ChiRunning Versus Barefoot Running

ChiRunning goes hand in hand with minimalist shoes running. Minimalist shoes running goes hand in hand with barefoot running. In some ways ChiRunning and barefoot running are compatible, but in other ways they are not.

The Similarities

From a purely mechanical standpoint, both barefoot running and ChiRunning techniques employ a slight forward lean and the same higher cadence of 170–180 steps per minute. They also both avoid overstriding by using a shorter step with the foot landing beneath the knee and by not striking with the heel.

In both techniques you lift your foot and avoid using your legs for propulsion by pushing off. Both require that you run relaxed. Both employ the strategy of “gradual progress” and have an adaptation period in which you slowly build your tolerance and technique with practice over a period of time. ChiRunning is indeed a “barefoot-like” running form you can use whether you're wearing shoes or not.

The Differences

With barefoot running the posture is more erect and there is less emphasis on core strength. Although neither technique involves heel-striking, ChiRunning technique uses a midfoot strike, whereby the purists in barefoot running contact the ground more with their forefoot.

Perhaps the most striking difference between barefoot running and ChiRunning is the mind-body connection. Whereas barefoot running gives you the feel and freedom of natural running, ChiRunning goes beyond the purely physical mechanics of form and incorporates a mind-body approach that barefoot running tends to lack. Barefoot running can be used to supplement your running regimen, whereas ChiRunning is a form change that you adopt, learn, and apply.

Dreyer describes ChiRunning as having a “barefoot-like” feel. Some people can ChiRun completely unshod, but would probably be limited on the surfaces they can run on and the steepness of the downhill grade they are comfortable with. ChiRunning can potentially replace your old heel-striking, heavily shod, overstriding running form with an efficient running technique and mindful centeredness.

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