Ninja Running

By Barefoot Dawsy

One of the coolest things about barefoot running that you won’t get when wearing conventional shoes is the ability to run silently. There’s something awesome about being able to run around making such a small amount of noise that even dogs get startled when you run past them. I call it Ninja Running, and it’s one of the best things you can practice to improve your form.

Ninja Running is the art of moving silently. It takes practice, but the more you do it, the better runner you will become. To do it, several key techniques need to be combined:

Bent Knees

When your feet come down with a *smack*, you’re effectively transferring stored energy into sound. Wasting energy is one thing we don’t want to do as runners, so reducing the amount of sound you make is tantamount to improving your running efficiency. The best way to do this is to absorb as much energy as you can and return it to your next stride.

Luckily, our body comes with several wonderful springs that allow us to do this naturally. The main spring is the Achilles Tendon, which is used to store and return upwards of 30% of the energy used in running right back to you. The trick is however, that you need to stretch it for it to store energy. To do this, you need to bend your knees as much as you can. The more you bend, the more the Achilles will stretch, and the more energy you will store.

The more energy you store in your legs, the less energy is transferred out of your body, and the less noise you make.

Light Steps

The next part of the puzzle is stepping lightly. This part takes the most practice and is the most difficult to generalise about it since everyone steps just a little bit differently. The best way I can describe it is to imagine that you’re running on hot coals.

If you were feeling searing heat each time you stepped, you would quickly lift your feet up to avoid getting burned. Your toes would be flared up and you would try to touch the ground as little as possible. This is the sensation you’re looking for. A quicker cadence is also going to help a lot.

Nose Breathing

Finally, the last bit we need to quieten down is our breathing. A lot of people run while breathing through their mouths. While this works, and gets breath in and out of the body, a better option is to use the nose.

When you breathe through your nose, the air temperature and humidity gets automatically adjusted to suit your lungs. You will take in air at a more measured rate, rather than gulping it down, which tends to result in quieter breathing.

Take note of these three features of silent running, as they are major parts of becoming a better barefoot runner as a whole. Most experienced barefooters will do all of these things naturally, but practicing them specifically will help you become a better, more efficient runner, more quickly.

Oh, and you can sneak up on people, which is a lot of fun!

Slow Down And Run

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

OK, stop. Breathe in. Breathe out. One more time. Ahh there you go. Now, doesn’t that feel better?

When was the last time you just stopped and made yourself relax? If you’re like most people these days, you probably can’t remember when it was. We’re all caught up in our own hectic little lives and rarely take time to stop and smell the roses.

We haven’t got the time to do things properly, or to savour the moment. When we do things, even the stuff that we enjoy, our minds are ticking away, or we’re itching to check the latest tweets/emails/text messages on our phones.

So for today, I want you to stop. Relax. And Breathe. Clear your mind, and let the distractions of your life fade into the background for a few minutes.

Now, keep the memory of this moment in your mind. Hold it, and remember it. Take it with you the next time you go for a run. Remove your shoes, take a few deep breaths. Relax your body, then allow yourself to fall into a nice, gentle, comfortable run.

You don’t need to race the clock, or log a certain number of miles. Just relax, smile, look around you, and breathe in the experience. Run for as long as you like. Stop and take in the scenery, or have a little break on a park bench. For once, don’t worry about your form, or your times, or getting injured. Just go slow and enjoy.

This is the essence of barefoot running. Take this feeling with you every time you run, and you will fall in love with it.

 

Books Books Books! (And a free one for you!)

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of a billion books out there on barefoot running, running, fitness, diet, etc. Starting out, it can be a daunting task to separate the good ones from the bad.

To help you identify the best of the best, I’ve put together a new Books page on this site. On it, I’ve listed a handful of my favourite, must-read books.

To get you started on the road to reading about running, I’ve tracked down a classic ebook: The Barefoot Running Book (2nd Ed.) by Jason Robillard from BarefootRunningUniversity.com. Jason has been around for ages, and is one of the big guns over at the Barefoot Runners Society.

There’s no catch, just download (Right-click/Save As the link below), read and enjoy. If you like it, share it with a friend, and be sure to head over to BarefootRunningUniversity.com and say thanks to Jason by reading some of his excellent articles, or better yet, buying a hardcopy version.

DOWNLOAD The Barefoot Running Book (pdf – 32Mb)

Barefoot Runners Don’t Get Shin Splints

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Shin splints are one of those ailments that, legend has it, is cured by barefoot/minimalist running, yet despite this, I’m frequently asked to explain why new runners still get them.

Anyone who has had shin splints knows just how painful they can be – in extreme cases, making running impossible until they heal. The pain is usually felt up and down the front and sides of the lower legs, and can range from being slightly sore to excruciating.

To understand why shin splints may not magically disappear when you slip on a pair of Vibrams, we need to know what they are. The excellent book The Runner’s Body explains that shin splints are actually a symptom of injuries to the tibia.

They can be caused by a number of factors, but the main culprits are doing too much too soon, over training, and bone density issues caused by ageing and/or diet.

The pain we feel as shin splints is actually the bone itself being strained. When we exercise, our bones get torn up a bit, and microfissures develop. When this occurs, the body heals itself, making the bone stronger. This is perfectly natural, and desirable. The problem occurs when we overdo it, and the pain increases as more healing as required.

There are several things you can do to avoid getting shin splints, and some of them are side-effects of learning to run barefoot, which is possibly where the myth started.

Easy Does It

The first and best way to avoid getting shin splints (or any other overuse injury), is to start small, and build gradually. Allowing your body to heal naturally between runs will make you strong over the long haul. This means not only starting  with low mileage, but also taking 1-2 days of rest between runs.

Good Form

Good form is also really important, and the sooner you can learn it, the better off you will be. When we take off our shoes or remove the padding, we need to use our body to cushion the repeated shocks from our footfalls. This is true for both running and walking, and is where a lot of inexperienced runners get into trouble. Again, take it slow, put in the time up front to learn good running form, and it will save you a lot of pain down the track.

Training Methods

How you train is also important. Some exercises, such as uphill running, are excellent for preventing shin splints. It’s hard to overdo it on an uphill, so using them to build up bone and muscles is highly recommended. Conversely running down hills can make matters worse as most runners tend to brake as they run downhill, or else sprint down at full pelt.

An important thing to keep in mind is your cross-training. Running isn’t the only sport that can cause shin splints, and combining it with another high intensity activity can lead to problems. Activities such as box jumps ans sports like basketball that feature a lot of jumping can make overdoing it much more likely. You can still do these sports, but be mindful of impact forces, and learn to use your whole leg to absorb the impact forces generated.

Eating Right

Lastly, it’s really important to eat a healthy diet. When you’re doing a lot of regular exercise, your body needs a lot of raw material to allow you to get fitter and stronger. For runners, this means not only having a good helping of carbs and proteins, but also getting the right vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, for growing strong bones.

Of course shin splints aren’t unique to new runners. Many experienced runners have gone down this road, especially during training for a big event. The key is listening to your body, knowing your limits, and increasing effort gradually. With a bit of care and patience, shin splints should cease to be a concern for the duration of your running life.

5 Tips On Running Barefoot During The Zombie Apocalypse

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

One thing I’ve learned from reading my Twitter feed this week is that the Zombie Apocalypse is just around the corner. Obviously if (when) the zombie hordes eventually arrive in your home town, you will need to know how to maintain your barefoot lifestyle despite the swarming undead. At first glance, many would think that bare feet and zombies don’t mix, however, there are a number of things that you can do to minimise the risk of infection/being eaten/zombification on your next run.

1. Run During The Day

As a barefoot runner, it is essential to be aware of your surroundings. This is never more true than when zombies have been sighted in your neighbourhood. The presence of zombies has been shown to increase the likelihood of encountering broken glass, entrails, and bullet casings. By running during the day, you will be able to more easily spot and avoid these obstacles, and weave through the slow-moving reanimated folks that crowd your favourite route.

2. Carry Water

Under normal circumstances, ducking out for a quick 5k wouldn’t normally require you to carry any additional water. During times of zombie plague, however, it’s really important to ensure that you take some supplies with you. There’s nothing more embarrassing than returning home after a run to find it overrun with the undead, leading you to ultimately waste away of dehydration. Be prepared, bring at least a litre of water with you, and it can never hurt to throw a couple of energy bars in your pockets while you’re at it!

3. Avoid Crowds

You thought the comments by strangers about your Vibrams were annoying? Well imagine how much more irritating it will be to get torn limb from limb, or get caught in the crossfire of some rescue operation. The easiest way to do this is to avoid noisy places. A simple rhyme to remember what to do is “Moaning and Gunfire are simply no Fun, the other direction is the way I will Run”.

4. Try Some Cross Training

There’s nothing worse than pulling a muscle, straining a tendon or even fracturing a toe while running, and this is doubly true when a zombie has picked up your scent. By training your body for any situation, you will reduce your chances of injury and improve your chances of surviving the Zombocalypse. Great recommendations are parkour, cycling, swimming and hand-to-hand combat.

5. Embrace The Inevitable

The zombification of your city, however disappointing, can actually be a real boon for the barefoot runner. Once a tipping point has been reached and there are more zombies than living humans around, you’ll have your run (pun intended) of the city. Imagine the freedom of running where you want, when you want, even down the middle of once-busy streets! Add to this the opportunity to eliminate with impunity those people that so cleverly called out ‘run Forrest run’ at you before they were a zombie, and you’re having the time of your life!

In conclusion, don’t let the zombies get you down! Prepare early, keep your head on your shoulders, and you too can make barefoot running a big part of the zombiefied future!