Boulder duo promotes benefits of barefoot running |

Boulder duo promotes benefits of barefoot running

Luke Graham

Boulder-based Barefoot Running Club co-founders Jessica Lee, left, and Michael Sandler were in Steamboat Springs this week testing out various shoes around town to further their minimalist footwear research.

— The idea that Michael Sandler would be one of the men leading a new running movement was at one time ludicrous.

Sandler, who co-founded the Barefoot Running Club in Boulder with Jessica Lee, was told there was a chance he'd never walk again and certainly no chance he'd ever run again.

He avoided a collision in Boulder in 2006 while in-line skating and crashed. The accident left him with a broken arm, broken hip and shattered femur, and the outlook wasn't positive.

He's had 10 surgeries on his left knee, has a titanium femur and hip and once needed custom orthopedic insoles to just walk across his living room.

But that's when he turned to barefoot running, a movement that has started to pick up steam.

Sandler and Lee now offer barefoot running clinics in Boulder and plan to release a book in the spring about barefoot running and shoe reviews.

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The two were in Steamboat Springs this week, testing out various shoes around town to further their research.

"It is the next big movement, rather than just a fad," Sandler said. "It's a movement in the sense that we've had selective amnesia for the last 30 years.

"There is a tremendous history of barefoot running that just stopped. But there has been a shift in consciousness and running minds that say, 'Wait, injuries are up 10 to 15 percent since we've put on running shoes. Things aren't getting any better. There has to be a different way.' The tide is turning."

Look at Abebe Bikila's barefoot victory in the 1960 Olympic marathon and the rich history of barefoot running cultures, and the new movement seems to make sense.

Running barefoot essentially gets people to run on their forefoot. Doing so decreases the wear and tear on the rest of the body.

Sandler now runs more than 100 miles each week barefoot.

For Lee, however, the movement isn't designed solely for an elite athlete. Lee said she hated to run, couldn't go long distances without pain and generally looked at running as a chore.

Now, even if it's just a mile or six, she likes running and swears just about anybody can.

"This is allowing me to enjoy running again," she said. "The reason I hated running in the past was it was something I should do and it would be good for me. It felt like punishment. Now I go out because it's just fun."

For more information about Sandler or Lee or on the Barefoot Running Club, visit


For more information on barefoot running, to see a schedule of clinics or for more information about Barefoot Running Club, visit


Watch an interview with Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee at 7:45 a.m. today on Steamboat TV18

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