A Guide To Starting Barefoot Running
I became interested in barefoot running in mid-2011 after constant use of my Terra Plana* Kariba’s and a new interest in the brand they were made by. I had never been a fan of running, much preferring to cycle everywhere. I always found running quite boring and disliked the amount of ground you could cover in a short period of time. In one hour, I could cycle 20 miles and hit 40mph down a huge hill or run just seven miles. I also knew about the plethora of running injuries people pick up and hence, continued cycling. Despite all of that, I also knew that running at a decent pace is the best thing for burning calories and overall fitness.
So at the beginning of the year I finally purchased a pair of barefoot running shoes – the Vivobarefoot Ultra’s
My first barefoot run was a quick three and a half hilly miles a few days later. I had never run in this way before but I’d read all the guides, watched all the training videos and felt I could do it properly. I can tell you it’s an absolute calf killer for the first few runs. Until your muscles and tendons develop to suit this new style, then you’ll need time to rest and recover after each run. Just like starting out at the gym or having a really intensive session on biceps – you’ll ache the next day. Or three.
You’ll need to build up to longer runs, so start out low and get used to the technique. So what is this technique and how is it different to how we usually run?
For years, people have been running with thick soled running shoes which mean they heel strike. Heel striking is where you land on your heel before any other part of your foot. This takes away all of the energy in your stride and also impacts your joints. The constant shock that heel striking creates is part of what causes 80% of us to be injured from running every year.
We are not designed to run like this. You will find that running without shoes on makes you run very differently. Automatically, you will not land on your heel, because it hurts but instead you will land on your forefoot and push off with your toes. Just how we’re built to run. We are designed to be light and agile on our feet, not to crash land on the pavement with every step. Our running should utilise the elasticity in our tendons and ligaments to drive us forward, which is exactly what happens when you land on the balls of your feet.
Your posture also changes, your weight is over your feet and you don’t take huge strides which dissolve a lot of the energy your ligaments would otherwise have created. Your cadence (steps per minute) increases, your stride decreases, your core is aligned vertically and not leaning forward. Your feet should land directly underneath you. Putting this all together gives you a shorter, quicker stride rather than one which is long and cumbersome as well as making you feel light on your feet.
From what I’ve experienced so far, I can definitely say it makes a huge difference to how long and how quickly I can run but that I also don’t get aches and pains from doing so. I used to get quite bad shin splints, which I no longer do. I advise any runners or people who want to take it up to ditch the thick soled, air pocketed ‘running’ shoes you currently have, get a pair of shoes from Vivobarefoot or Merrell, do your research and then run how we were built to run. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
In summary, I want to use a quote from a barefoot running and proprioception handbook:
“If humans have evolved as endurance running specialists, why do about 80% of us injure ourselves every year? Why haven’t injuries such as ‘runners knee’, ‘shin splints’ and ‘plantar fasciitis’ become rare and unfortunate occurrences, like scurvy and TB, banished to those parts of the world without access to the latest advances in technology and biomedical science? The answer is simple.
We have forgotten how to run.”
Please check out the videos posted below which give a great insight into barefoot running and also follow this link to download the ‘Making sense of barefoot running’ document I mentioned above.
Let me know how you get on…
*Terra Plana created Vivobarefoot before they parted company in October 2011
All diagrams courtesy of Vivobarefoot.