Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 3

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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.

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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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Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 2

 

In the second article in this series we delve into the specific actions and tasks to help make the transition to barefoot running simple and safe. Be clear this will require patience and commitment, but will be worth the effort.

Once you’ve accepted a mindset that will allow you to commit to changing to barefoot running the transition can be started with a number of simple steps. If you’ve spent most of your life in over-protective shoes you will have weakened the feet and they need to be strengthened before barefoot running is simple and easy. You have also likely had your feet changed from their natural state by being crushed over time by the shoes.

You’ll be most successful transitioning to barefoot running if you also transition to a barefoot lifestyle. Now that you’ve changed your mindset this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Before you begin your transition take a photo of your bare feet, through your barefoot transition feet will change their appearance and this photo will give you a reminder of where you’ve been and are now going.

It’s now time to release your reliance on shoes, in particular heavy, over-protective shoes that hinder the foot from moving in its natural state. Spend time barefoot, when you are at home take off your shoes and walk around both inside and more importantly outside without shoes. By walking around outside you will start to awaken the proprioceptive sensors within the body.

The time taken to transition to barefoot running will vary between individuals. If you have run for a long time in a heavy trainer or used orthotics it will take more time. If you’ve run without injury for long periods in a lighter racing style shoe than the transition will be shorter. In the infancy of the transition these types of runners should be equally careful and patient.

From the start of your transition you can include some simple strength exercises. Start with a 5-10 minutes of simple exercises designed to strengthen the calves and Achilles tendons. Both double and single leg calf raises are great exercises to start doing regularly at the beginning of your transition. These can be done multiple times every day, as they will help strengthen the areas you are about to stress more when you begin running.

The next step is to start running either barefoot or in minimal footwear.

If you choose to run completely barefoot be mindful that your skin will need some time to begin to toughen. It is advisable to choose a soft surface such as a grass sporting field.

By minimal footwear we mean a shoe or sandal with a zero heel to toe differential, wide toe box area and minimal cushioning. Almost all running footwear that fits these requirements will be flexible and give the foot the ability to move naturally.

As each individual is different, so will be the transition to running barefoot. To begin with start with a few minutes of running at a time and be mindful of any pain in the feet, calves and achilles. While a little pain is to be expected if you are still experiencing pain the following day you’ve run too far too soon.

The two most common strategies to incorporate barefoot running into your training are;

  1. Run in conventional shoes and take off the shoes near the end of the run.

Eg. 30 minute run with last 5 minutes barefoot

 

  1. Go barefoot and walk/run

Eg. 30 minute exercise with both walk and run periods. Start with 5 minute increments of 4 min walk, 1 min run.

As you progress slowly increase the time you are spending running in either strategy until running barefoot becomes the major part of the exercise. Be prepared for this to take a number of months before you are conditioned to running barefoot for a 30 min period comfortably.

When running barefoot focus on having a quick leg turnover and being light on your feet. This will most likely result in you adopting a forefoot landing. Foot strike is a result of running with a barefoot process. We will focus more on the specifics of barefoot running technique in the third and final article in this series.

If you have any questions regarding your transition to barefoot running in the past or want further advise for your future transition reach out to us at therunninger@gmail.com

 

Use the code: runninger20 for a 20% discount on all eyewear at ND:R Elite performance Sunglasses

Barefoot Running: Foot Strike is just the beginning – Part 1

If you’ve read much from the mainstream media on barefoot running you’d be excused for thinking that it just relates to changing your foot strike. Most media on barefoot running centres around taking off your shoes and changing from heel striking to forefoot striking when running. In doing so you’ll eliminate injuries and run off into the sunset leaving your shoes behind.

Whilst changing foot strike is one aspect to barefoot running there are a number of components. Changing from running in heavy cushioned shoes to minimal shoes or barefoot takes patience, commitment and most likely a change in mindset.

It’s quite reasonable to understand that humans lived for thousands of years without cushioned footwear and running injuries didn’t occur. While most runners also most likely know a runner that is currently injured or recently injured. It’s also quite reasonable to believe that the human foot was designed through evolution to walk or run without the aid of shoes. Then why is it so difficult to understand the benefits of barefoot running?

Mindset Change

To make a successful transition to barefoot or minimal shoe running the mindset may be the biggest change required. If you’ve got to adulthood and have worn over protective shoes all your life you have many years of mindset to change.

In barefoot running terms a fundamental change in the belief system is required. The runner must change their belief that the cushioning and support of traditional running shoes is helping to a mindset that says the human foot is fine without the cushioning and support.  The mindset shift to believing the modern running shoe does more harm than good by not allowing the foot to move in it’s natural form and weakening the muscles associated. Once this mindset shift occurs there is a transition period that will take time.

Foot Strength

If you have worn over-protective shoes fall your life then you will have weakened feet, ankles and muscles associated with barefoot running. It takes time and patience to build these muscles, however as these muscles strengthen you will become more resistant to injury.

Making this transition patiently is important, starting with becoming barefoot more often in everyday life and regularly walking barefoot will reawaken these muscles and build strength. From here it is simply a matter of beginning with small amounts of barefoot running and increasing this amount over time.

While you are transitioning utilise simple barefoot strength and conditioning tasks such as squats and jumping. As you gain strength in your feet and ankles you will develop better balance which helps when you stay stronger when running long distances.

A good drill to test this is to try and balance on one foot for a period of 30-60 sec. Once you can do this close your eyes and continue. As your strength increases this should become easier. Try the other leg and measure whether there is a difference between left and right. Another reason for increased balance is a heightened proprioception.

Proprioception

Proprioception is sometimes referred to as the humans ‘sixth sense’ and is the bodies ability to subconsciously perform movements and balance. Proprioception uses receptors in our skin, muscles and joints to give information to the brain as we subconsciously interact with it. Many of these receptors are in our feet.

By wearing over-protective, thick shoes we close these receptors over time which means less information is sent to the brain. By transitioning to barefoot movement and running we reawaken these sensors which gives almost immediate improvements in balance and basic subconscious movements.

Barefoot running is far more than taking off your shoes and changing to a forefoot landing foot strike. There are multiple parts in the transition and multiple benefits by making this change.

In part 2 of this series we will focus on specific tasks and techniques that will help you easily and safely transition to barefoot running and not lose mileage or fitness in the process. In the meantime start by spending time barefoot at home and begin to feel the difference.

Use the code: runninger20 for a 20% discount on all eyewear at ND:R Elite performance Sunglasses

Why Minimalist Footwear May Be Your Best Decision Yet

Walking is one of the most popular fitness activities in the world, and it’s easy to understand why. The exercise is low impact, so many people can easily do it regardless of age or physical condition.

That said, like any other form of exercise, walking is simply easier and more beneficial when you have the right gear. Whether that’s comfortable sandals for a walk on the beach, or a supportive pair of sneakers for heavy-duty power walks, your apparel can make or break your workout.

That doesn’t mean you have to shell out big bucks for fitness equipment. Instead, simply having the right footwear is often all you need.

Consider a pair of minimalist walking shoes if you’re looking for a style that will boost your strength and overall balance as well. The following information will help you better understand why this may be the ideal option for your needs.

What You Need to Know About Minimalist Walking Shoes

Most popular walking shoes include an arch. That’s not the case with the minimalist style. These shoes feature a flat sole, as well as extra space for a person’s toes. This allows for a freer range of motion than other styles typically provide.

Minimalist walking shoes were designed to more closely mimic the beneficial effects of walking barefoot. Obviously, most people don’t feel comfortable walking barefoot most of the time, and finding a surface to walk on that’s free of painful debris isn’t easy.

However, studies show that people who frequently wear traditional walking shoes are prone to anatomical changes. Quite simply, this type of footwear constricts the feet and limits their functionality.

Minimalist walking shoes reduce this constricting effect. This offers a wide range of benefits. For example, the arch in most walking shoes doesn’t allow certain muscles in the feet and legs to develop as fully as they would if a person were walking barefoot.

Essentially, the added support prevents walkers from using muscles that serve a genuine purpose. Switching to minimalist walking shoes allows them to use these muscles more freely. The effects of this style on balance are also positive. Shoes that constrict the toes prevent the wearer from taking advantage of the foot’s true shape. When the toes have more space, the feet return to their natural triangular shape. This added surface area provides a foundation for the body that results in enhanced balance. Evidence also suggests that it results in better posture over time.

To find the pair of minimalist walking shoes that’s best for you, consider where you plan on walking. For instance, if you plan on hiking or walking in unpaved conditions, opt for a pair with a thick sole. Many styles are designed for this purpose. While you’ll probably find that walking in minimalist shoes requires some adjustment at first, the long term benefits are more than worth it.

 

By Rae Steinbach

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course).

Her twitter handle is @araesininthesun