All of my Team Over The Top running clients run either barefoot (not many!) or in some type of ‘minimalist’ footwear (Vibram FiveFingers, Sockwa X8s, New Balance Minimus, Nike Flye Knit, Skoras, Xero sandals). Many also put the Barefoot-Science inserts into their footwear to more closely replicate the activation of the feet when running full-on barefoot. Some even combine the two – a few outings barefoot and a few in minimalist footwear or mixing the two into the same run. Every time we train off-road (in the gym or on the track), we do ALL of our drills full-on barefoot. My runners thrive doing this – always noticing an improvement in balance, foot turnover, and speed.Even with all of this AND the perfect practice training led by me to perfect the Squat-Scoot method of tight, light, compact, forward injury-free running, virtually NONE of them run consistently barefoot. My guess is most of you who follow my blog do NOT run full-on barefoot for a variety of reasons. I would also guess that at least 90% of all North American runners do NOT run barefoot. Why the HELL not??!! Of course, I have NO answer to that. It makes sense to me that running barefoot is the ONLY way to run safely and efficiently kilometre after kilometre over ANY terrain.
Preparing to do so is the main topic of my blog. Thus, I will highlight for you (even if you NEVER entertain the idea of running barefoot) some of the ways I recommend preparing to run barefoot. The suggestions might just help you incorporate injury-free running techniques into your programme. After all, if you run in pain or have to stop running due to attaining an avoidable ‘itis’-related running injury, how much fun is THAT??!!
Firstly, I tell my running clients to fully activate the feet by running short distances (5 to 15 metres) over the roughest terrain they can locate.Doing this fully turns on the sensory feedback loop from the arches of the feet through the rest of the body. It teaches you to land light and squared up, thus putting less pressure on the skeletal system and reducing the risk of injury.
Next, I encourage EVERYONE to immerse their feet in snow or ice cold water for 2-3 minutes every day to toughen up the skin and improve the blood flow from the extremities through the circulatory loop. This helps flush out toxins, improve recovery time, eliminate muscle soreness and prepare the feet for barefoot winter running in countries where temperatures dip below freezing.Finally, I introduce my runners to going barefoot over sand, logs, bush trails, lake pebbles and the like as often as they are able. Doing so, in my humble opinion, is the best way to protect the body from spraining a joint, tearing a muscle or irritating a ligament or tendon that can needlessly sideline you from running.Your synergistic muscles are activated in such a way that even if you do hit uneven surfaces running barefoot, the corrective body response is so quick that you recover and carry on without incident. This ALONE is reason enough to shed your ‘coffins’ (full-on, cushioned running shoes) and run barefoot.
Of course, I am also a realist and, even though I have been preaching the merits of running barefoot for decades., there is simply NO way the majority of you will do so. The only thing I hope for is ALL of you understanding how important it is to move against gravity by fully bracing and landing light! Humour me by doing so!!
old coach Jeff