Now It’s Even Easier To Learn Barefoot Running!

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

Beginning Barefoot is growing, and with so many great articles, it’s starting to get a bit harder to find stuff than it used to be.

So, to help out new and existing readers, we’ve been improving the site navigation. Some of the changes you may have already noticed, but others are fresh this morning!

  • We’ve added a new Start Here page to make it easier to find the best articles for absolute beginners
  • Tags, Tags, Tags! We’ve added Tag navigation to the bar on the right so you can get a quick view of some of the great topics we’ve been writing about
  • Categories: We’ve updated some of the categories (also on the right) to make it easier to find similar articles
  • Search Box: This has always been there, but with improved tagging, it’s even better than it was
  • Most Popular: As always, you can visit our top viewed articles

We’ve been working hard to get these changes out, so hopefully you will find them useful.

Thanks everyone for your feedback and support!

If you see anything that could be improved or want to make a comment or suggestion, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Running Shouldn’t Hurt

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

If I had a nickel for every article I’ve seen or every quote I’ve heard that talks about how running is “all about conquering pain”, I’d be able to buy a pair of minimal shoes in Australia.

Running should be a pleasant and fun experience. Sure, there will be times when you want to push through fatigue or need to walk off a stitch, but on the whole, you shouldn’t be hurting when you run.

I think that this perception of overcoming pain contributes greatly to the incredibly high injury rates we see among runners (30-80%, almost the rates of the current Xarelto class actions lawsuit info about injured people). Rather than stepping back and asking themselves why they hurt, in many cases runners will try to push through it, often with disastrous effects.

This marginalising of your body’s response to injury is present across the board, and can even be found in some barefoot running circles (albeit on a much smaller scale).

The fact is that pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. More often than not, if you listen to what your body is trying to tell you, you can correct the problem before it gets any worse, and it will stop being a problem for you going forward.

As with everything, there are edge-cases, such as Olympic performances, where overdoing it may get you that little bit closer to the podium. Sure, this will work, but it will ultimately catch up to the runner, and may even end in an unecessarily early retirement due to injury.

Barefoot running is all about getting in touch with your body and learning what it tries to teach you. We all have inside us the tools and instincts required to be phenomenal runners. All we need to do is pay attention!

The Nature of Things – The Perfect Runner (watch online)

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Unfortunately due to a very busy week and WordPress losing the article I wrote, I’m unable to provide you with the usual insightful post that you’re expecting today. Instead, I’ve got something special for you.

Last week, the TV program The Nature Of Things aired a show called “The Perfect Runner” that discussed the evolutionary reasons why humans run. It was an excellent show, and well worth watching. Here’s a synopsis:

The Perfect Runner celebrates the modern love of long-distance running by exploring our evolutionary past as a species defined by its ability to run.

How did our ancestors survive the shift from trees to land?  How did Homo sapiens evolve to dominate the planet?  How did our ancestors hunt before they developed weapons?

The answer, you’ll be amazed to learn, is that humans became nature’s perfect endurance runners.  With a skill that evolved far earlier than the development of our powerful brains, our African ancestors had the ability to outrun all animals around them, allowing them to endure and ultimately thrive.

From Africa’s Great Rift Valley to the highlands of Ethiopia, from the most remote place in Arctic Siberia to one of the world’s toughest ultra marathons in the Canadian Rockies, anthropologist and host Niobe Thompson takes us on a journey that weaves cutting-edge science with gripping adventure, and asks what today’s runners can learn from our evolutionary past.

Finally understand the science and sport of barefoot running.  Meet Harvard’s “barefoot professor” – Dr. Daniel Lieberman – the father of the barefoot running movement, and learn how running was key to the evolution of modern humans.  In a pioneering study of running biomechanics, Lieberman has shown how modern running shoes encourage a running style humans were never evolved to withstand, and which likely underpins the epidemic in running injuries we see today.

See how one of North America’s leading sports scientists – Dr. Larry Bell – is training Canada’s Olympic hopefuls by drawing from the “natural running” lessons he learned in Africa.  Learn why in Ethiopia, poverty and a childhood on the farm are indispensable ingredients in the success of some of the world’s greatest runners.  And visit nomadic reindeer herders in a remote region of the Russian Arctic to find out whether thousands of years of adaptation to extreme cold has changed the running body humans evolved in Africa.In a gripping climax, watch as host Niobe Thompson tackles one of the world’s greatest tests of endurance, the 125 km Canadian Death Race, in an experiment to determine whether modern urban humans can still run like their hunter-gather ancestors.  What he learns high in the Canadian Rockies is a lesson for every one of us – deep inside, we are all perfect runners.

The Perfect Runner is now available to watch online for free, so I thought I’d share the link with you. If you have a spare 45 minutes, go and take a look, you won’t regret it. (Caution: the show contains some scenes of hunting which may disturb some viewers)

Learn more about the film, watch behind the scenes footage and take an interactive journey through the evolution of running. Visit the offical website
You can also purchase the film here.

BeginningBarefoot.com and Barefoot Dawy are in no way affiliated with The Nature of Things or The Perfect Runner. This information is shared for information and entertainment purposes only.

Running Your Own Run

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

There are a million blogs out there, with a million tips on how to run your best, and though it can be incredibly useful to get advice from other runners, at the end of the day, it’s arguably just as  important to do things your way.

We each have a lot of biological traits in common, so general improvements such as bending your knees, upping your cadence, etc can be applied to nearly everyone. What you will need to work on as an individual, however, is the degree to which this advice is put to use.

So how do we do this?

The big secret is that you need to pay close attention to what your body is trying to tell you as you run (and recover). Each run is a little different, due to external factors, such as environment, and internal factors, such as injuries and mental state. Getting to know and understand these pressures, and how you tend to react to them, can be a big help in making your next run more pleasant.

When you get out there and run, take stock of any niggles that come up, try to figure what’s causing them, and how to fix them. Try to stay in a state of awareness of your body throughout your run so that you can adapt as your energy levels ebb and flow.

To help you do this, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Ditch the iPod: Music and running go great together, but if you really want to improve your running and reduce your chances of getting injured, leave the MP3 player at home
  2. Before and after your run, do a mental checklist of your body from top to bottom and take note of any niggles or sore bits. As you run, keep these points in mind and pay attention to how they improve or deteriorate over time
  3. Clear your mind of all those wandering thoughts, and focus on being in your run. Holding onto the stress of the day during your run can make you tense up and make existing problems worse. Relax and enjoy your run!
  4. Learn the techniques that are best suited to you. Some people like to tear out of the gates during a race, and others will build up to their race pace. Some drink heaps of water, and others go dry. Experiment with different techniques and distances, find out what works for you, and don’t be swayed by what others are doing.

How do you run your own run? If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment below!

Barefoot Basics #5: Landing

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

It’s become fairly common knowledge among barefoot tranistioners that a shift to fore or mid foot striking is required when moving from shod to unshod running. On the whole this is true, but I’ve always found the term ‘strike’ to be a bit misleading. I prefer the term ‘landing’.

When running barefoot, the key to success is minimising the impact forces involved. Once you take off your shoes, there’s literally nothing getting between you and the road. This is a wonderful, liberating experience, but needs to be done correctly. That inch or so of padding did have its uses, afterall, even if it did encourage sloppy form.

As you run in bare feet, try to imagine your soles coming in for a landing, similar to how an airplane would. The aim is to match the speed that your foot is moving as closely to the speed that the ground is flying past you. This way, when they eventually touch, the amount of friction experienced is reduced.

This technique can be somwhat difficult to learn in practice as it’s quite subtle and there isn’t really a ‘eureka!’ moment when you get it right. The best way to learn it is to pay attention when you’re doing it wrong. There are two key signs to look out for when you haven’t quite got it right.

The first indicator is blisters. If you’re getting any blistering or hot spots on your soles, then you are doing it wrong and need to make adjustments. Blisters are caused by friction, which means that your foot is skidding a bit when you land. To fix this, try slowing down a bit and visualise your landing as each of your feet touches down.

The other indicator that you can use is thumping. When you run, you will experience a little bit of a thump each time you step. This is perfectly natural and expected, but there are degrees of thumping. If you pay close attention, you will be able to feel the shock of each step run up your feet and legs. The more you can reduce this sensation, the lighter you’ll be running, and the less strain you will put on your body.

The landing is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of barefoot running form to perfect, but once you get it, you will find yourself running smoother and faster than you ever could before.

Did Humans Evolve To Run On Pavement?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

One of the major barriers to the uptake of barefoot running is the perception that humans weren’t meant to run on flat, hard surfaces, such as paved streets. I’ve been asked this question countless times, and though I know it not to be true from personal experience, it’s often hard to convince people otherwise.

I spent a bit of time this weekend researching the subject, and discovered, that like all thing barefoot, there is precious little research on the matter. I did, however unearth a small study from 2000[1] that examined this question for shod heel-to-toe runners.

What it found was that there was no significant increase in the forces applied to the body due to the change in terrain. Interestingly, however, it also found that on harder surfaces, such as asphalt, that there is a reduction in loading rate.

Basically what this means is that as the surface becomes harder, the body adapts its form to compensate for it, allowing the knees to absorb the shock a little bit more gradually.

What I fiind fascinating about this is not only that the body can, and does, adapt to its surroundings, but that it also still manages to do this in shoes. The loading rate reduction is very reminiscent of Daniel Lieberban’s study[2] from 2010 that found a similar reflex in barefoot runners.

Of course these studies are very small and I would LOVE to see some proper, large-scale studies into some of the more common barefoot running questions, but at this point, all signs seem to be pointing towards us being evolved running machines that are well and truly able to adapt to all kinds of terrain (barefoot or otherwise).

References

1. Dixon SJ, Collop AC, Batt ME, (2000) Surface effects on ground reaction forces and lower extremity kinematics in running. Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Exeter, United Kingdom http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11079523

2. Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D’Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang’eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. (2010) Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463: 531-5. http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/Nature2010_FootStrikePatternsandCollisionForces.pdf

Have you checked us out on Facebook yet?

Beginning Barefoot is now on Facebook!

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

One of the fun things about running a blog is getting to hear from and interact with people from all over the world. As of this morning, we’ve had over 4,000 visits from people in 25 different countries around the world!

To help spread the barefoot running word even further afield, today we’ve launched the Beginning Barefoot Facebook page! This should hopefully help people find us on the internet and get even more people talking about the jou of barefoot running.

If you enjoy reading the articles here and want to show your support, please head over to the new page and give us a ‘Like’.

Having a Facebook page brings us into a new era, which should see some even better articles, reviews, and even a couple giveaways. Many of these will only be available to Facebook (and Twitter) followers, so be sure to join us so that you don’t miss out!