serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Learning from the Running Techniques of the Tarahumara Indians

posted by Chris Barber

After being injured for the first time in 17 years of running I’ve been searching for ways to become a more efficient runner.  I am intrigued by the new movement to run barefoot like the human body was made to run, landing more on the middle of the front of the foot than on the heel, where most shoe manufacturers place most of their cushion.  It’s a bad economy, it’s time to get back to the basics, why not cut out buying running shoes and start running barefoot?  Because that’s just silly.  Go purchase some running shoes here.  When researching barefoot running I came across the Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Northwest Mexico.  These runners have always been about the basics and guess what; they’ve never been in a recession.  Stop complaining, give up all of your worldly possessions, and never be in a recession.  Just be prepared for a 30% successful birth rate.


The Tarahumara live in a rugged land which is often not able to be travelled by horse or wagon so traveling by foot is the best option.  They usually travel at 50-80 miles per day at “race pace” which I would guess is probably faster than your race pace.  Pretty much running two marathons a day is their job.  What did I tell you?  Marathons are recession proof and business is always good for the Tarahumaras.  Become one and you’ll no longer have to work at a bar or casino!  Don’t act like you don’t enjoy it.  The reason the Tarahumaras run about two marathons a day is because their job is to chase animals, often until the animals drop from exhaustion.  Humans were built for running long distances on trails.  Even Usain Bolt can’t outrun a cheetah or many other animals, but there is no species that can outrun humans over long distances.  Plus we’re better looking than any other species.  Well, some of us are.

So how do you run like a Tarahumara?  Only eat complex carbohydrates, don’t train, and smoke and drink before races.  See, you can do that.  To be exact, a diet of the Tarahumara consists of about 80% complex carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat.  They primarily use their livestock for manure to grow corn and other plants to eat.  Runners should remember that carbohydrates are our friends.  I eat tons of carbohydrates because my body needs them from running long distances.  After losing 30 pounds, I then began running longer distances and began feeling fatigued.  The nutritionist I was dating at the time told me I should add some more carbohydrates to my diet of canned tuna and chicken.  Genius!  So I ventured out to consuming cans of Spaghetti O’s to get some carbohydrates.  The point here is to feed your body what it needs.  Don’t worry about each and every thing you put in your body, counting calories and tracking which ones you burn, just give your body the energy it needs to work.  Get your energy from a can like me and Popeye!

Also, don’t train, like the the Tarahumara Indians.  More specifically, don’t over think your running.  The Tarahumara Indians do not teach their children at a young age how to run, they just begin running.  Running farther and farther as their life goes on, learning techniques and becoming more efficient every time they run.  You don’t need to over think about your technique or efficiency, just run.  Focus on that.  Simple enough?

Lastly, drink, smoke, and avoid contact with the opposite sex before a race like the Tarahumara Indians.  I know, usually the drink leads to your contact with the opposite sex but use your best judgment, or your best judgment at the time, and avoid this contact before a race.  The point here is not that you necessarily need to smoke or drink before a race, but that you need to relax before a race.  I once had a friend tell me that because a race start was pushed back 15 minutes he became de-hydrated during the race.  He was at a perfect hydration level for the normal start time.  Does that 15 minutes really matter?  Do those two beers you had 48 hours or even 24 hours before the race really affect your running?  Does that pack of cigarettes you smoked the day before a race matter?  Well, probably, but most likely more so because you already smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for a month prior to the race.  The point is, don’t sweat the little things.  Just run your best and don’t think about anything else you may have done prior to the race like the Tarahumara Indians do.  Just run your best.

Get back to the basics like the Tarahumara Indians.  They’ve survived for centuries for a reason, because they run.


  1. [...] the simple running techniques of the Tarahumara Indians.  Sorry, Chris, but you’re a little late to the Tarahumara Indian party bro.  I think there may still be some peace pipes lying on the floor somewhere [...]

  2. [...] began with the release of Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run.  In it he describes the Tarahumara Indians who have been running barefoot for centuries without injury, over rugged mountainous regions, [...]

  3. [...] It really took off after Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run where he followed the Tarahumara Indians to learn how they are able to run for such long distances without injury.  The theory is that [...]

  4. Sigfrido says:

    Hey now you can run bare feet with the Five fingers shoes ! is like running barefoot but with shoes that protect your feet ! Vibram is the company. Since i started using them i somply dont want to use anything else to run ! :D