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:
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.
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.
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!