Are You Ready to Bare your Sole?
Barefoot running probably seems pretty straight forward. 1.) Take off shoes. 2.) Run. Barefoot running would be this straight forward had you been doing it since childhood, but if you are like most modern folks browsing around on the internet, including myself, you have probably been wearing shoes your entire life. This means the muscles of the feet, the ankle, and the calf, are likely to be deconditioned.
When getting started barefoot running, or running in minimalist footwear, it is important to keep in mind the primary goal. The purpose of barefoot running is not to run tougher, nor is it to stick it to the shoe companies. The primary reason for running barefoot is to help runners that have learned to run striking with their heel, to learn instead running striking with the forefoot first.
Things to remember when getting started
1.) Pick hard surface that is smooth and free of debris.
Running barefoot on a soft surface, such as a sandy beach, is less likely to encourage runners to land forefoot first. Chooses a rocky area or one with debris will be uncomfortable when just beginning.
2.) Don’t over do it.
Forefoot running emphasizes muscles not utilized when heel striking. Muscles take time to adapt. Even if you are accustomed to 20 or 30 mile shod runs, when transitioning to barefoot, or minimalist running, start small, think 1 or two miles 2 to 3 times per week. Then gradually increase distance (perhaps 10% per week).
*If you are an experienced shod runner, you don’t have to drastically reduce your mileage. Try instead working forefoot running into your shorter workouts, (my clients most commonly begin their transition with unshod speed workouts on the high school track), then gradually increase the percentage of total miles run in minimalist shoes or barefoot.*
3.) Listen to your body.
If your calves are overly sore, you are developing tendonitis, or your arches or the top of your foot are beginning to hurt, take some time off, try cross training instead. Pushing through the pain is counter productive and will not get you anywhere fast.
4.) Contact a barefoot running specialist.
If you are unsure of what you are doing, contact a professional before you are injured. If you have questions about barefoot running feel free ask using the contact form on the contact us page. Though I get a lot of emails I will do what I can to answer all questions.
5.) Stick to it.
Just like anything else, don’t expect to become an elite barefoot runner over night. Many of the muscles used in barefoot running are likely to be deconditioned and need time to adjust to be used again, but if you take it slow, and stick to it then you will reap the benefits of this more natural style of running.
6) Enjoy Yourself
To often running is viewed as punishment for eating to much ice cream, or for not performing well in other sports. Running is not a punishment. Running should be enjoyed. If you are not enjoying yourself you are doing it wrong.
Do you have any tips for people who would like to try barefoot running? Leave a comment in our comments section.