What is Barefoot Running?
If you’ve heard about barefoot running or the use of zero drop running shoes before, then you’ve probably also learned that they come with various benefits. Sometimes referred to as minimal running, this is the art of re-aligning your running style to a more natural and efficient one.
Zero drop running shoes allow you to run with a zero drop (from heel to toe), whilst still providing protection from the trail or road surface under-foot. So when you see me referring to barefoot running in this article I’m actually talking about running with minimal zero drop shoes that protect your feet whilst allowing you to simulate true barefoot running, as opposed to running without shoes.
Why Should You Try Barefoot Running?
1.) Having no padded heel to “support” your landing will force your body to re-learn how to run in the way it was designed to, with a more forefoot landing. You will most likely start to see running niggles like plantar fasciitis and shin splints become a thing of the past.
2.) Removal of the cushioned heel in your shoes may also stretch out your calf muscles, reducing the chance of Achilles tendonitis and calf strains.
3.) You should become a more efficient runner with light-footed steps at a higher cadence. All great attributes in a good running technique.
4.) You should start to activate smaller muscles in your feet which will help with balance and stability. You’ll also be able to read the terrain beneath with greater intuition and accuracy. When you have strong ankles and muscles in your feet, the likelihood of rolling your ankle is reduced.
Barefoot Running Technique
Firstly, it’s important to note that I am a firm believer of “everything in moderation”. So if you’re new to barefoot running please make sure you don’t overdo it by running too far or too fast during your first few minimal runs. If you injure yourself from overuse or incorrect form before you even get the chance to feel what a true barefoot running technique feel like, then you may end up dismissing it altogether, and that would be a shame.
3 Things to remember:
1. Don’t overstride
This means landing with your foot too far in front of your hips. You will more than likely be heel striking in this situation, which is bad. Essentially, you want your reaching foot to strike the ground beneath your hips, and you should be aiming to land with your forefoot flat without any pronation. There are 2 simple ways to keep this in check when training:
- Increase your cadence so that you make more steps, this will reduce the force at which your feet contact the ground.
- Lift your feet higher and always keep a slight bend in your legs to prevent forward over-extension in your stride, which can cause strain on your calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
2. Land on your forefoot
It’s hard to know if you are landing truly on your forefoot, so I would advise getting a friend or partner to watch you as you run, you could also get them to film your technique so that you can visual correct yourself. You could also find a place with no grit or harmful objects on the ground to practice running with no shoes on at all. You will soon know if you’re landing on your forefoot because it will feel comfortable and efficient.
Still having trouble landing on your forefoot? Another tip is to walk backwards while slightly leaning forwards. Try speeding it up a little and you’ll get it.
3. Patience is a virtue
It’s important to gradually build up the muscles that you are now activating by running barefoot. Take your time to learn barefoot running and stay motivated by exploring new trails as you get used to the technique. It can take months before you truly master it and your body tunes back into this natural style of running.
I always advise adding in some cross-training when learning a new running form. This will help build full body and core strength and reduce overuse injury. Plus it keeps things fun!
Barefoot Running Shoes
I’ve been barefoot running in the Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit shoes which I bought from Zappos.com for their fast and free delivery, oh and they also have a 365-day return policy which is pretty awesome. The Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit shoes really do feel like you’re wearing gloves because they’re made from one seamless piece of knitted material that adapts to your feet as they flex. They offer the right amount of protection where you need it too, on the toe cap and the Vibram outsole.
Merrell is famous for its wide range of trail and mountain gear, so it’s awesome to see them pushing the barefoot running scene with such a durable, versatile, and high-performance line-up of shoes. Within that line-up, I’d recommend giving these shoes a try to make your barefoot running as comfortable as possible.
Enjoy the journey!
I hope this article helps put you on an exciting new journey of learning to run barefoot. Put the training in and I’m pretty sure you’re going to love barefoot running but if you don’t like it… at least you tried something new! 🙂