Hot-footing It: How I Finally Learned How To Run Barefoot

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

As a change from the usual advice and reviews, I thought it would be nice to tell you a story. Most people that you talk to who took up barefoot running later in life will tell you about a ‘eureka’ moment, when the whole thing finally clicked into place, and running barefoot became fun, pleasurable, ad something they would strive to keep up forever. What follows is how the penny finally dropped for me, after a couple of months of full barefoot running.

When I was first learning to run barefoot, it was hot. Really hot. Australia hot.
Normally I would do my running in the very early morning, when the ground would still
be wet from the previous night’s end-of-hot-day storm. The coolness of the ground was
lovely, and made running a pleasure.

Then I decided to go for an afternoon run.

It was about 30 degrees Celsius out (~85F), and the ground had been hammered by the hot sun all morning. As soon as I stepped out my front door, I knew that this run would be
a short one.

I started to run, and as I stepped, I swear I could feel the blisters starting to form
on my feet. After only a few metres, I was already thinking about turning around and
heading home.

Then something strange happened.

I started stepping really quickly. I don’t think I was consciously doing it, rather my
body had overridden my mind and was running on its own. With each step, I only touched the ground for a fraction of a second, then whipped it up so that it wouldn’t linger on the hot pavement. I was taking a lot of very short, very quick steps.

Then the strangest thing happened. It stopped hurting. The blistering sensation went
away, replaced by a cooling breeze under my feet, caused by the action of my stride. I
was moving quickly and lightly, and it felt like everything just clicked into place.

I ran a lot more afternoon runs that summer, and even did my first barefoot 10k race in 34 degree heat. I’ve never blistered since, and my form improved dramatically, even on the colder days.

The funny thing with barefoot running is that it’s often the discomfort that makes us better runners. It’s tempting to do every run in shoes (minimal or otherwise), but if you really want to learn how to run better, there’s no substitute for taking off your shoes.

How about you? did you have a ‘eureka’ moment? Still looking for yours? Leave a comment!

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6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 5: Posture

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<< Back to Part 4: Cadence or Start from the top

Welcome to the penultimate instalment of the 6 Weeks to Barefoot Running series. If you’ve been with us from the start, you should now have a solid grounding in the techniques involved below the waist. This week, we’re going to focus a bit more on the rest of the body.

One of the primary purposes of good running form is to allow you to run as efficiently as possible in order to maximise speed and endurance. Good posture is one of the key parts of the equation as it will reduce the energy required to keep yourself upright as you run.

To understand how this works, imagine a tower built of bricks. If all of the bricks are neatly stacked, one above the other, the tower is strong and will stay up. If, however the bricks are laid poorly, the tower may begin to lean and ultimately collapse under its own weight. The same is true in running. If you keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line, everything is in balance. If, however, you lean forward or back, your muscles need to engage to allow you to maintain that position. This drains away valuable energy, which would otherwise have been used to propel you towards your goal.

This week we’re going to try out a few techniques that will illustrate what good posture feels like so that you can use it to improve your running.

Session 1

As with other weeks, we’re going to start this one with a run. Get your feet out and head outside for a 10 minute run. Try to keep it nice and light, and focus on all the tips and techniques that we’ve gone through up to this point: Soft, forefoot landing, lifting your feet, bending your knees, and a 3 steps per second cadence.

By now as you run you should start to be feeling the difference it makes when you keep your feet under your body. Your strides should be quite short at this point, and your feet shouldn’t be coming off the ground very high after each step.

Once you’ve finished the run, take stock of how you feel and if you need some rest, take a few days off. If you can’t run for 10 full minutes, then intersperse walking as needed, and keep trying until you can run the whole distance. Remember that the slower you go, the longer you can run!

Session 2

Have you ever seen a model walking around with a book on her head?  Ever wondered why they do this? The trick is simple, really. If you try to balance something on your head, it’s much easioer to do if the rest of your body is in alignment. By keeping your back straight and head up, you can easily walk without upsetting the book. As soon as you start to lean even a little though, it’s inevitable that the book will slide off.

This is the technique we’re going to practice today. Because it’s a bit unusual to see people wandering the streets with books atop their heads, feel free to practice this one at home.

Find a reasonably heavy hardcover book, and place it on your head. Try to make sure that your back is straight and you’re looking straight ahead. Walk from one end of the room, making sure that the book stays on your head. If it falls off, go back to the start and try again. Keep at it until you can walk from one side of the room and back a few times.

Once you’re comfortable with it, do it a few more times, and really pay attention to how your body feels when it’s aligned. Take some deep breaths and feel how easily the air flows in and out of your chest.

When you’re happy with your book-balancing skills, head outside and do a 1km or so run. While you’re out there, try to practice keeping your body in alignment, but don’t forget about the last few weeks’ lessons!

Session 3, 4 & 5

For the rest of the week, we’re going to do proper runs. You’ll want to keep them under 2.5km for now, and try to take it easy. As you run, you may find it helpful to imagine that you’re hanging by a thread attached to the top of your head. Imagine it pulling your head up so that it’s aligned above your neck and shoulders. You should feel like you’re “running tall” and that your whole body is stacked up almost perfectly vertical.

For this week’s runs, try to over-emphasise this posture. Draw yourself up nice and straight. You should feel the difference in how much air you can draw in and once you get used to it, you will find that you will be able to run longer and more comfortably in this position.

Scorecard

    • 10 minute run complete
    • Walk like a model
    • Session 3 run complete
    • Session 4 run complete
    • Session 5 run complete
    • No blisters/soreness

On to Part 6: Free Fall >>