Michelle has been running barefoot for a number of years, training with me off and on privately and as part of my Team Over The Top clinics. Our goals from Day One were:
- perfecting my Squat-Scoot technique of midfoot running
- running barefoot to ensure injury-free performance no matter what the surface
- running efficiently and, ultimately, powerfully in 70.3 and 140.6 iM races
It has taken patience and focus to get to where we are in 2016. The unlocking drills that help keep Michelle symmetrical and squared up when running have been recently introduced. They have made a positive difference in her running posture and ability to land lighter with a more powerful drive phase forward.The ongoing challenge remains keeping Michelle quiet on the impact phase of her running. This encompasses a constant reminder to fire from her gluteal medius and maximus to prevent excessive hip drop, knee rotation and leg crossover. If you notice in the photo below, Michelle is running with her knees too locked up, thus causing hard impact with the ground and negative reverberations up through her ankles, knees, hips and lower back – a recipe for needless injuries.She is giving in to the downward force of gravity and landing too flat. Further, if you will notice in the next photo, she is not firing from her gluteal medius on the right side, causing her left hip to drop and the leg to swing across the mid-line. This will ultimately lead to IT band and piriformis injuries if left unchecked.The next challenge we faced was the lack of firing from the gluteus maximus when running backwards. This, as you can see in the photo below, is causing her right foot to turn in on landing. It puts too much pressure on her ankle and knee, again potentially leading to avoidable ‘itis’ injuries. Correcting this by forcefully activating her left gluteus maximus whilst running backwards results in balanced, squared-up forward running. After a few corrective drills to shift Michelle’s activation process and improve her foot turnover and impact point. This led to much quieter – and faster – running without a perceived increase in effort. This is the beauty of barefoot running – once you master the technique!
Another major improvement for Michelle has been her running posture. She now carries herself in perfect alignment from the feet up to the head. The unlocking drills and use of the Functional Chain Training and Health Bridges systems helped develop the perfect body alignment. This allows her to put much less stress on her skeletal system and conserve energy over greater distances.She was still landing too flat on impact, thus, losing forward-driving energy into the ground. We thus focused on keeping the knees bent more during the full running cycle and bracing the body better from the chest to the thighs. Almost instantly, as you can see in the photos below, Michelle started landing more forward and flicking her heels better to increase turnover. This was during our 800 metre repeats to build speed endurance.For any of you who DO run barefoot regularly or are THINKING about running barefoot, read the above blog carefully and observe the body position changes. If you can make positive adjustments to guarantee quiet, efficient, forward squat-scoot running, you will NEVER get needlessly injured. Follow the recommendations presented above to ensure safe barefoot running.