IMPACT began in the spring of 2012, when college professor and documentary filmmaker Rik Scarce needed new orthotics. Prescription in hand, he set out to track down someone who wasn’t going to charge an arm and a leg to make new ones. Years earlier, Rik had been told he would “never run distance” because of his bio-mechanics, but at the least he wanted to be able to hike and to ride his bike comfortably.
Orthotics seemed to be his only option. However, the price tag was steep—he got a cut rate from his former physician on his first pair—and he quickly became curious about alternatives.
Over the course of a few days of looking around, Rik stumbled upon a podiatrist’s website discussing the benefits of barefoot and minimalist running. One thing led to another, and within a week he had purchased a pair of
New Balance minimalist trail shoes and had driven three hours round-trip to hear Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, speak. Rik began running, albeit short distances, in his new shoes, then longer and longer. He soon threw away his orthotics and never replaced them.
By the fall of 2013, Rik was so excited about barefoot and minimalist running that he was inspired to teach a
first-year seminar on running (not how-to: his students read Born to Run, Running with the Buffaloes, Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, and some other running-related writings, including scientific articles; they also watched several running-related films, and did a service project for the local half-marathon).
Rik ran his first marathon that fall, too, 16 months after discovering minimalism; he has also run eight half-marathons. Today, he trains in minimalist shoes, adding barefoot runs in warmer weather.
Ultimately, Rik decided to film a documentary on the barefoot and minimalist running movement to explore some of the questions he had about it. His aim was to examine the movement as fully as he could, letting people’s stories and insights take the film where they would.
He found a fascinating world of conflicting science, medicine, fact, and fiction. Some advocates insist barefoot running is the only way to run; others are so skeptical that they warn of the potential of broken bones and dangerous encounters with rocks and hypodermic needles.
And underlying it all is a tension between humanity and human artifice, the natural and the necessary. Impact's first steps seem to be about oddball runners, but by the finish line we find it is about us all.