As a barefoot runner, barefoot running coach, creator of the Squat-Scoot method of barefoot, mid-foot, safe, efficient, powerful running,
a Masters’ degree holder in Exercise Physiologist and a Level III certified National Coach’s Association (Canada) coach, I like to think my knowledge is somewhat above the norm. I also like to assume my fellow barefoot running ‘coaches’, trainers and enthusiasts come from similar backgrounds.
Well, after receiving a forwarded email from one of my barefoot running clients (the email to her a mass ’email blast’ from another barefoot running ‘coach’ who will remain nameless), I had to read it 3 times for the content to fully register. This from a supposed full-on ‘barefoot runner, coach, adviser and so on: I quote…
“turns out, running doesn’t start from the feet, legs, or even arms. It all comes from the core. Think of it as the foundation for your house.”
Excuse me??!! The last time I checked, the foundation of a house is NOT in the middle but at the BOTTOM (generally, 12 to 15 feet into Mother Earth!). The statement was made with NO background support other than anecdotal personal experience. Further, he states
“when you run with a weak core, knees get hurt, hips ache and IT bands go crazy because there’s no stability above. But let me tell you the most important reason…at least for me. NO more falling. When you trip on the trails with even an average core, you lose your balance…and quite possibly fall. When your core is rock strong,…if you catch a foot, the rest of your body doesn’t budge…you keep on going.”
I’m NOT making this up. These are direct quotes from one of my supposed barefoot running colleagues. Reading the full email was torturous for me – I literally almost vomited on my keyboard!
Let me highlight a few truths re: barefoot running:
- the feet ARE the key to everything. Sensation (proprioceptive firing), activation (neuromuscular feedback), balance, stability and awareness of space ALL start from the feet. If they are covered in some form of coffin (footwear), it doesn’t matter how strong your ‘core’ is…you will still get an avoidable injury…in due time AND blow out an ankle, knee or hip on the trails
- following the four foundations of my Squat-Scoot technique will ensure safe, efficient, powerful running:
- tight – this simply means bracing the body from the feet to the shoulders/upper back…AND there’s only 1 way you can do this…by activating from the soles of your FEET. This allows you to square up the body and decrease extraneous, wasted body motion
- light – this simply means landing with NO noise against the downward pull of gravity, driving the knees forward, pulling the feet back in a ‘paw back’ motion, flicking from the heels as the lower legs go back parallel to the ground. Again, the only way to control this is through synergistic muscle firing from the soles of the feet
- compact – this simply means keeping the body LOW to the ground with every part of the body activated EXCEPT the hands, neck and head. The knees are slightly bent at all times during the running action. These should be loose and relaxed to decrease negative tension. This is the ‘squat’ of my Squat-Scoot technique. The only way to hold the compact position is by neuromuscular activation of the whole body from the power switch – the soles of the feet
- forward – this is simply driving the body forward with NO up and down action. This is the ‘scoot’ section of my Squat-Scoot technique. There is NO rotation of the body – all parts are squared up, symmetrical and transferring energy from Mother Earth forward. Once again, you can only do this by turning on the body’s power switch – the soles of the feetYou can see this perfectly in my 8 year old barefoot running client who was in 6th place when the picture was taken – the 2 kilometre mark of a 5 kilometre race. He finished 8th OVERALL in 21:45!!
If you truly want to run safely and efficiently, start by running barefoot on rough, uneven, cold terrain – you MUST land quietly and move efficiently. There is NO choice.
Then, when and if you choose to run in coffins of some sort, for God’s sake, put in the Barefoot-Science inserts.
These are the ONLY things available that somewhat mimic being barefoot AND keep you safe when running. Finally, incorporate extensor chain activation drills and Health Bridges progressions to improve balance and body symmetry and to unlock the body at the hips.Thus, FORGET about the plethora of CORE exercises and get after strengthening/activating the feet – the body’s natural POWER SWITCH!! The core and everything else in the body WILL follow.