Written by BarefootDawsy
When you compare an elite runner’s stride to the average weekend warrior’s, the difference can be quite remarkable. The elite runner seems to glide over the ground with ease, whereas the amateur will often seem lumbering in comparison. So why is this? Is it just that certain people are born with an innate ability to run better than others? Well, partly yes, but that’s not the main reason.
In reality, many pro athletes owe their success to their coaches. Imagine how much your form would benefit if you had someone there for every run you took, watching you closely and telling you where you’re going wrong?
Unfortunately for most of us, a personal coach is an extravagant luxury that only the most dedicated runners can justify. But what if I told you that there were 2 coaches that are available to you on every run you take, and that they will cost you nothing to employ?
You’d probably either:
a) not believe me or
b) realise that I was talking about your feet
Now, the thing about free stuff is that it always comes at a price. In this case the price is that your two coaches are a little bit mean (you would be too if you were locked in a dark, damp, smelly place for years on end). They will tell you when you’re going wrong, but unfortunately the way they tell you is by increasing the intensity of everything your feet feel, which can often be quite painful.
As cruel as this may sound, it’s actually a form of tough love. By amplifying all of the signals your feet are receiving, to the point where they hurt, you learn quickly how NOT to step. The important thing is that you heed the warnings that your coaches are sending you and adjust your form accordingly.
Outsmarting Your Coaches
Your coaches are happy for you to learn the hard way. Lucky for you though, you’ve found this site, which is essentially like crib notes for your feet. Here are a few tips to keep your coaches happy so that they go easy on you:
This is the most important lesson to learn in running barefoot. When you are relaxed, your feet mould to the ground and flow over obstacles. Relaxed joints will allow you to absorb shocks and smoothe out your stride.
- Bend your knees
Your knees are like giant springs that can absorb energy and return it to you. By bending your knees, you can reduce the impact of running and conserve valuable energy. With bent knees you can fly downhill at top speed without spending any extra energy, you can cope with even the most jagged rocks, and even run on sharp gravel without pain.
- Keep your cadence up
Using a fast cadence makes barefoot running much easier, as it forces yo to keep your feet beneath you, instead of overstriding, and allows you to reduce the overall time your feet are touching the ground. By spending more time in the air and less on the ground, stones, sticks, and even glass become far less significant problems as you’re only treading on them for a minute space of time. On top of this, you get the benefit of reducing the cost of friction from your feet spending too much time on the ground. This will improve your running efficiency and reduce the likelihood of blisters.
Of course, there are dozens of tricks that can help the new barefoot runner, but for the most part, you can learn them all on your own by listening to your feet and working on figuring out what they’re trying to tell you. When you can run over gravel without feeling pain, then you are ready to venture out into the world, Grasshopper.