Squaring Up to Assist in Barefoot Running:


What do I mean by ‘squaring up’. Well, after coaching for God-knows how many years, I came to the conclusion about 12 years ago that those who exercise basically had no idea how to protect the body from what I call ‘avoidable’ injuries. Many of these stemmed from a lack of ‘squaring up’ the feet, hips & shoulders most specifically. In other words, they were keeping these EVEN (SQUARE) whilst active.

Why do I consider this so important? When the body is level or square, it means that all active muscles are braced and doing what they are supposed to be doing – keeping the feet aligned forward, the hips even and balanced and the shoulders low, ‘quiet’ and level. When you are locked into this, your body moves smoothly and efficiently with virtually no excessive strain on the ligaments, tendons and joints. This results in the elimination of ‘avoidable’ injuries.

As the title of the blog suggests, my focus will be on how ‘squaring up’ helps you run barefoot. Incorporate the following circuit into your barefoot off-road drills and reap the injury-free benefits. To remind you – running safely barefoot is all about bracing against gravity in order to land lightly and push off powerfully. The circuit is as follows:

1. Shoulders – standing on rounded section of Bosu Ball running arm swings tight to body and full arm swings. MUST keep shoulders still & square (do these in front of full length mirror) – 60 secs x 2 sets


b. 1/2 shoulder shrugs – standing in running position, hold 10 lb. dumbbells in each hand with palms facing body and hands in front of chest. Lift up the weights to eye height whilst pulling the shoulder up level to the ears – 60 secs x 2 sets

2. Hips – 1-legged squat hops forward, backward, side-to-side in a circuit. MUST keep hips level at all times. Alternate legs after 60 secs. Do 2 sets. Mix up the direction to ‘confuse’ your neuromuscular system

b. 1-legged bent-knee drops from a step. Do these to a 5 count down and up. Try to NOT use hands to support you on a railing or wall. Repeat 15 times per leg x 1 set

3. Feet – make an outline of your feet in running position out of rope or some such material. It should be about 2 sizes bigger than your feet. Stand inside the outlines and run on the spot – 60 secs x 2 sets then switch lead legs and repeat. Your feet MUST be perfectly lined up forward and NOT touch the outline

b. ladder drill – use an exercise ladder or make your own out of rope, twine or some such material. The ladder squares should be no more than 14 square inches. Run forward through the ladder at as fast a cadence as possible facing a full length mirror (ideally). Your feet must stay ‘square’ in order to land INSIDE each ladder section. 60 secs x 3 sets.


If weather permits, do these outdoors on asphalt, concrete or gravel surfaces BAREFOOT. Once you transition to your run, ‘squaring up’ will come natural AND your avoidable injury days will be a thing of the past!

Coach Jeff

Don’t forget to register for the MADD 5 km road race & breakfast on Sunday, June 9 at J.C. Saddington Park in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada.


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