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!

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.