To wear or not to wear? That is the question when it comes to running in your good old fashioned sneakers. Is minimalist or barefoot running a fad or are there some truths to why these crazy kids are running without shoes!? Should you run barefoot?
To be honest with you, there is research out there that on both sides of the fence. Is minimalist/barefoot running an end all, save all, new way of running or should you just stick with the sneakers? I think the jury is still out on that one but I’m sure we will get more information as this new way of running becomes even more popular.
For those of you ready to dive into this new style of running and want to know where to start, below are a few tips and suggestions. Obviously, these may not work for you in your specific situation but take a look, pass along to a friend, try’em out….or don’t. These are here at your disposal!
Do Not Dive In “Barefeet” First
Just imagine for a second, if I may, that your hands were covered in gloves for your whole entire life. You haven’t really done any strenuous activity with your hands without having the protection of these gloves.
One day you say to yourself, “Gloves are stupid. I’m not going to wear them any longer!” and you throw them into the back of your closet. Good for you. You showed those gloves who’s boss!
But now, you have to do a lot of things with your hands without gloves on. Maybe fix the sink, cook, lift heavy things, slap your friend…the list goes on. How do you think your hands will feel after being “protected” for so long?
Well, they are probably going to hurt. Get blisters. Get sunburned. And pretty much make you say “ouchies” all of the time.
Don’t do the same thing with your feet. Take it slow. Warm your feet up to the ideas of being naked while doing activities they are not normally doing while unprotected. Take a walk – maybe on the grass mostly first. Move to the sidewalk. Maybe jog around a bit. Build up your feet with tough skin, so much so that Fred Flintstone would be jealous.
Back to Basics
You have been running your whole life. You run 1,000 miles per day and don’t even break a sweat. You are a running Superman. This barefoot/minimalist running thing should be easy right?
That is what I thought too. Until I grabbed some Five Fingers, ran 2 miles, and start limping home with blisters all over the bottom of my feetsies.
My heels hurt. My calf muscles hurt. It sucked. Why would anyone want to do that?
Apparently, I wasn’t running the correct way while using the shoes. I thought my heel pounding into the cement would be fine, since that is how I always did it before. Yeah, not so much.
You need to go back to the basics when wearing these shoes or running barefoot. It’s about listening to your body and running the way that feels comfortable, relaxing, and smooth. This is why you need to take it slow, do short routes, and really listen/feel to what your body is trying to tell you.
Grab the Pavement (With Your Feet)
It took me awhile to get used to this whole “not striking the ground with you heel while running” thing. I tried everything to get a natural flow running on my fore/midfoot but I seemed to be more like a rhino running down the road than a gazelle.
Then some kid told me to act like I was “grabbing the pavement” with my toes and everything started to become clear to me. This is a really hard thing to explain in words, but if you have this mindset, you may start to feel more comfortable running in this new form.
Using your leg and feet as a hiking stick into the ground is bad.
Here is another way of thinking about it – you are bear crawling up a steep hill. You are using your hands to climb up, but you are not really grabbing and pulling the ground for a long period of time. You are kind of grabbing and pushing the ground backwards.
Now do this with your feet while running.
You Are Not A Ballerina
Well you might be; but not while running. This is important for both minimalist running as well as running in regular shoes – do not over stride. You may think you are grand jete-ing all the way down the road, (I had to look up a ballet jump on Google, so sue me) but really you stride should be pretty short.
How short? Well, the rule of thumb (or feet I guess) it to keep your foot under your body as much as possible when you are striding forward. I always think of what stride I normally do, and then shorten it up a bit. Not only will this help with the minimalist running form but may also help in preventing injuries to your knees.
Watch Some Videos!
There is this amazing website called YouTube (don’t know if you have heard of it) that actually offers people the opportunity to watch user-generated videos.
Why I bring this up is there are apparently tons of people who are willing to tape themselves running to help others get the barefoot/minimalist running style down.
Check out the videos and see for yourself. You can practice in your living room. Or bedroom. Or I guess just watch and try to remember what you saw while you run around the block.
Seriously though, the more you see the way people run while barefoot, the easier it is for you to grasp the whole concept.
Do you have any more tips on barefoot or minimalist running? Do you actually do it or do you think the whole idea is a fad? Let me know!