Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 3

3 min read

If you’ve gotten this far into your barefoot running transition then you have begun the process of building barefoot running mileage. Building this amount of running slowly allows your body to adapt to the different muscles used in barefoot running and build strength in the feet and ankles.

In this the third article in the series we look at the running specifics to focus on when the transition. One of the most common mistakes runners make is to focus on ensuring a forefoot landing when running. This is a common mistake that often increases the chances of injury as the muscles are pushed to far as they develop the strength needed to run successfully barefoot. The mechanics of running barefoot running will naturally promote a forefoot landing and without over compensation of landing on the toes.

So what should you focus on when you begin running barefoot.

1. Faster cadence
Running with a faster cadence will naturally keep you lighter on your feet and allow you to more naturally move your foot landing from the heel to your forefoot naturally and without focus and effort.
Most articles use 180 strides per minute as a basis of this technique but it can be faster or slightly slower depending on the runner. Using a metronome to keep this cadence is an easy way to measure your cadence, download a free metronome app to your smart phone. Once you develop this cadence turn the metronome on and off periodically and you will learn this rhythm and adapt your running to it.

2. Short natural stride
If you increase your cadence you will likely run with a shorter stride length. At first this stride may seem shorter than you’d think effective however this will help the foot land under the body’s centre of mass and promote a compact, efficient running technique.
A shorter natural stride is the best way to ensure you don’t over stride. Over striding will ensure you land on your heel, this won’t be a successful transition to barefoot running. Over striding will however be more difficult if you are running with a faster cadence.

3. Pulling the foot off the ground
For many runners this is initially a difficult concept too understand but while running you should be concentrating on pulling the trailing leg off the ground. Rather than pushing your foot into the ground.
This assists with keeping your body in a slight forward lean and the foot landing under the body’s centre of mass. In simple terms, a human doesn’t need to focus on the forward leg landing, gravity will ensure this happens.
If you focus on pulling the foot off the ground you will reduce the time the foot is on the ground and improve your cadence. This will help you become a more efficient runner and use your energy the best way to propel you forward. There may be a shift in mid set required that will take some time and concerted practise in order to adjust.

In summary, the best way to develop your barefoot running technique is to run with a fast cadence, a short natural stride and while running concentrate just on pulling your foot off the ground. Putting these three simple pieces together will help you develop a running technique that allows you to best run barefoot or in minimal footwear.

You should practise this over short concentrated efforts. To begin try some 100 metre strides, using a metronome and focus on the foot hitting the ground in unison with the metronome and concentrate on pulling the foot off the ground. In your general aerobic runs practise these techniques for periods of the run and then let the body do it naturally for a period of time. It will take some time for this to be your natural running technique before it becomes second nature.

As always if you have any questions regarding attempting a transition to barefoot or minimal footwear running please reach out at therunninger@gmail.com. Happy running

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