It can be difficult to break into the habit of barefoot running, especially if you’re used to pounding the ground in well-cushioned shoes. If you’ve just bought a pair of minimalist shoes or are doing away with footwear completely, these five tips will make your transition that little bit less painful.
Ease Into It
Getting used to a new running form usually takes four to six weeks. Running in minimalist shoes is very similar to running shoeless, so start each run by walking around barefoot for five minutes in the first two weeks of your transition. “In your first week, run no more than 0.5km to 1.5km every other day. Then increase your distance by no more than 10 per cent per week,” says Harvard physiologist Daniel Lieberman.
Regardless of your running pace, run with a fast cadence of about 180 steps per minute (a cadence of 90) or higher, advises veteran barefoot marathoner Ken Bob Saxton. Be “present in the moment” to allow yourself to concentrate on your stride and cadence, but stay relaxed and don’t over-analyse. The more you adhere to good form, the quicker it will become second nature.
“When running, keep a vertical torso, bent knees, relaxed ankles and land with your feet under your body,” says Lieberman. “If you land on your feet in front of your body, you are hitting the brakes and bashing your knees. The body should be moving in front of the feet when they strike the ground.”
Focus On Midfoot Strike
Strike the ground at the midfoot, not the heel or the toes (the actual impact area will vary based on body type), and allow your heel to naturally settle on the ground. Landing on your midfoot will minimise the impact collision with the ground, unlike when you heel-strike while running in super-cushioned shoes. The key is to stay off your heel and use your leg as a piston-like shock absorber. However, this running form may feel a little awkward in the beginning, as most of us have been conditioned to heel-strike after years of running in super-cushioned trainers.
Perfect Your Form
To do this, try wearing a cap with the price tag still attached – and watching the tag while running, says Saxton. “Make mental notes of how much, or how little, it is bouncing up and down or side to side. The goal is to just move forward.”