Barefoot Basics #2: Bend Your Knees

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

When you first take off your conventional shoes and try running barefoot, the first thing you will probably notice is that the ground is really hard! It might sound silly and obvious, but the truth is that it’s easy to forget this simple fact when running with a big wedge of padding beneath your soles.

To compensate for this hard ground, your legs come with built in shock absorbers. And because you’re now running without the squishy comfort of foam underfoot, you need to make absolutely sure that you’re using them to your best advantage.

The easiest way to do this is to bend your knees. And when I say bend them, I mean really bend them. At first you’ll feel a bit funny, like you’re running in a crouch, but this is what you want. The more you bend your knees, the more they will absorb the shock that your legs and feet experience during running.

When you bend your knees, you’re not only engaging your knees, but also your ankles, Achilles tendons, and even your feet. All this extra absorption not only makes for a more comfortable run, it also will allow you to store and reuse a lot more energy which you can use to run further and faster.

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5 thoughts on “Barefoot Basics #2: Bend Your Knees

  1. Great post and so true. Since I recently started with a shorter stride, mid-foot strike and all that good stuff I have definitely had to relax the knees to get into it. The first few times out that way I was constantly thinking, “how am I running and still feel like I’m sitting on a chair?” Since then, I have gotten used to it and loving my new form!

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  2. just starting to run. my concern is that I have really crappy knees (includes “floating” meniscus in both of them). as such, I worry about my knees taking all of the shock and pain. would deep bending such as described above still be a suggested approach?

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    • You may find, as a lot of barefoot runners do, that the pressure on your knees goes away when you ditch your shoes. The theory is that because your feet are higher off the ground then they should be when wearing shoes, you get additional movement in the knees. Barefoot running removes this issue entirely as your feet are directly in contact with the ground. This could also be an overstriding issue – eg: your leg lands in front of your body as you run, which sends a shockwave up your leg, into your knees.
      So yes, bending your knees is a big part of barefoot running, but the real key is to run ‘light’…slow right down so that the impact is reduced to roughly the same as you would get from walking. As you add on mileage, you can increase your pace and distance. If you start feeling pain, just slow down a bit, focus on your form, and relax. It takes time to adjust to barefoot running, especially if you already have injuries, but with patience, you’ll get there.

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      • well, I’ve been wearing VFF for almost a year now. I originally wore them EVERYWHERE to get accustomed to them. (I noticed early on a significant difference in my walking pattern when I don’t wear them.) I even got a note from my doctor so I could wear them to the office, lol.

        so run more relaxed. that I can do. thanks. I can’t believe I’ve been on NF for so long now, and I’m only just now stumbling across your blog. O_o shame on me!

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