Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eric Orton and ZOZI: Interview, $100 in Gear, and an Adventure in Nicaragua!

Eric Orton
Wow.. just wow!  I am really excited to share with you an interview I had with Eric Orton last week, and a really cool startup called ZOZI!

OK... what or who is ZOZI?  Just think ADVENTURE... and very cool gear and amazing guru's.  And Eric is one of their great guru's who has designed a custom trip to Nicaragua as part of ZOZI's "12 days of Adventures" giveaways.  Check out his adventure, plus all the others and enter to WIN here!

Anyway...  make sure you enter, as there are some really amazing adventure trips being given away!  And, sign up with ZOZI to get info on local adventures at discounted rates, and also some really cool gear as well. AND... if you stick around after the interview below, one BI reader will win $100 towards ZOZI getaways or gear!  Talk about a rocking Christmas present!

OK... now to my interview with Eric.  I was really excited to get this opportunity since I really enjoyed reading Eric's book, The Cool Impossible.. and his B2R Road shoes and strength training program got me ready and through my first marathon in January..    Check out the book review by clicking HERE and the B2R review HERE.

Barefoot Inclined Interview with Eric Orton:

Barefoot Inclined:  What are your thoughts on pure barefoot running, versus minimalist?

I think there is too much emphasis on this and attaching categories and making it black or white, right and wrong.  I believe there is a proper or best way to run and this includes, run form, proper strength and muscle activation, shoes, the way we eat, how we think, and the way we train.  

I feel most of this was lost in Born To Run and the only focus became barefoot and minimal running.  I use barefoot running as a tool to help teach form, develop strength, and to help athletes transition to a more natural shoe.

 I coach runners to perform as best they can at races and to accomplish long term race goals and it is very hard to achieve proper run training running only barefoot.  Some can and do it well, but for most of us, we need good protection against the terrain and the ability to run faster when needed in training.  With proper training including form, strength, and run training, it is my goal to eventually get my athletes in as minimal a shoe as possible that also provides the protection needed for any given day.  For example, when I go for an easy run on the road here in Jackson Hole, I will run in a very minimal shoe.  But when heading for the trails and mountains, I need a very protective shoe to that shields my feet from rocks and doesn't allow my feet to fatigue prematurely if I am out running all day.

Barefoot Inclined:  What is your definition of a minimalist shoe?

 To be honest, I hate this word and how we have this need to place things in categories.  I understand why, but it takes the real purpose and focus on WHY away from the consumer and we then lose the opportunity to educate the consumer.  If we need a word, I like Natural the best because it speaks to the WHY and as I described above, minimal might mean different shoes for different purposes.  

But getting back to your question.  I would define minimal or natural as a shoe that has a zero drop or very close to it (~ 3-4mm drop or less) and allows your feet to feel the ground.  But the key element here is this type of shoe will allow good form to help activate muscles better.  In other words, the shoe does NOT make good form, good form comes with practice and you can still have bad form with these shoes and even barefoot.  Going barefoot or running in minimal shoes does NOT guarantee good form, you need to learn what good form is and apply it.  But once good form is applied, THEN these types of shoes will further enhance the natural muscle activation that takes place first and foremost at the feet.

 The health of a runner is dictated by how well he or she can use their feet naturally and that is how these shoes become a training tool in a variety of ways for everyone.  When we run with good form and use our feet well, our muscles work well all the way up the leg to the hip.  Why is this important? Well it takes away the tug and pull of dominate and dormant muscles which ultimately alleviates the muscle tightness we have been conditioned to think is inherent with running.  This is what the shoe companies are missing and they all are treating this movement like a fad because they do not understand it themselves, or care not to educate because it is hard for them to you sell other "categories".

Barefoot Inclined:  The B2R Road Performance shoe is really great (my favorite road shoe), when can we expect a trail version to be released, and are there any plans to offer other road models as well?

The trail shoe is amazing and I can't wait to get it in the hands of the B2R fans.  My goal with this shoe was to produce what is missing in the market and design a shoe that allows for natural foot stability and movement I spoke of above BUT also provide great protection.  We have had testers who use this shoe for short trail runs and have had one run 50 miles in it.  So we really nailed it.  B2R's long term strategy is to have an endurance or long course line of shoes to compliment the current road shoe and the soon to be released trail shoe.  We also have a casual moc and a gym training shoe coming out at the same time of the new trail shoe.  If all goes well, we should expect these three new releases in late January, so stay tuned.

Barefoot Inclined:   Your "Cool Impossible" is the dream of one runner in every household.. What do you see in your future to help achieve this? 

This goal is two-fold.  One, it is meant for me to lead by example of what the cool impossible really means, a huge goal and it doesn't get much bigger than one runner per household.  I want runners and readers of The Cool Impossible to see my goal and understand it is not so much about the outcome, but the "cool" things and amazing things that come to us through the process of living this cool impossible. Too many of us are stopped by fear because before we start a goal, we want to know what the outcome will be.  We ask, can I do it, what will happen, will I succeed?  Well, that is impossible to know until we live our goal day to day.  So, this need to know will stop us before we even start and our actions are being decided on something that is impossible to know.  

So yes, one runner per household.  My passion and mission in life is to use running as a vehicle to help people live the life THEY WANT.  When people are empowered to live the life they truly want, they eat better, they take care of their bodies, they treat others with respect and compassion and become just a little bit more open minded to other beliefs.  Through running, we can create a healthier and better world.  And running is something most all of us can do.

Right now I am putting together a team to help me with this campaign and mission.  There is a create Ted Talk out there about starting a movement and the overriding point is when starting a movement, you need help and others to help carry the torch.  As a coach, it is sometimes hard to ask for help and it is tricky to find the right kind of help to keep this an authentic and organic movement.

Right now my focus is on building my website community, helping the runners there as much as I can and eventually encourage them to become ambassadors for this global running movement.  I have a few projects brewing that hopefully will include a TV/digital media platform for my message.  And, as I mentioned, I am in the process of putting together partners and sponsors to help me travel and show how adventurous running can be and give it a "face lift" to the general public.   

Barefoot Inclined:   Do you do all of your running on the trails and in the mountains? 

Yes, the majority of the time, but I am sure to keep some road and track work for speed and leg turnover.  My season is very diverse and goes something like this:

Winter – depending on snow conditions I try to get on snow trails as much as possible to develop strength and endurance.  It stays cold here in Jackson, so the snow stays which allows me to do my road running on snow as well, which is a lot of fun and gets me on some great mountainous roads that I would not be on in the summer. In the winter I focus on running quite a bit and try to make extreme adventures to keep me motivated during the cold, but without forcing it and making it a "have to".  I also sprinkle in ski mountaineering, climbing, snow biking, Nordic skiing and of course, alpine skiing at the resort.

Spring – This season is the least desirable Jackson Hole has to offer.  It really can be a mix of snow, rain, sun, clouds, cold, etc.  During this time I back off a little on volume and take the great strength I built in Winter and work on my speed.  I will hit the track for speed sessions and as the lower elevation trails start to dry out, I will run some fast tempo and intervals on varied terrain.

Summer – There is no better place to run than Summer in Jackson Hole.  This is a time where all my winter and spring prep has me ready for hitting all the high elevation trails and canyons in Teton National Park.  This is my high mileage time and I try to do as much on trails as possible, which leaves only my true recovery runs for the road.  Summer projects also take center stage, whether it is hitting the races I have chosen or putting together new trail link ups, traverses, and high alpine ascents.

Fall – I usually schedule my most important races for fall, so I am able to use the summer of running to prepare.  The days also get a bit cooler and shorter, but I am also doing as much mountain running as possible before later Fall and snow hits.

Barefoot Inclined:  What does trail running do for you... what does it provide?  (besides a workout of course :-)  )

The great thing about living in Jackson is everything is so close and accessible.  So having the ability to run for a living and run on trails everyday really centers me and gives me that daily reminder that I live a very cool life and I am fortunate to have this ability and health to explore the mountains and wildlife right out my door.  I also came from a team sporting background where making athletic moves and plays was a big part of my ability and when I am in the mountains running on technical terrain or even having to climb or scramble up a rock formation, it gives me this feeling of athleticism that I sometimes miss when running roads.  It truly brings that mind and body connection to the forefront and gives me a very creative mind.  When I was writing my book, I would go for a run and assemble thoughts and actually write while running.

Barefoot Inclined:  How much of running is mental vs. physical... and what advice to you have for new runners who aren't sure about their physical capabilities?

 In my book, I start out be saying I believe at first, the mind follows a good body.  Sometimes we often hear it the other way around, where the body follows the mind.  But from my experience as a coach and athlete, it is hard to feel good about yourself mentally if you are not feeling good physically.  So, at first, the body must get strong and well and this promotes mental confidence and empowerment.  Through time, this starts to alter and as we become strong and capable physically, the mind takes over and leads the way.

So in advice to new runners, first and foremost running is good for us if done right.  Yes, it is a skill to be learned and one that we all can learn.  And, running can be fun and getting to the point in your running where YOU have the ability to manage you effort is the holy grail for new runners.  With this, I really think it is crucial for them to understand appropriate run intensity and effort.  This will help keep efforts as easy as possible when first starting so it stays enjoyable and something you gain power from, not torture.  This will promote consistency and will help running to be FUN - leading to that physical confidence I mention above. In fact all runners need to understand intensity for long term improvement.

Barefoot Inclined:  What's the next big thing for Eric Orton?

Short term, I am preparing for the US paperback release of The Cool Impossible in May 2014, which will lead to the long term plan of more run clinics, run expeditions, and launching of my global running campaign.  

Barefoot Inclined:  Tell me about your relationship with ZOZI. What do you do for them as a ZOZI Guru. How does this align with your passions and goals? And you’re working with them to give away an adventure to Nicaragua? Tell me about it.

As I mentioned above it is tricky to find great partners and ZOZI is a great partner.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the original ZOZI Gurus and now to be associated with the likes of Bear Grylls, Jimmy Chin and others, is truly humbling and an honor.  

ZOZI is all about adventure and living life to the fullest every day and this is a very authentic way of being that we both share.  And the Nicaragua adventure giveaway is a great example of promoting this way of life. That there might be a different way to look at traveling and living and how this can create experiences that mold how we go forward with our life.  I traveled to Nicaragua last February as an invited runner to the Fuego Y Agua Ultramarathon hosted on Ometepe Island.  This trip blew my mind, running up volcanos, with monkeys, thru jungles and reinforced how adventure brings people and cultures together.  Running is truly a unifying force and this is what ZOZI wants people to experience on their own.  ZOZI is the catalyst and care takers of this adventure mindset and what life is all about.

Thanks Eric!  I appreciate you taking the time for the interview!

Now... if you want to win $100 credit towards ZOZI adventures and gear, check out the Rafflecopter widget below.  I'll run this contest until 10PM MST on December 24th, 2013 and then randomly select one lucky winner...  Merry Christmas!  Contest is open to the U.S. and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Trails and good luck!



  1. I'll be interested in hearing more about the B2R trail shoe when it comes out in 2014...could be good timing as I might be looking for a new warm-weather trail shoe in the spring.

  2. I've been attempting to run naturally since I really got into running about a year ago (I'm more of a cyclist, historically). I run in Merrell trail gloves and vivobarefoot neo's exclusively and seem to have gotten good results! I am interested in his book and I'm going to read it over my Christmas break so this interview was very exciting.

  3. dream destination? probably the great wall marathon!

  4. My dream destination would be London. I would love to run the London Marathon!

  5. My dream destination would be anywhere away from where I live. Too many cool place to choose just one! I have transitioned into more natural running over the past year. I first started following direction from Eric's YouTube posts on form, his book is awesome and has helped me tremendously. My biggest challenge yet is changing my mindset from limiting me. Constant injury was my past in running. Being able to go out and run for hours and coming home and only being tired is a whole new concept! I love it!


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