How To Run Barefoot (The Beginners Guide)
Table of Contents
So now you have done it, you have taken the plunge and bought your first pair of Barefoot or Minimalist shoes to go running in. You opted for the Vibram five fingers or chosen the Merrel Vapour Gloves or some other barefoot shoe. So here’s the next question that we will be answering in this article.
How to run barefoot? Get your feet used to the transition to forefoot striking. Run short distances at an even cadence and short strides. Take extra care of your calves regularly, foam roll and mobilise them pre/post run three times a day during your transition period. Don’t rush the process it takes time to get good.
We will go into more detail in this article to give you everything you need. I will take it step by step and by the end of the article you will be fully equipped. Once you get to grips with This then you can move onto my other article that has advanced techniques here.
so let’s get started
How to Run Barefoot
You’re A Beginner (Remember That)
Accept this, and it will be half your the battle to achieve Barefoot running nirvana already won. All this is key, always bear in mind that you have probably spent a more significant part of your life in traditional shoes with heels of some sort. Heel striking in your various running shoes over that time will most probably have set your feet up to be used to a different way of running.
Now you have made this fantastic decision to run barefoot, wisdom is needed, or you will end up giving up because you went for glory and ran a 5K on your first day of Barefoot running and had to stop due to injury DONT DO IT!!!
Follow the steps in the rest of your article, and you will stand an excellent chance of quickly transitioning from the beginner phase to really and truly getting to enjoy the joys of barefoot running.
Master the ForeFoot Strike
Forefoot Striking is the correct way to barefoot run. Running with this method will ensure that you are either on the balls of your feet or your toes in the beginning. At this stage whichever feels most natural is best as it varies from person to person. However, foot striking on the balls of your feet is the optimal way to run.
Forefoot striking will be the key skill to master for barefoot running. Give it a lot of attention so you can perfect it
Fall forward as you run, keep your feet underneath you in short choppy steps. Make sure your feet remain underneath you and are in line with your centre of gravity.
Don’t Heel Strike
You will very quickly run into trouble if you use the traditional approach of Heel striking to run in Barefoot shoes. It will be a painful experience, to say the least, and will probably put you off anything barefoot for a long while.
Nature did not build us to heelstrike as we run irrespective of the shoe we choose cushioned or not.
There is no padding or protection in your heels. Your body is not designed to heel strike, the impact of the forces you subject your body to will travel directly through your shins to knees then onto your hips. These will eventually cause you all kind of lower back pains and other related issues because of the jarring shockwave effect of the heel striking.
Set Your Cadence
It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway … don’t go barreling down the road without deciding what your cadence will be. Your running cadence will be different than for forefoot running. Often runners overstride when running.and this can lead to injury and is not a good use of energy. Setting your cadence is a more efficient way to to go.
The commonly recommended cadence is 180 steps per min.
It will keep you light on your feet and conserve a lot of energy. Imagine your leg moving like piston not long swinging pendulums. A simple trick is to get a metronome app on your phone and count it that way. All you have to do is match your steps to the beat of the metronome as you run.
At first, it will be bizarre and unusual to get to grips with the new cadence but persevere it will pay dividends in spade loads.
Limit your initial distances
As a beginner don’t be tempted to run too fast and too far (range) in the euphoria of barefoot running. Your body and especially your feet and calves will not be ready for long distances at this stage of your journey. Initially, I suggest that you keep your runs to no more than 1km at a time.
For example for the first week keep your runs to 1km per day, then the following week move it up to 1.5km per run. Keep going till you get to whichever distance you have preset for yourself.
Give it time as we have said, in soon you will be doing the longer distances as speed.focus on foot strike and cadence.
Prepare For the Inevitable DOMS
It is one of the most important things to bear in mind. The famous Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) will come to visit and will be a part of your Transition to Barefoot running. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it. It can be quite painful, try walking down a flight of stairs following your first 1km, and you will see what I mean.
There is hope, however, don’t worry it will be fine. The pain will pass, and you will quickly get used to the recovery cycle. You will soon be able to tell the difference between right pain and injury pain.
What you can do is take active steps to deal with the DOMS when it comes. Doms will usually hit once you finish your run, the area to focus on in treating the soreness is on your feet, ankles and calves.
Use a lacrosse ball and work your feet and the foam roller to massage your calves a least three times a day before and after your run.
Day 2 soreness will be a bit worse, but hang in there and keep foam rolling, stretching and massaging your ankles calves and feet.
Relax On The Run
It is vital to keep your shoulders dropped, and the feet and ankles look as you run. Make sure you don’t have “clothes hanger” shoulders with them raised to your ears. Lower them and relax into your run. When you do this, it is much easier to stay in a flow state and more importantly you will be losing a lot less energy if you are not tight.
Drive With Your Arms
While you are relaxed then you can use your arms to drive forward even more. It will look like this relaxed shoulders with arms driving to the ears to exaggerated the movement in the beginning until you get used to it. Then your individual style will develop as you get better.
Listen To Your Body
With everything that we have said what is most important of all is that you listen to your body and understand the difference between good pain and bad pain:
- Good Pain – From the exertions of the running and the development of the muscles in the feet and calves.
- Bad Pain – Injury pain from running too fast and too long too soon or maybe originating from the hips or lower back. If you get this kind of pain, don’t power through it. Stop immediately and reset.
As you continue, you will know when to reset and start again and differentiate between the two and how much you want to push in line with the goals you have set yourself.
Enjoy The Experience
Running barefoot is freedom filled and exhilarating experience. The fact that you have broken free from the mainstream propaganda and given it a try in my boot deserve unending plaudits. Enjoy every moment of the experience as you journey to becoming a stronger and faster runner.
Beginning barefoot running can be a liberating experience. Knowing that you are using your body the way it was designed is indeed a good feeling. Just remember you are a beginner and if you follow the steps above you will improve quite quickly
here are the main point again.
- Remember you a beginner, take it step by step
- Run on the forefoot
- Don’t heel strike
- Set you cadence (180 Steps per min)
- Run short distances
- Prepare for Soreness (DOMS)
- Relax on the run
- Drive your arms
- Listen to your body
- Enjoy the experience
Finally, the shoe you choose does not matter the choice today is a lot. There are Vibram Five fingers, Merrel Vapour gloves to name a few to choose from. For further reading check my other article with more advanced barefoot running techniques here
Happy Barefoot running.