The following post comes from the talented Dan Chabert who is writing about barefoot running, a topic of interest to runners and bodybuilders alike. Whether you’re interested in taking up barefoot running or simply improving your form, this article will no doubt be of value. Enjoy!
Bring up Barefoot Running in a group of runners and the debate could last hours! Between the studies and endless opinions, it take some legwork (pun intended) to even decide if you want to try barefoot running. Pros and cons of barefoot running aside, it can be a fun challenge for those looking for a new goal to work towards.
Here are 3 basics you’ll want to make a pillar of your plan to get started:
Ease In and Build Strength
Especially if you’ve been running regularly for some time, you’ll be inclined to go out at your usual pace and/or distance. Don’t. All those miles you’ve racked up in your shoes haven’t actually prepared you for running barefoot; it’s a different experience. Shoes provide support and control that your feet aren’t used to running without, forcing your muscles and tendons to work in a different way.
Like any new exercise, it takes 4-8 weeks for your muscles to fully adapt to a new movement pattern, so dialing back on the pace and distance when running barefoot is imperative to avoid injury and lessen the aches and pains of a new sport. You’ll need to build a foundation of strength in these muscles before pushing your pace.
Working this into your regular running routine is possible, so you don’t have to drastically cut down your overall pace and distance. Go out for your regular run and take your shoes off, carrying them in your hands or a small running backpack, for the last few minutes. Try this every other day you run and slowly increase the amount of time you spend without shoes. Allow yourself time to get used to the feeling and the mechanics of barefoot running before you go for a full run or your regular pace. It should feel easy, this is not a time to push yourself.
Select a Smart Terrain
Go against your instinct to run on soft cushioned surfaces like grass and sand, and opt for smooth hard surfaces like asphalt or a running track. Like cushioned running shoes, a soft surface will not give your feet accurate feedback which is the only way to know if you’re using good form. You want to know immediately if something doesn’t feel right
Start on a track, a parking lot, or stick to sidewalks to allow precise feedback and a smooth surface.
Focus on Form
Barefoot running form is not very different from regular Good Form Running; eyes gazing forward, shoulders down and back, hands loose with arms at sides (not crossing the body), hips level, and feet falling directly under the hips. The main differences you’ll want to especially focus on are making your stride a little shorter and avoiding heel strike ensuring you land towards the balls of your feet for a midfoot strike. Too much on your toes can injure the Achilles and calf muscles
Do not extend your legs as far as you do in your running shoes, this makes your stride shorter so it’s easier to avoid a heel strike. Think of staying light on your feet, and instead of pushing off your toes like you might do in shoes, aim to keep the feel parallel upon lifting off.
Depending on the terrain you’re running – trail, street, dirt path, up or downhill, etc. – your form will change, allowing you to navigate the route optimally for your body. Pay attention to the feeling your feet give you and adjust to what feel right, whether that’s slowing down or shortening your stride, do what makes sense instead of being stubborn and forcing a form or pace that isn’t comfortable.
Above all, have fun with this new way of running! Keep it very easy at first – allowing you to build strength and maintain proper form – run on hard smooth surfaces and focus on slightly adjusting your foot strike for optimal form.
About the Author
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, http://www.gearweare.com, monicashealthmag.com & nicershoes.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.