This serves as merely a starter guide into barefoot running (and even fitness training) and is NOT a complete tutorial. For a much more in-depth look and finesse on all the biomechanics and cues, please refer to http://barefootrunning.com/ or come to our FREE Barefoot Running Clinic hosted by Pablo Acosta a.k.a. Dr. Pablo Saturday, November 21st, immediately following our FREE 9am class.
I advocate barefoot running above other forms because of the injury prevention I've personally experienced, witnessed, and researched. I've coached other forms of running, however, no other technique proves to be as safe, injury-preventative, therapeutic, and awesome. Allowing your bare soles to connect with the ground creates a chain reaction throughout the body that saves your joints, tendons, and muscles from undue pain and injury. When you run barefoot, your entire body works together, it's no longer a mindless leg killer.
*Bonus: Running shoes are expensive and feet are free. Believe it or not, and you won't until you try it yourself, running shoes wear out much quicker and more often than feet do!
Where I learned this stuff...
Informally - As a gymnast, I was always barefoot. I love being barefoot, I hate shoes, I love being connected with what I'm stepping on - even though sometimes it's an acorn.
Slightly more formally - Ken Bob's Barefoot Running Step by Step book and discussions/lessons with a current gym member who is a physical therapist and has done mud races barefoot...yeah.
Why it's important to me to pass on this knowledge...
NO ONE SHOULD HURT FROM RUNNING AND FITNESS SHOE STORES HAVE IT ALL WRONG.
Barefoot running is natural and doesn't cause the stress injuries that squishy running shoes do. I've seen countless issues from incorrect running form - constant blisters, repeat stress fractures and shin splints from repetitive heel stricking, bad knees from caving feet, tight calves from never allowing the heel to touch the ground at all, hip and back pain, - all the hip and back pains. And so they go buy a new shoe or a new brace or take Advil and accept the runner's folly that pain is part of the lifestyle. Squishy running shoes allow incorrect running form that, in turn, causes so many painful, yet avoidable, issues.
Biomechanically, barefoot running is for every human being.
I see people take their shoes off and squat better, run better, move better. I hear how their pain went away and their running injuries healed themselves with proper form. I see it with my own eyes.
Before you run barefoot...
- I'm not suggesting you go buy a pair of Vibrims or minimal shoes - that's not barefoot.
- People litter, so beware of glass, deep puddles you can't see the bottom of, and slick spots.
- Change how you run. If you start barefoot running with the exact form as you would with squishy running shoes, you WILL hurt yourself...badly. Barefoot running will not hurt you, YOU will hurt you.
- Listen to your body. The whole point of trying this is to benefit your body, not hurt it. Back off if you need to. Especially if you're already carrying several running injuries.
- Try it more than once, don't wear headphones, and don't time yourself. Just go run.
- If you just can't get it, video yourself or have someone watch you. You could just be missing something.
*video coming Monday*
How to run barefoot, head to toes...
Remember, these are the BASICS and this is all in my own words from my own learning experiences. For more in-depth teaching, a watchful eye, and immediate coaching, attend our
FREE Barefoot Running Clinic Saturday, November 28th, at 10am with Dr. Pablo!
Head - Should be neutral, sitting directly over the shoulders, over the hips, gaze forward on the horizon. Don't look down - you'll end up there. Don't look up - the running gods aren't listening.
Shoulders - Relaxed. Not as if you've just taken a Xanax, but neutral (there's that word again). They allow your arms to sway back and forth, they do not force any movement of the arms. The shoulders also should not be acting as ear muffs - you have a neck, now let's see it.
Chest - Think good posture here - stack your chest above your hips. You don't want to puff it out like you're superman, but you also don't want to shrink your chest behind your shoulders as if you're being scolded. Be proud, be confident, be upright with your chest in order to keep your head up.
Torso/Diaphragm - You should be breathing into your diaphragm, keeping a slightly tightened core and keeping your pelvis in it's natural position with your spine. Don't let your chest do all the breathing - then your shoulders start tensing and creeping up and next thing you know, you're huffing and puffing and your shoulders are ear muffs. Breathe as naturally as possible into your belly. Don't let your core go loose and your lower back arch, flaring your butt out - everyone will look at that booty as you run by and won't even notice your bare feet.
Hips - Keep your hips under your chest and loose enough to allow your legs independent movement with each step. Don't lock your hips up by sqeezing your butt or stomach too tightly. This isn't a soldier march run. Don't let your hips get behind your chest by bending at the waist and leaning your shoulders forward. You'll get tired and your hips will tighten up real fast.
So far, from the hips up, there should be a fairly straight and natural (but NOT rigid) line from the top of your head to your pelvis. Everything above the waist stays upright, confident, and free from tension.
Knees - As you take each step, bend your knees. One more time. Bend your knees. To me, this is the MOST IMPORTANT piece to injury free barefoot running. Bend your knees. They are the shock absorbers that will keep you from ruining all of your joints. It feels like you're walking around like Goofy at first, but once you get the hang of it, it solves so many issues.
*It's very difficult to know if you're bending your knees or not, at first, so - look at a point in the distance. Is it bouncing up an down? You're not bending your knees. Work to keep that point level.*
Feet - You should be running like a silent ninja - that's why I said no headphones. If you can hear your feet pounding the pavement, you'll be hurting tomorrow. As your foot approaches the ground, you want to almost pull it back just a bit, as if you know you're not stepping on white fluffy clouds and you're just a bit cautious about the ground. Then, once your foot - the front of your foot - feels that the ground is ok, the rest of your foot will follow, your heel kissing the ground before lifting back up. Yes, your heels touch the ground. They do not strike the ground. Then, when you lift your foot, do not kick it WAY backward and high off of the ground. This will cause your knee bend to become a knee lift. Instead, lift the foot enough to not scrape your big toe on the next step, keep your feet slightly behind you, and focus on keeping your center of gravity low and grounded.
*This is also difficult at first - a tip no one wants to do: run on a very uncomfortable surface. As you cushion each step, you'll realize you have to bend the knee AND gently place the foot on the ground. Run across hot coals - now you've got it AND you're a master of fire.