Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend a barefoot running technique coaching course hosted by our friends at Premier Training International, in conjunction with vivobarefoot.
Barefoot running has recently grown in popularity – the method has been shown to reduce or eliminate running injuries and help you run faster, for longer and more efficiently. As an avid runner myself, I was excited to learn what they had to teach me. What follows is a step-by-step introduction to what I learnt on this fantastic barefoot running course.
Once quick introductions were out the way we were straight down to business. All attendees were placed on a treadmill and recorded whilst they ran.
Establishing correct technique followed and the next 2 hours were spent analysing our initial videos. It turns out there are three types of natural human locomotion… walking, running and sprinting.
It seems that in the past 40 or so years a cross-over between running and walking has been popularised… A sluggish, injury-riddled method of locomotion and something that is in every way unnatural. The name of this epidemic sweeping our globe and filling physio waiting rooms is… JOGGING!
3 Ways to Run
Running was then broken down into three differing modes…
2. Unskilled barefoot running
3. Skilled barefoot running
Now I considered myself to be a reasonably good runner, light on my feet and fairly efficient with my stride. I mean I had bought my first pair of minimal shoes over a year ago. In my mind I was thinking “You’re preaching to the converted here!” Well it turns out I had a lot to work on.
In my clip the guy I was watching had a slow “sticky” stride and a tense upper body with a nasty forward tilt. As the guys on the course put it, I was a “head chaser!”
In fact the only real positive was landing on my forefoot. So that made me an “unskilled” barefoot runner. Well at least I wasn’t a jogger, but what a wake up call!
We were all quickly discovering that running, whilst hugely accessible to the masses and a great form of exercise, was indeed a skill and something that needs to be worked on. As our tutor Matt said:
It’s easy to see why 8 out 10 runners break down with injury at some point, its all about proprioception, or lack of it.
Matt went onto to explain that we have all the technology we need built into our feet and lower limbs required to protect our feet and move pain free, do not dumb that down by covering your feet in thick soled shoes.
3 Barefoot Running Tips
To highlight this theory further the afternoon was spent going through a series of posture and rhythm drills, stretches and bouncing exercises all of which were surprisingly straight forward but did highlight a few flexibility and strength issues for all the class. Throw in a bit of toega (that’s yoga for the feet!) and we were on our way to understanding what was needed to achieve skilled running form. A big emphasis was put on three aspects of barefoot or skilled running:
1. Posture: Upright posture , knees, hips and head all aligning on top of the feet as they land.
2. Rhythm: Maintaining optimum cadence to take advantage of the elasticity within the feet & lower leg.
3. Relax: Nice loose arms and wrists, easy breathing.
Interestingly, not massive amounts of emphasis was placed on our foot strike. “Hey Matt what about landing on the forefoot!?”
Matt replied, “If you get one and two right, that will be happening all by itself, especially if you’re barefoot… shoes off!”
We took to the treadmills barefooted and the difference was immediate. The cadence felt high (180bpm) but once I had settled into the rhythm my legs just turned over and my feet felt like they were on springs – this was it, I was doing it, I was becoming a skilled runner – easy…. well not quite.
As Matt pointed out,
The worst thing you can do is practise a skill badly
… and his words rang true. When you learn to do something, learn how to do it well. The same applies to running. For me that meant starting with small distances and building up the required hardware (strength and flexibility) to back up my newly acquired software.
Tune in next week for more insights into the world of a budding barefoot runner.