Barefoot Basics #4: Posture

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Running barefoot can be very unforgiving to bad form, so it’s essential to aim to improve all aspects of it as you learn to run unshod. One of the most important parts of this has little to do with where your feet meet the ground, but everything to do with the rest of your body. What I’m referring to is posture.

When running it’s really important to have your head, shoulders, hips, and feet aligned. By keeping each of these parts positioned directly above the other, you can reduce the amount of energy spent just holding yourself up, and will also improve the quality of  your breathing.

A lot of runners tend to want to bend forward as they run. They bend at the hips and even slouch their shoulders, which not only looks a bit odd, but also restricts their breathing and engages a lot of extra muscle tissue unnecessarily.

One of the reasons for this behaviour, I think, is that runners are often instructed to ‘lean forward’ when running. This is good advice, but is often misinterpreted. What you should be doing is pushing your hips forward slightly. If you do this with correct posture, the effect will be that you are impelled to move forward by shifting your centre of gravity just a little off centre.

Leaning too far, or bending over, can overdo it and cause your form to fall apart.

So, on your next run, focus on running tall, keeping everything in line, and using your hips to ‘lean’ with,  and you’ll be on the road to improved running efficiency before you know it.

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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 >>