I find that the transition to barefoot running for those growing up in shoes is exceedingly difficult. Of course, if this IS the case, you ask, why would ANYONE from countries where shoes are worn basically 100% of the time even consider running BAREFOOT? I get this constantly thrown at me from family members, friends, running colleagues and the sports rehabilitation specialists. The only people who NEVER question my running barefoot are those from countries where going barefoot is the NORM. They grow up walking, running and playing barefoot and continue as such throughout their lives.
The reasons are quite simple and basic:
- no foot pain, bunions, tendonitis etc.
- perfect balance from the ankles up
- perfect posture which means no knee, hip, back, shoulder pain
- proprioceptive firing and direct sensory feedback from the feet to all other areas of the body
- few if any illnesses that plague the ‘coffin’ (shoe) wearers such as influenza, chest colds, bronchitis etc.
- better resistance to bacterial-causing infections
Any one of the above reasons would be enough for me to consider learning how to best transition to barefoot running. Having said that, I find that there are a few key drills that need to be done from the outset. They are all done barefoot at least 3 times per week and should not take more than 20 minutes of your valuable time. They are as follows:
- toe raises
- heel raises
- ankle flexion
- ankle extension
- hip drops from a step
- knee bends from a step
- full body brace 1-legged 1/2 squat
- running on the spot
- 1-legged hopping on the spot
- fall forward and land on mid-foot with knees kept bent
These are what I call the ‘Basic 10’. Doing them as recommended above will give you a strong base, get your feet acclimated to the challenge of going barefoot and discipline you to brace against the downward pull of gravity. This results in a safer, more efficient transition to barefoot running. The next set of progressions will be presented in a future blog.
When you dare to take the path less traveled, you ALWAYS come out ahead!