walking techniques for various needs and explained how conventional shoes with motion-control support can force feet into unnatural movement that welcomes a world of foot, leg and back injuries (at this point in his workshop, he usually looks for a conventional shoe from the audience to make fun of, but we're proud to say he couldn't find a good example from our staff).
We fit quite a bit into our one-hour class, but we still only scratched the surface of Michael's wealth of knowledge. Fortunately, he left us a couple copies of his book, which delves into great detail about all of the topics he discusses… and much more.
He also autographed one copy for a free GIVEAWAY! See below for details.
Barefoot Walking Book Review
Barefoot Walking is a very thorough, almost encyclopedic collection of stories, advice and exercises that goes well beyond Michael Sandler's previous publications. The book opens with Michael's argument for why natural foot function and connection to the earth will lead to improved health and movement for all bodies. Insightful images and diagrams show how unnatural footwear can maim feet and lead to a multitude of health issues, but a positive attitude asserts that there is hope for everyone because you already have what you need for strong feet and a strong body. One of my favorite chapters, titled "Excuses Be Gone!" confronts any excuse you may invent for thinking that going barefoot isn't for you. These range from "I have flat feed and need support" and "That looks painful" to "I'm too heavy" and "I'm pregnant."
From there, the book turns to the mechanics of walking barefoot. This involves evaluating your form, tips for good posture and a schedule for transitioning slowly without injury. Several walking methods are suggested, depending on your specific needs, and each is accompanied by detailed images of every movement involved. My personal favorite is the stealthy Ninja Step, because I've long been self-conscious about how much noise my steps make when I walk.
For anyone concerned about weak feet, the comprehensive exercises and relaxation techniques Michael offers will provide you with no shortage of options. There are stretches, massages, cross-training ideas, balancing techniques and even fun games to help you get into shape (playing hot potato with your feet looks fun, but slackline-walking looks awesome). Injury prevention and concern for aches and pains for all parts of the body are also addressed. Solutions are provided for just about any walking-related malady you can dream up, including stubbed toes, leg-length discrepancies and side stitches.
Michael's concern isn't just for athletes, but for all people and all ages. One chapter looks into the importance of healthy foot development for children, while another explains how seniors can also benefit from these techniques. When you're ready to take it up a notch, he gives his advice for dealing with extremes of heat, cold, trails and hills. And even though he spends more time walking barefoot than most people spend walking in shoes, he does admit that there are times when shoes are necessary, either because conditions are too extreme or because it is socially required. For those times, he has recommendations for qualities to look for in a shoe that will still allow healthy, natural foot function.
Like Michael's other book and the workshops he teaches, everything is presented in a simple and fun way. If you ever get the chance to meet him in person, you'll see right away that he keeps a light, positive attitude through thick and thin, and that attitude is conveyed through his writing. Chapters are short, but thorough and concise. Complex ideas are broken down and explained so that anyone can understand them with ease. And Michael speaks from the heart, adding a personal touch and stories of his own experiences so that you feel like he's talking to you one-on-one as you read.
Barefoot Walking covers every concern or question a barefoot skeptic can raise, but it also gives valuable information that barefoot enthusiasts have never come across in books that focus on running. Even if you aren't interested in going barefoot all the time, Michael's advice will provide simple solutions for preventing and treating the pain that so many people suffer from walking with poor form. There is truly something for everyone, and I'm happy to recommend it to anyone looking to improve the level of heath and happiness to be found in life.
For more information on Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee, or to see when their workshops are coming to your town, check out Runbare.com.
Win a Free Autographed Copy of Barefoot Walking!
We have one copy of Barefoot Walking that we're ready to give away. And as a special treat, this copy was autographed by Michael Sandler when he visited our workshop. Enter below for a chance to win!