Barefoot running rules to live by

I’m a complete neophyte at this barefooting stuff, as you all know. But after yesterday’s post, it seemed that you all had lots of questions about how to get started, so I thought I’d throw out the principles that I am following. I ran this past my friend and minimalist guru Dr. Mark Cucuzzella to make sure I am giving you solid information. I’m sure Barefoot Angie Bee, Nora from Mamarunsbarefoot, Jen at Why I Run or Barefoot Josh could all chime in here as well.
First of all, I’m spending lots of time barefoot in my day-to-day routine. Any chance I get to walk around outside in my barefeet, I’m taking. This helps with proprioception—the connection between your feet and your brain and also helps strengthen the feet for running.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, I am taking it slowly. I am only just returning to running, so I’m not doing much mileage right now anyhow. But a very small portion of this is spent barefoot. In almost two weeks back to running, I have worked up to just 10 minutes of barefoot running. Barefooting will change the way you run and recruit much more of your lower leg muscles. Too much too soon and you’ll end up hurt.  All of this running is very slow with soft landings. Every other or every third day is a good approach to allow the feet and skin to adapt.
Third—I do the barefoot portion of my run first, before putting my shoes on. The reasoning behind this is that you ingrain your muscles with the memory of better running form and then that will hopefully carry over into your shod running. I can tell you that once I put my shoes back on, I feel like the running form I used barefoot carries over pretty well—at first. Towards the end of my run I have to concentrate pretty hard to try to keep that better form going.
Finally, I am doing my barefooting on pavement. Pavement allows you to see where you are stepping.  You also need to land correct on the pavement.  In the soft grass you can get away with as much as you can with the bulky shoes. Yes, there’s always the potential for glass and debris out there. According to Mark, the feet are the magic in that they allow for self regulation in a way you cannot achieve in shoes.  If something is off you feel it and can make a correction immediately or back off and continue the slow progression.
A few people asked whether or not their flat feet or pronating feet could ever handle barefoot running. My take would be yes. The human foot was designed for barefoot walking/running, regardless of whether it has a high arch, no arch, pronates or supinates. 

If you’d like more information, there’s lots out there to be had. Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Running Book and web site, as well as Michael Sandler’s Barefoot Running are both great resources. Also, check out Two Rivers Treads, and this article on Toe Salad.

Learning to run barefoot or trying to change your running form to a “natural” form is not something for the impatient. I expect this to take me most of 2011, if not longer. I will admit that had I not been injured and brought back to square one, I probably would never have gone down this road. I would have been too focused on the next PR to invest the time. But now that I’m here at square one, I recognize that I have an opportunity for a “do-over.” I’m going to get my running right this time and hopefully, injuries will be a permanent thing of the past.

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Comments

  1. AM-GoalsfortheWeek! says

    Hey there!
    Fabulous post! I've been trying out the barefoot portion at the end of my runs…so will change that;-)

    Thx!

  2. Jen says

    I'm so excited for you! It really is just so much fun and I can't believe how good I feel after changing my running style! It has made all the difference for me! I chose barefoot to change my running style but found that going bare was really, really fun!

  3. Fair Weather Runner says

    your timing on this post is awesome! thanks so much for all the information you wrote on this. i'm definitely checking all of it out.

  4. C2Iowa says

    Good post. I have tried a very similar approach before my surgery. I plan on going back to it as soon as I can talk myslef back outdoors.

  5. Teamarcia says

    Sounds like you're making some pretty sweet lemonade out of the lemons you were dealt. I think this barefoot stuff may take you to some very interesting places!
    I've dabbled with barefoot and you inspire me to do more. : )

  6. Silly Girl Running says

    Thanks for sharing this! I'm working on my barefoot running routine, and your tips will help a lot! :)

  7. Mamarunsbarefoot says

    You are TOTALLY on the right track!! So many people are told to run on grass, NO, NO, NO!! The pavement tells you when you are running wrong. When your feet feel sore then you stop. That is how to keep from getting injured. I'm soo proud and impressed with your progress!!! I can't wait to get my feet back on the ground!

  8. Angie Bee says

    Looks good! I totally agree about doing the barefoot running first before the rest of your shod running.
    Relax, have fun, slow and steady, think midfoot, be honest with yourself. Blisters are teachers not injuries…..
    I look forward to what Josh says. I always enjoy his perspective.

  9. Jill says

    We do a lot of barefoot running for drills with the track team and know it makes a difference. Shoes are mandatory, though, I just found out for high school sports.

  10. Black Knight says

    I follow with interest what you are doing "barefoot". I will never run without my running shoes but I think I can try at home and, sometimes, on the soft ground. Thanks for sharing.

  11. funderson says

    I've been training to run barefoot my whole life. My grandmother used chide me as a hillbilly for my barefoot ways. Thankfully my other grandma was a happy barefooter.

  12. Terzah says

    You should move here–you would not seem eccentric! And you talked me into trying a little pavement barefoot action–though the grass feels so good…..

  13. marathonmaiden says

    i'm sooo impatient. i'd probably end up in the hospital or something haah!

    i'd never heard that pavement was better for barefoot running. maybe it depends on where you live? if i ran on the pavement here i don't know if my feet would make it out alive!

  14. BarefootJosh says

    The objective is to learn how to run gently. Running barefoot is not a cure-all, and no one with any advice worth listening to says it is, but being gentle with yourself is important if you want to avoid injury.

    Relax (Don't Panic! ha ha), pay attention, and be graceful. Welcome aboard!

  15. Richelle says

    Thanks for all the tips. If I do end up going down the barefoot road (I'm definitely not a patient person, so that will not work in my favor), I will come back to this post.

  16. Fran says

    Thanks for the tips. I have no intention to run barefoot but reading your post reminds me I need to walk barefoot more often around the house. I don't wear shoes when I'm at home, just socks and in Summer I wear flipflops but will walk more barefoot this Summer.

  17. Caratunk Girl says

    First, I have to say "toe salad" just gives me a weird feeling. Like I don't want to click on the link. ha

    I have been walking barefoot as much as possible (all inside right now because of the #$!* snow out there) but between reading what you went through and some other information, I am sold on minimalist running for sure. I am planning on doing some this spring/summer but I am unsure how to make that transition in the fall/winter here because…well 7-8 mos out of the year, I can't run barefoot outside. Unless I want to lose a toe. What are your thoughts on 5 Fingers and similar products?

  18. Gracie (Complicated Day) says

    Even though I grew up barefoot (seriously, I was home schooled and I never put on shoes unless we had to go to church!) the actual running is still a change for me; it's amazing how weak my calves are, especially since I always thought my calves were pretty muscular.

  19. Mark says

    Amanda,

    this is the true ctl-alt-del REBOOT. often it is what one needs to do to fully correct everything. gradual progress always.

    Mark Cucuzzella MD
    owner Two Rivers Treads

  20. Anne says

    Great post! I was quite new to running when I got my first injury and my amazing PT had me run barefoot. He showed me how naturally I ran with proper form when I was barefoot and since I was still a newbie and coming off an injury. I made the transition to racers. I have run two half-marathons in my racers and if it wasn't for slipping on the ice over the winter, I would probably have managed to avoid injury since then. I'm coming back though and loving my racers :)

    http://www.anne-asthmaandthegiftofrunning.blogspot.com/

  21. Coy Martinez says

    Soooo glad I found your blog! Just what I needed right now. I've been fighting ITB for about a month. I have the kind where I can run for about 4-5 miles and then have to stop. My life now is full of stretching, rolling and limited running. Stinks.

    Also, I've started barefoot running in my Vibram's. I'm up to about 3 miles. To be honest I would love to be able to run an entire marathon in them. Really!

  22. The Hungry Runner Girl says

    I am right there with you. It really is something that takes a lot of patience but it is going to be worth it this year to learn to run right to prevent these issues. K, so I found your other blog and I LOVE the idea of dynamic stretching after a run…..can't wait to try it!

  23. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    First, I am so happy YOU ARE RUNNING!! This puts a huge smile on my face as I'm sure does yours!! Second, you are a natural coach–thanks for sharing!

  24. cheryl says

    I love being barefoot- but I can't "go" that way 'cause I work for a living.
    After 40 years of running I went minimalist and tore my achilles.
    It's not for everyone.

    Track and Field magazine still has a "shoe review"-when they put up the "monkey feet" for review, and top runners are winning marathons (No, Bikila did NOT run the full marathon barefoot!!) maybe then I will listen!

  25. Thomas Farrell says

    Thanks for the great post. Following your recovery with interest and your barefoot running. I've been reading up on barefoot running for a while now, really interesting.

Trackbacks

  1. […] After talking with a lot of people and doing research, these New Balance came out on top. They are “barefoot” shoes (Vibrams) and are something I have never worn before. In fact, I never ever thought I would be a barefoot runner. Transitioning into them will be a slow process to avoid injury but I am excited and hoping they will work great for running up and down North Carolina Mountains come November (I also have about 5 I want to do next year).  If you’re thinking about running barefoot, MissZippy wrote a great post on transitioning safely. […]