Tuesday, June 22, 2010

12 Steps to Barefoot Running

Everyone that responsibly promotes barefoot running will tell you to "take it slow and easy" during the transition from shod to unshod running.  That's good advice.  I think over the course of 8-12 weeks, most people will have developed stronger feet, ankles, and calves that will allow you to get back to your regular training schedule.

There is some disagreement about what surface is best for starting out.  Grass and dirt are more forgiving and these surfaces are often touted as the place to start.  I think starting with VERY short barefoot bouts on hard surfaces is better--concrete and asphalt will IMMEDIATELY tell you whether you are striding correctly. Grass and dirt allow you to continue with inefficient form.  Shoes hide the feedback your feet and mind crave. Trails provide the feedback, but they don't punish you for incorrect form.  Mixing in a variety of surfaces from the beginning of your barefoot transition will encourage better form and speed your body's adaptation.

One of the better transition programs for barefoot running is available at Running Quest.  It's called the "12 Step Program to Run Barefoot."  I suppose the title says it all.  Give it a try.

NOTE OF CAUTION:  I believe almost everyone can benefit from barefoot walking and running. It's not just for the "biomechanically efficient" elite. If you have severe foot structure problems, vascular disease or neuropathy, then you may not be a good candidate for barefooting.  You must be able to feel and react to the ground.  If you don't have serious medical problems, give it a try...slow and easy.

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