6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 6: Free Fall

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<< Back to Part 5: Posture or Start From The Top

This is it. If you’ve been following along, then you’re in the last week of training before you get to leave the nest and fly off on your own. This week we’re going to be putting together everything we’ve learned over the past few weeks and learning the last few things you’ll need to know as you progress in your future barefoot endeavours.

Session 1

As is traditional at this point, we’re going to go for a run. There’s a lot to think about this time as you head out, as you’ll want to focus on posture, foot lift, bent knees and footfalls. It’s a lot to pay attention to at the same time, but don’t get discouraged, we’re going to be working on techniques to pull everything together later in the week. For now, just run for around 10 minutes or so and try to tweak your form as you go along as best you can.

Session 2

Arguably the biggest benefit to running barefoot is the increase in feedback you get, not just from your feet, but from your whole body. Because of this, learning to run barefoot is learning to run with good form. But how do you know what your body is trying to tell you?

Well, as any new barefooter will tell you, the first communication method your body comes up with is generally pain. This can be experienced as anything from mild discomfort to crippling agony, depending on what you’re putting your body through. I would imagine that if you’re this far in the program, you’ve likely experienced some of this (hopefully not the agony bit though).

There is however, another side to the coin, and it’s the side that gets nearly every barefoot runner who perserveres completely hooked. Some describe it as runner’s high, but I think it’s something a little different, something that I like to think of as Free Fall. It’s a sensation that’s almost like flying, as if there’s no resistance being applied to your various body parts. When you run with perfect form, your body snaps into this rhythm that just feels right. It’s almost a meditative state, where everything is aligned, and you feel as though you could run forever. This is the feeling that we’re going to chase this week.

The first and most important thing you will need to do (apart from all the technical stuff you’ve learned so far) is to relax. The more relaxed you are, the better you will run, and the closer you will get to the feeling of free fall. When I say relaxed, I don’t mean to let your body go all floppy, or let your form slip. What I mean is letting all the tension in your body drain away.

We’re going to go for a short run, so take your shoes off and head outside. Before you start running, stand with your feet together, and close your eyes. Make sure your posture is good and that you’re not slouching. Now relax the muscles in your body, one by one, starting at the top of your head and working down. Pay special attention to the tension in your neck, shoulders, thighs, calves and feet. Take in some deep breaths through your nose and out of your mouth, holding the breath in for a couple of seconds each time.

Once you’re thoroughly relaxed, push your hips forward slightly and allow yourself to fall into an easy shuffle. Don’t worry about speed at this point, just concentrate on keeping your body as relaxed as possible. Keep running until you lose that relaxed sensation, then stop, centre yourself again, and repeat the process. Do this a few times until you get the feeling of running while relaxed.

When you’ve finished this session, take a short, slow walk and let any tension that you may stil feel melt away.

Now that you’ve had a chance to know what it feels like to run relaxed, you’ll want to try to incorporate this into every run you do from now on. It’s very helpful at first to take a couple minutes to truly relax yourself before running as it sets the tone for the whole run.

Session 3

Today we’re going to address the tricky part of running relaxed, which is keeping your cadence up and your feet in good ruuning positions. You may have found in the previous session that your feet would feel tense no matter what you did. The trick to fixing this bit is not to focus on your feet, but to focus on your ankles.

The ankles are the main spots from which the angle of your feet can be adjusted. A lot of new barefooters get into trouble with ankles because they try to keep them too tight. This is natural, when you think of it, because at first, we’re afraid of striking the ground, as it’s unfomfortable, so we tense up.

To get over the tensing of ankles, you have to take special care to relax them specifically. As you run, concentrate on releasing the pressure in your ankles. Relax them as much as possible and let them almost go totally limp. A great way to help this out is to bend your knees deeply as you run. This will encourage your ankles to use their full range of motion, rather than locking them in one place.

Head outside and do a few 100-200m jogs, focusing on bending your knees and relaxing your ankles. It’s tricky at first and you may find your form suffering, but try to keep it all in balance. When you get it, you will feel like your feet have gotten lighter and that it’s easier to bring them around for the next landing.

Session 4

There’s one last thing that you will need to learn before heading out on your own to experiment with barefooting, and that’s your breathing. Correct breathing will allow you to maintain your pace longer, and even burn off some of that body fat along the way.

The trick to breathing right when running is to only breathe through your nose, unless you need a burst of energy, eg: for a sprint, or to get up a steep hill. You’ll ideally want to be running at a the fastest pace you can comfortably breathe through your nose at. Any faster than this and your body will start using blood glycogen, which will dramatically limit the amount of time you can spend running.

So head out for a 10-15 minute run and focus on breathing only through your nose. If you find yourself struggling, then slow down and let your breathing dictate your pace. You may end up running a lot slower than you want, but this is fine. The more you practice running like this, the faster you’ll get and the further you can run. As it is, if you were a mouth-breather before, you may find that you’re instantly able to run much further than you could before, just by making this switch.

Session 5

Well, that’s it! We’ve pretty much covered all the basics of barefoot running. Of course, there are a heap of other techniques and tweaks that can be used to improve your form and performance, and we’ll cover these in the weeks and months to come. So for the last session of the program, reward yourself. Go for a run for as long as you want, just make sure you think about everything that we’ve gone over, take it slow, and you’ll be fine.

Congratulations, you’re now a barefoot runner!


  • 10 minute run complete
  • Relaxation run complete
  • Ankle run complete
  • Breathing run complete
  • Free Run Complete
  • No injuries/blisters

Review: Invisible Shoes Huaraches – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

InvisibleShoes (before trimming)

InvisibleShoes (before trimming)

This review has been a long time in coming. I first spoke to Steven Sashen at Invisible Shoe way back in November, and was so intrigued with the paradoxical high-tech sandals (or huaraches – pronounced ‘wa-ra-chays’) that he was making that I grabbed a pair to review as soon as I could. There are several options available, but I went with the DIY 4mm Connect kit, which allows you to build your own shoes that are customised to the shape ansd size of your feet.

Since they arrived, I’ve been trying to run as much as possible in them, and wear them around when I go shopping, etc. After over a month of playing with different tying techniques, running styles, weather conditions, etc, I’ve finally put together a review (and here it is!).

The Good

  • Great soles

If you’re looking to reduce the amount of weight strapped to your feet, but don’t want to go barefoot for whatever reason, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lighter option than these sandals. The soles are a bit of a miracle, as they are very flexible, yet rigid enough to hold their form as you run.

When I went for my first run, I expected them to be flopping all over the place, but they stayed firm yet still contoured to my feet. It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the best material for the soles of these huaraches, and for me, they were a pleasant surprise.

  • Excellent airflow

One of the major benefits of running in sandals is airflow. Living in Australia, running around in very hot weather is par for the course. Though I don’t mind running on hot asphalt in bare feet, it can be nice to give the soles a rest every now and then. One of the big problems with other minimalist shoes is that even though they’re lightweight, they can still hold in heat around your feet, which after several kilometers can get very uncomfortable.

Invisible Shoes are great for this as the airflow is nearly as good as if you had nothing on at all. Surprisingly, this includes the air between your feet and the sandals. I had expected my feet to sweat and slip on the rubber soles, but because they stay cool, this has never been a problem.

  • Low price

Even if you’re the biggest skeptic, it’s hard to say no to a $24.95 pricetag. With most minimal shoes in Australia costing hundreds of dollars (I’m looking at you, Vibram), being able to grab a great pair of shoes for so little is awesome.

An interesting side note to this is that after reading the Invisible Shoes forums, it appears that these shoes are nearly indestructable. So not only do you pay next to nothing up front, but you have a pair of shoes that will last for years. If there was ever a recession-proof shoe, it’s these.

  • Customisable

Another great advantage that Invisible Shoes have over their competitors is the ability to customise them. Most other brands have a set tying or strapping method that can’t be changed, but with the simple nylon cord used for attaching Invisible Shoes to your feet, the options are endless.

Even if you make a mistake and cut a bit too much off, the cords are inexpensive to replace. Add to all this the fact that you can choose from an assortment of colours and even add beads, etc to them, you’ve got some  great options for tarting up your sandals.

  • Comfortable

One of my main reservations about wearing huaraches was that the main strap tends to thread between your first two toes (though there are alternative tying methods to avoid this). I expected this to be a problem as I’ve never found flip-flops, which use a similar design, very comfortable. It turns out that because the shoes are well-balanced and attached at a number of points around your foot, there is minimal slipping, which means very little rubbing between your toes. After dozens of runs I’ve yet to have a problem in this area.

The Bad

  • Change of running style

One thing that I found, even after my first run, was that I needed to adjust my running style in order to run in Invisible Shoes. This may be because I’m really used to not wearing shoes anymore, but I think it also has to do with having a slightly different landing in sandals. For the first couple of weeks, I found that I had a couple niggles in my calves and ankles, which I haven’t felt since starting running in minimal shoes 2 years ago.

It didn’t end up being a problem, as I just adjusted accordibgly, but it’s something that new wearers should be aware of. As with transitioning to barefoot or minimal running generally, if you take it slow and listen to your body, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

  • Reduced Proprioception

The one big thing that brought me over the the barefoot camp in the first place was the ability to feel the ground beneath my feet. Even with only 4mm underfoot, I found that proprioception was reduced, to the point that I felt like I had a few pairs of socks on.

That being said, a lot more can be felt through the Invisible Shoe soles than can through regular running soes, and any increased sensation is a big plus. In truth, I don’t think that there will ever be a shoe that offeres full proprioception, and with this being the case, I would find it hard to find a better option than the Connect kit’s 4mm soles.

Reduced sensation will always be a problem (and in many ways is actually the point) for any sort of shoes, and certainly isn’t an issue unique to Invisible Shoes. This is the only real area that I would find fault with, and would assume that it would be more pronounced in the 6mm Contact style.

  • No protection against the elements

As would be expected, since huaraches are really just sandals, there is basically no protection against the elements. I did find that my feet slipped around a little bit when they got wet, and that I needed to tie them down a little bit more in this scenario. Being able to adjust the tying to suit the conditions ended up being a lifesaver here, and reduced this from a potentially dangerous issue to one of only minor annoyance.

The Ugly

Ok I added this section in for the sole reason that my wife isn’t a big fan of how the shoes look. She calls them “The Sandals that Fashion Forgot”. Personally, I think this is a little harsh, and really like how they look, but I’m used to running in bare feet or wearing shoes with toes, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask. At least with these huaraches, you have  good degree of customisablilty, so they can be dressed up or down to a degree, and don’t need to be worn centurion-style (which is what prompted my wife’s comment in the first place!).

All in all, I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed wearing Invisible Shoes, and I’m glad I went with the 4mm Connect kit. Running in sandals definitely takes some getting used to, but I’ve found personally that the pros far outweigh the cons, and I’ll likely continue wearing my pair for training and in at least a couple of races this year.

6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 4: Cadence

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<<Back to Part 3: Lifting Your Feet or Start From The Top

4 weeks have passed since our first barefoot running session, and you should be starting to feel just a little bit like a barefoot runner. If you’ve been following along, you should now understand how to land and lift your foot, and the importance of bending your knees. Up until now, we’ve focused on drills for reinfricing these elements, but now it’s time to do some running!

This week, I’m going to introduce you to the king of barefoot running techniques – the 180 step per minute cadence. As Dr Dan Lieberman said at a recent clinic, “Cadence is King”. The reason for this is that if you get your cadence up to the 180 steps per munute level, you will automatically gain better posture, better form, and be able to tackle advanced running techniques such as downhill running.

So what is cadence, and why is it so important? In a nutshell, cadence is the rate at which you step as you run. By increasing your cadence, you end up spending more time in the air and less time with your feet on the ground. This reduces friction, which in turn will reduce the resistance against your bidy as you run, which will translate into better efficiency and faster times.

Session 1

As usual, we’er going to start with a run. Head out at a slow pace and run for around 10 minutes. Feel free to choose any route you like, but ideally you want to avoid grass as much as possible and pick a hard surface to run on. The last thing you need at this point is to step on something hidden in the grass, or pick up bad habits as a result of running on forgiving terrain.

As you run, focus on the lessons of the past few weeks: bend your knees, land softly, and lift your feet. Don’t worry about speed at this point, just run nice and easy, and breathe through your nose. You should be able to talk comfortably at this pace (though keep your voice down or people might give you funny looks!).

Check your feet for blisters and your legs for soreness. A little bit is ok, but if you have rock hard calves, sore achilles tendons, or sore feet, then take a couple days off and repeat this session until you can do it without pain. Listen to your feet as you run and try to keep the lessons in mind.

Assuming you’re ready, go on to the next session.

Session 2

Today we’re working on getting your cadence up. To do this, you’re going to need a watch, clock, metronome, or some other tool that you can use to measure seconds.

With your measuring device where you can see or hear it, start running in place. You want to aim to take 3 steps per second (eg; left, right, left). You may feel like you’re moving too fast at this point, and it can be a bit daunting.

To compensate for the speed increase, try lifting your feet only enough to get them off the ground. This should result in a sort of shuffle. Running like this is much more energy efficient at low speeds and will greatly increase your ability to run longer distances without injury.

Now, keep shuffling and push your hips forward slightly. You should get the urge to move forward. Go ahead and let yourself move. Shuffle along for about 30 or so steps then turn and come back. Do this a few times until you get the feel for it.

Session 3

Now that you have the basic shuffling motion sorted, we’re going to take it to the streets. Pick a nice 5-10 minute route for a run. Try to find one that is mostly flat as for now it will be easiest to learn on.

Head out for your jog, and focus on keeping your cadence up to 3 steps per second. A simple way to do this is to find a song to step along to in your head. The best songs for this are waltzes, which have a 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 sort of beat. I normally end up getting the Beatles’ song Norwegian Wood stuck in my head when I’m running because of this!

Sessions 4 & 5

This week we’re going to repeat the 4th session twice. All you need to do at this level is to keep practicing your running, focusing on all the different techniques we’ve learned so far. Try to go a little further than you did on your previous session, but don’t increase the distance by more than 20% at this point. As always, listen to your body and try to figure out what it’s telling you. If you feel any pain, slow down, adjust your style, and if you can’t make the sore bit feel better, then walk the rest of the way.


  1. 10 minute run complete
  2. Learn to shuffle
  3. 1k run complete
  4. Session 4 run complete
  5. Session 5 run complete
  6. No blisters/soreness

On to Part 5: Posture >>

6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 3: Lifting your feet

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<< Back to Part 2: Movement or Start from the Top

First off, congratulations on making it this far. Transitioning to barefoot running is a real challenge as it works new muscles (or old muslces that haven’t been used), and can be a slow process.

By now you should be getting a feel for how to move around in bare feet. We’ve explored how to place your feet when landing and how to bend your knees as you move forward. Both these techniques are very useful for absorbing shock and adapting to your terrain. It may feel a bit unusual at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, your running will benefit enormously.

This week, we’re going to focus on one of the trickier aspects of running barefoot – the foot lift. We touched on this a little in week 1. When running, there is a tendency to want to push your foot into the ground and push off. This technique has its place in some types of running, for example sprinting, but when running over medium to large distances, energy conservation becomes the most important thing. With this in mind, rather than pushing into the ground, we need to lift our foot off the ground instead.

An easy way to visualise what I’m trying to get at is to picture yourself riding a bicycle. Imagine that your feet are strapped to the pedals and that instead of pushing our feet DOWN to make the pedals turn, you’re lifting your feet UP to pull the pedals around. Allow the momentum to bring your foot back around, then PULL up again to move the pedals. This is the sort of motion that we want to mimic when running. Your feet should be moving in a circular motion, and the energy you’re expending should be focused on lifting your feet off the ground, not pushing them down into it.

To get your body used to this way of running, this week we’re going to do some butt-kicks. These are basically an exaggerated form of running where you focus on kicking yourself in the rear as you run. This works because your focus shifts on applying energy to the lifting portion of your stride as you accellerate your foot towards your butt. There will be more on this in a minute, but first, let’s go for a run!

Session 1

It’s always nice to start the week off with a run, so take your shoes off and head out on the usual out-and-back to the end of the block (no more than 100m). Take your time, run slowly and try to think about the lessons you’ve learned over tha past couple weeks. When you get back, take a break, check for any damage, and when you’re ready, go again. Make sure you’re bending your knees as you run. You don’t need to exaggerate the motion as much as you did in last week’s exercises, but you should definitely feel yourself crouching a little and your knees should stay bent.

If you feel up for it, go ahead and do a third lap. We’re getting to the part of the program where your mileage will start to slowly increase, so take the opportunity to get your legs moving. This time, as you run, I want you to clear your mind and focus on one thing: smiling. Enjoy the run, feel the ground beneath your feet, and don’t think too much about your form. Your body’s learning what to do, so let it do its work and just take in the sights.

If you can do all this without any bruising, blistering, sore calves, etc, then move on to the next session. If not, take a day or two off and try again. Remember, there’s no rush.

Session 2

This week we’re focusing on lifting your feet, and to do this we’re going to be doing butt-kicks. These are deceptively simple exercises that are similar to the 100-Ups that you did in Week 1.

To start off, take your shoes of, and stand with your feet close together, and your knees slightly bent. Now, lift your left foot back and snap it up to your butt. You don’t need to actually kick yourself, but you should aim to at least try to get your foot to lightly touch your bottom. Now, let your foot fall back to the ground. Try not to add any extra energy while doing this, and just let gravity pull it back to earth. Now repeat with the right foot. Easy right?

For today, try to do 50 butt-kicks with each leg, focusing on snapping your leg up, and letting it fall back down. You may not be able to do 100 on your first session, so if you can’t, just take a day off and try again later. Keep at it, and check your form and your feet constantly to make sure you’re doing it right and not causing any damage.

Session 3

Now that you have the basic movement down, we’re going to speed it up a little. Today we’re going to do 100 butt-kicks again, but this time, don’t let your feet linger on the ground. As soon as the left foot touches the ground, lift your right foot, and vice-versa. You should find yourself running in place and kicking your feet up at a reasonably high cadence. Do 100 of these and call it a day.

Because we’re increasing the speed of movement, we’re also increasing the risk of your form starting to waver. Pay close attention to how you’re moving your legs, and try not to bounce too much. Land with bent knees. As always, if you start to feel sore or hurt yourself in any way, just stop, call it a day, and try again tomorrow.

Session 4

Now that you have the running motion down, let’s try it with some movement. Start by butt-kicking in place a few times, then when you’re ready, push your hips forward slightly. This slight movement should be enough to impel you forward. Run forward for 20 steps, then turn around and come back. As you run make sure that you’re not leaning forward, but that you’re pressing your hips ahead to cause the forward motion. Your back and head should be aligned and should sit above your hips. The shift in centre of gravity from your hips should only be slight.

Now turn around again and run another 20 steps. Play with the feeling of falling that is induced by moving your hips forward and back. If your body is aligned, you shouldn’t need to move your hips much. Keep kicking your feet up to your bum and letting them fall gently back to ground. Turn around and run another 20 paces back, then return and do the same back to your starting point.

How was that? We’re going to stop there for today, so take stock, get some rest and when you’re ready, proceed to the next session.

Session 5

To round off the week, we’re going to do a run. Find a nice place that you can run for a kilometer or so. This can be a track, a run around the neighbourhood, a trail, whatever you like. Avoid running only on grass or sand at this point as the softness of it can cause you to develop bad habits. Pick a hard or rough surface to run on. If you’re unsure how far a kilometer is, or can’t be bothered measuring, just go for a 6-7 minute run.

When you’re running this time, you don’t need to kick your butt, but remember the feeling of whipping your feet up and letting them fall back down. Move at a comfortable pace and breathe through your nose. If you need to breathe through your mouth, you’re working too hard, so slow down a bit.

If you have a hard time running this far, try alternating running and walking in 30 second to 1 minute intervals. Each time you go out for a run, reduce the amount of time you spend walking until you find yourself running the whole distance.

At the end of your run, just slow down to a walk, and stroll at a slow pace for a few more minutes. This will give your legs time to cool down, which should save you from getting tight calves tomorrow.

Hopefully you had an enjoyable run and didn’t step on anything too nasty. Check your feet for blisters and your calves for tightness. Stretch out your legs for a few minutes. Start by rotating your ankles, then stretching your calves, then groin and hip flexors. I’ll include a full stetching program soon that you will be able to follow. In the meantime, just try to hit the major muscle groups and tendons. Spend a good 5-10 minutes stretching.

As usual, take stock of any soreness or injuries and rest as needed. Fill out your scorecard and then it’s on to Part 4!

1. Third run complete
2. 100 butt-kicks
3. 100 fast butt-kicks
4. 4 X 20 moving butt-kicks
5. 1k run complete
6. No blisters/Sore calves/Injuries

Continue to Part 4: Cadence>>

6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 2: Movement

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<< Back to Part 1: Baring Your Soles

Last week we focused on increasing foot strength and learning how to land softly on our forefeet. Most of the week, however was spent standing in one spot, which is pretty much like torture for anyone who has the urge to just get out there and run.

The focus of this week’s training is going to be on movement.

Placing one foot in front of the other is a movement that most of us take for granted and do thousands of times per day. The problem is, however, that because we’ve learned and reinforced our movements wearing shoes, we need to untrain ourselves and rebuild our gaits from the ground up.

Session 1

As with last week, we’re going to start off with a short run. 2 short runs, in fact. So take off your shoes, find the nearest Hard surface, and jog to the end of the block and back.

Again, try to keep it under 100m all up for now. When you’re running, try to pay attention to how your feet are landing. Concentrate on placing your feet gracefully, and not pounding them into the pavement. Make sure that you’re landing on your forefoot and gently easing down the back of your foot so that the heel just barely brushes the ground.

When you get back, take stock of how your feet are feeling. Have you got any bruises or scratches? Any blisters? Have a look at the soles of your feet and see if there’s any redness.

If you’re placing your feet correctly there should be minimal friction as your feet touch the
ground, so your feet should look nice and fresh, if a little dirty.

Now that you’ve had a look at your feet, give the run another go. Play with the way your feet are landing and how much your knees and ankles are bent. When you get it right you should almost feel like you’re floating along the ground. Don’t worry if you’re not at this point yet though, there’s still a a lot of ground to cover.

If you find that you need a break, take a day off after this session and make sure your feet and legs are feeling good before proceeding to the next session.

Session 2

As the old saying goes, you need to learn how to walk before you can learn how to run. Today we’re going to do what amounts to a slow-motion version of barefoot running.

As mentioned previously, one of the keys to correct running form is to have bent knees. The exercise we’re going to do today will reinforce that concept by slightly overexaggerating the movement. Are you ready?

First, of course, remove your shoes and socks. Find a nice Hard area to practice on with a good few metres of space (were going to be walking up and down in this exercise). Place your feet together and bend your knees. You want to keep your feet and knees together, and your back and head nice and straight. Keep bending until your thighs are at a 45 degree angle to the ground. This is your stating position.

From the starting crouch, raise your left foot and take a step. As your foot moves, you want to transfer your weight, so that when you put your foot down, nearly all your weight is above it. Make sure that as you step, your back and head stay straight up and down, and that your body from the hips up move in a straight line. Try not to bob up or down as you move.

Once you’ve transferred your weight so that it’s above your left foot, raise your right foot. If you did the last step correctly, you should be able to lift it off the ground without moving your body.

Bring your right foot up next to your left foot, and you should find yourself back in the starting position. Well done!

Practice this move until you’re confident with it, then try taking 5 steps in a row, turn around, then do 5 steps back. Do this 5 more times (for a total of 50 steps – 25 each leg). If your legs or feet get tired, or your form starts to fall apart, then stop, take a break, and start again from the beginning.

When you can do 50 bent walking steps, then you can move onto the next session. You may want to leave a day or two between sessions to let yourself recover if you feel it’s necessary.

Session 3

As with last week, we’re going to repeat the workout, but this time on a Forgiving surface. Do 5 up and 5 back again for another 5 reps. Keep your form in mind, and make sure your back is straight and that you don’t bob your head up and down.

Session 4

In this session we’re going to do the same thing one more time, however this time it will be on a Rough surface. You may find that as you transfer your full weight onto your front foot, that it may be quite uncomfortable.

The trick here is to bend your knees really deep and relax your feet. Focus on making a smooth movement as you glide forward. Take your time on this session and make sure that you’re happy with how it’s going before proceeding to the next session. It’s also a good idea to take stock at this point and check that your feet and legs are ready to continue.

Session 5

Finally try repeating the exercise on a Soft surface. Enjoy the feeling of the grass, carpet, sand, etc beneath your feet and savour the sensation. Once you’ve done 5 X 5 X 5 again, then you’re done! Fill out your scorecard and move on to next week’s session.

1. Second run complete
2. 5X5X5 bent knee walks on Hard (lv3) ground
3. 5X5X5 bent knee walks on Forgiving (lv2) ground
4. 5X5X5 bent knee walks on Rough (lv4) ground
5. 5X5X5 bent knee walks on Soft (lv1) ground
6. No blisters/Sore calves/Injuries

On to Part 3: Lifting Your Feet >>

6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 1: Baring Your Soles

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

Taking your shoes off is the natural first step in learning how to run barefoot. It’s what you do in these next few weeks though that may mean the difference between a smooth transition and aching calves or worse. You’ll hear it often on this site, but it bears repeating: Take your time during the transition period and resist the temptation to do more.

This week’s sessions are going to focus on lifting and landing. When you’re running barefoot, you want to make sure that your feet and legs are relaxed, your knees are bent, and you’re landing softly. You don’t want to be pushing your foot towards the ground as you land, but rather you want ot focus on lifting them off the ground. Your foot will fall to the ground on its own, so why waste any energy pushing it down?

The design of traditional running shoes encourages heel-striking by adding a wedge of padding at the back of the shoe. When barefoot, you haven’t got the benefit of all that padding, but you can use the natural springs that come built-in to your feet and legs. When running barefoot, you’ll want to land on your forefoot, instead of your heel, and gently lower your foot until the heel brushes the ground. This week’s exercises will help you learn how to do this safely while building up your foot muscles as well.

Please consult your doctor before embarking on any training program as advice offered may not be suitable for some people.

Session 1

Since it’s nearly impossible to resist, and chances are you’d do it anyways, the first thing we’re going to do is go for a run. Don’t get too excited though, it’s just to the end of the block. Take off your shoes and just go for a short jog to the end of the block and back. You don’t want to go far, so no further than 100m or so. Pay attention to how your feet feel – are you heels hitting the ground first? How does the ground feel beneath your feet? Keep your eyes out for debris and try to avoid the nastier stuff for now.

This is your baseline. Chance are if this was your first ever barefoot run, you experienced a lot of new sensations, ranging from pure enjoyment to discomfort or even pain. We’re going to build on this run over the coming weeks to the point where you will feel stronger and more confident in how you are placing your feet. The ground won’t seem as foreign and the sharp bits won’t feel as rough any more.

Once you’ve completed your run, take stock of how your body is feeling. Are your calves sore? Have you got any hotspots on your feet or even any blisters? Any pain or discomfort at this point will tell you that your form needs a bit of tweeking. Take note of these niggles and we’ll see to them before long. If you’re experiencing actual pain after the run, stop and rest for a day or until the pain subsides before continuing on to sessoin 2.

Session 2

Now the hard work begins. Today it’s time to learn your first drill. Once learned, we’re going to take it outside and try out a few different terrains. For the purposes of grading terrain, we’re going to use a scale of 1 to 4 to judge the type of ground our feet will be travelling over. Here are the different levels and some examples of each:

Level 1 (soft): Grass, carpet, sand
Level 2 (forgiving): Sprung or padded floors, humus trails, soft earth
Level 3 (hard): Concrete or Wooden floors, pavement, rock, hard trails
Level 4 (rough): Gravel, rough asphalt, lava

Find a nice hard (Lv3) surface, such as a sidewalk. Start by standing barefoot with your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees so that you are crouching a little bit, but keep your back and head straight. Face forward and look off into the distance.

Starting with your left leg, lift your leg until your knee is at waist height. Make sure that your right leg remains bent and that your back and head stay nice and straight. Now lower your foot into the starting position. It can be helpful to place something on the ground at your toes as a reference that you can feel each time you step back down. A pencil or stick shoulddo. Now repeat for the right leg.

Practice this a few times until you get the basic movement down and you are certain that your posture remains consistent and that your feet are returning to their exact starting position. Be sure that your head and shoulders are not moving up and down. Only your leg should move during this exercise.

What you have just learned to do is a minor variation of the 100-Up. Why’s it called a 100-Up? Because you’re going to now do 100 of them – 50 each leg. The key here is to make sure that you do 100 perfect leg raises. Any time your head or shoulders move, you lose your balance, or your feet doesn’t return to the correct spot, start the count again.

Needless to say you may not be able to complete a full set of 100 on your first go. Keep at it, be honest with yourself, and keep trying until you get it, even if it takes weeks. Once you can do 100 flawless leg raises, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Once you can do 100, take stock of your feet and legs to make sure that you haven’t got any injuries or niggles. If you have got some, stop. Wait until your body feels well again, and repeat the 100 again. Pay attention to your form and your landings and re-assess yourself again. Keep repeating until you are free of pain and discomfort.

Session 3

Now that you’ve learned how to do 100-Ups on a hard surface, let’s take a step back and try them out on a forgiving surface. Take notice of how it feels as you land on a slightly softer surface. As the gound beneath you becomes softer, there is a tendency to press your feet harder into the ground. This should be avoided, and instead try to gracefully place each foot on the ground, then really focus on lifting them back up. Keep this up for a set of 100 and if you’re feeling good, move on to the next session.

Session 4

The best way to perfect your form is to find the roughest surface you can to practice on. Rough surfaces may feel terrible but they’re excellent for learning on as they give you a HUGE amount of feedback. Even standing on a really rough surface can make your feet sore, so be sure to relax your feet and move gently. Keeping your knees nice and bent will help you to ease your feet up and down and reduce the pressure on your soles as you land. If you find this exercise too tough, just take a break, practice a bit more on a forgiving surface, then try again. Remember there’s no need to rush. Every extra minute spent focusing on form here could save you weeks of time off from injuries down the road.

Session 5

As a treat to round off the week, head off to a nice grassy area or soft carpeted room to do your last set of 100-ups. As with the Forgiving session, be sure that you’re not forcing your feet into the ground, and that you are focusing on lifting your feet. Enjoy the feeling of the grass beneath your feet and take a couple of days off before trying next week’s exercises.

Congratulations on getting this far!

1. First run complete
2. 100-Ups on Hard (lv3) ground
3. 100-Ups on Forgiving (lv2) ground
4. 100-Ups on Rough (lv4) ground
5. 100-Ups on Soft (lv1) ground
6. No blisters/Sore calves/Injuries

Continue to Part 2: Movement >>