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.
Barefoot running rules to live by
March 23, 2011 by 39 Comments
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.
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.