Friday, January 29, 2010

More on Barefoot Running

Further to the post from a couple of days ago on the latest research - How did we manage to run with no shoes ? - I was reading the excellent Science of Sport blog and they pointed to the page that the researches have set up to promote and give training tips for Running Barefoot or In Minimal Footwear

It is definitely worth reading - go here.

There are a couple of videos there that are worth looking at:

Forefoot Striking Barefoot: Produces Minimal Impact Force with No Impact Transient-

as compared to Heel Strike in Shoes: Produces Significant Impact Transient

There are some good tips for making the shift:

Tips on Transitioning to Forefoot or Midfoot Striking

Forefoot striking barefoot or in minimal footwear requires you to use muscles in your feet (mostly in the arch) that are probably very weak. Running this way also requires much more strength in your calf muscles than heel striking because these muscles must contract eccentrically (while lengthening) to ease the heel onto the ground following the landing. Novice forefoot and midfoot strikers typically experience tired feet, and very stiff, sore calf muscles. In addition, the Achilles tendon often gets very stiff. This is normal and eventually goes away, but you can do several things to make the transition successfully:

  • Build up slowly! If you vigorously work out any weak muscles in your body, they will be sore and stiff. Your foot and calf muscles will be no exception. So please, don’t overdo it because you will probably injure yourself if you do too much too soon.
  • Start by walking around barefoot frequently.
  • First week: no more than a quarter mile to one mile every other day.
  • Increase your distance by no more than 10% per week. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a general guide. If your muscles remain sore, do not increase your training. Take an extra day off or maintain your distance for another week.
  • Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal, but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury.
  • Be patient and build gradually. It takes months to make the transition.
  • If you are currently running a lot, you don’t need to drastically reduce your mileage. Instead, supplement forefoot or midfoot striking with running the way that you normally ran before beginning the transition. Over the course of several months, gradually increase the proportion of forefoot or midfoot striking and reduce the proportion of running in your old style. Use the same 10% per week guideline in increasing the amount of running you do forefoot striking.
  • It is essential to stretch your calves and hamstrings carefully and regularly as you make the transition. Massage your calf muscles and arches frequently to break down scar tissue. This will help your muscles to heal and get stronger.
  • Listen to your feet. Stop if your arches are hurting, if the top of your foot is hurting, or if anything else hurts! Sometimes arch and foot pain occurs from landing with your feet too far forward relative to your hips and having to point your toes too much. It can also occur from landing with too rigid a foot and not letting your heel drop gently.
  • Many people who run very slowly find that forefoot striking actually makes them run a little faster.


  • Land gently on your forefoot and gradually let the heel come down
  • Transition slowly
  • Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon
  • Don’t do anything that causes pain
  • Listen to your body and run totally barefoot to learn good form
  • Buy minimal shoes that lack high heels and stiff soles
  • Consult a doctor


Anonymous said...

I've been wearing Tiger Claw martial arts shoes ($15-20)for the last month or so. They are very minimalist shoes with some forefoot but no heel padding. I noticed immediately that it "urged" me to move more towards a forefoot strike as well as standing more on my forefoot which seems to put less stress on my lower back, especially after 2 hours of lecturing on my feet.

. said...

Thank you for posting those videos. Very, very interesting.

I myself couldn't figure how one could run striking the forefoot (I only walk barefoot currently) but now I see - the foot is actually partly on the return trajectory (i.e. not at its fullest extension) when contact is made.

Today's NZ Herald reported the study about barefoot being best, and in a positive way, which is encouraging.

. said...

P.S. Here's a link to the abovementioned article in case any fellow Kiwis are interested:

Steven Low said...

Good stuff.

The thing I like to say to people just starting out is that you wouldn't go out and do 400 repetitions of pushups when you're unfit trying to get fit.

So why would you go out and do more than 400 strides (which is generally more than 400m or as much as 800m) when you are just starting to learn how to rerun?

TAKE IT SLOW! Keep the volume down and focus solely on technique and of course listen to your body.

Methuselah said...

Good stuff - thanks for this. I am going through the process of adjusting to barefoot myself, so very timely.

Matthew Odette said...

Vibram's Five Fingers are some of the best 'barefoot' shoes out there. And they're very durable, I've been abusing their Sprints for two years and around 2,000 miles of trail and track running.

Jake said...

I would add that it is best to land on the outside part of your forefoot. Your foot will then collapse to the inside. This collapsing action reduces impact.

cherry said...

wow it does hurt to be barefoot thats why im doing an experiment on it i love this website

SPWS said...

These tips are very helpful for people who want to try out running barefoot. I'm running using my barefoot running sandals. You can get them at