Learning to run and have a good stride is a practiced discipline especially when you are changing running styles. For runners who have worn the typical jogging shoe all their lives, building foot strength and endurance is important. There are few practical strategies for strengthening your feet while alleviating any potential for pain or injury in the future.
The most crucial thing to remember when beginning to train for minimal or barefoot running is not to dive into training too fast. Think of building your foot muscles and strength as a long-term project. You want to do a little at a time and slowly build up your foot’s endurance by pushing the limits on daily basis.
The first step before you dive into training is to test the strength in your feet. One way to do this is to find rollers of different sizes and densities. Start with the larger and softer density roller and apply partial body weight by being seated. Measure the amount of pressure you can handle before applying more. Increase the amount of density and use a smaller roller until you feel that you can handle a fair amount of pressure.
The next thing to consider is your stride. Most barefoot or minimalistic runners‘ strike with either their mid-foot or the forefoot. When you run barefoot, you automatically strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot, which is a great way to prevent a collapse later on.
One step towards preparing your feet for barefoot running is to invest in a good pair of minimal shoes. Test out your foot strength and endurance by learning to forefoot strike with minimalistic shoes on a hard but smooth surface such as a track or tennis court. You will know immediately from the response of your body if you are ready to move on after a few days. Make sure to pay attention to your form and try to create good form from the beginning. It’s also good to build up the calluses on your feet prior to going completely barefoot. There are many minimal shoes on the market that allow you to practice your forefoot strike.
When looking for a shoe, stay away from a built up heel. A larger heel will cause you to over-point your toes, which causes unnecessary pain and possible damage to the foot.
Find a shoe with a flexible sole and no arch support. When the sole is too stiff, it tends to prevent the flattening of the arch, which in turn keeps the muscles in the foot from functioning naturally. An easy rule of thumb is that if you can’t easily bend the sole of the shoe, it’s too stiff. In the first few days of training you may feel your muscles in your feet tire quickly, but this will eventually get better over time.
Overall the benefits from barefoot running outweigh any negatives. For example, you don’t have to worry about buying the latest jogging shoes. Plus, runners find that it takes less energy to forefoot strike, because they utilise the natural spring of the foot when stepping down. Running barefoot also allows you to carry less mass, which is great when you need to accelerate or get more push from each stride. If that’s not enough, how about the pure and simple fact that barefoot running feels great! Your feet have ton of nerves that are activated upon each step, so it’s an amazing rush. Lastly, with barefoot running there is very little impact delivered to the foot upon landing, so it’s really comfortable provided you take the time to strengthen and prepare your feet.
Jane is an entrepreneur based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She owns several websites including Monica’s Health Magazine. When not busy with her websites, she travels to popular running destinations.