July 2013 archive

Jul 31

13. How should I use my core muscles when barefoot running?

I got a great question from Anne which struck a chord with me. When I first changed my running style, it was core muscles that were the limiting factor. They simply were not upto the job. It has taken quite a while for them to get there. Here is Anne’s question:

How should I be using my core whilst running and how does this relate to posture? To elaborate, I have niggles of my left achilles or my right hip (they
alternate) and I am aware that when the niggles are at their worst, my posture is poor and my core muscles are not working. Sometimes it is hard for me to work out how to get them working. What is the best way to help this?
Does good posture necessitate optimum core activation or should I be consciously pulling in my core muscles (both day to day and whilst running). I do pilates but sometimes it takes quite a while to get my core activated during my lesson.



Jamie pageJamie Page – Vivobarefoot

Very simply Anne, you need to start at the core and learn the skill of running. Work on the posture first and then slowly on the conditioning to build up the strength.
Simply squat little and often throughout the day – whenever and wherever possible. Also add two footed jumps at 180 bpm.
Then add a 2-5kg bar and do overhead jumps and squats.
After you get good at that then start running very short distances (make sure you have upright posture landing on the ball of your foot under your centre of gravity) an make sure the rhythm is 180 bpm – this is important because of the frequency of the elastic recoil of your muscles. A slower rhythm will utilise muscle energy rather than ‘free’ elastic tendon recoil – however this require a lot of strength (gained by lots of squats and jumps).
If you’re not sure: film yourself running ­ this will enable you to know if your posture is ok. Ask somebody to look or use videos of runners with perfect form to compare with. The Barefoot running Coach app is a good choice.
Hope this helps

Steven Sashen from Xero shoes

I’m going to take the simple approach here:

You seem to have already noticed a relationship between your posture and getting injured. That implies that you can feel the difference between your “poor” posture and your “good” posture. If that’s the case, just focus on holding onto your good posture while you run.

Without seeing your body, especially in motion, there’s nothing else that I could add. “Posture” is such a complex interaction of joint alignments, that trying to give you any prescription without more data could send you in the wrong direction.

Now, that said, if you can feel what muscles are being activated when you have “good” posture, you would then be able to find exercises you can do to strengthen those muscles. And for strength, you’ll want to do a combination of heavy work with few reps/sets and a lot of rest, and some high-rep work as well. Also, since you want to be stable when you’re running, focus on exercises that require stability rather than exercises that emphasize flexion/extension (e.g. do a Youtube search for “Paloff Press” and use that rather than crunches).

BTW, you’re onto something when it comes to the relationship between core strength and running — check out what makes Usain Bolt so fast (according to his coach): http://xeroshoes.com/barefoot-running-tips/muscles/

The Balanced Runner – Jae Gruenke

Hi Anne,

It’s a great question and my favorite thing to talk about because it’s very misunderstood.

The most important thing to remember about running is that “posture” is actually an irrelevant concept and you shouldn’t “hold” anything. Everything moves when you run, including your core, and so the real question is what kind of movement you should be looking for.

Most of us have two legs and neither one is in the middle, so a lateral shift of weight is necessary when you run or you won’t organize your weight over each leg properly, and misery and injury will result. We do this through a counterrotation of our upper and lower body — really a sort of spiraling action that turns the torso into a spring as well as our legs. The better you do this, the better you will use your legs. In fact, if you get this right your legs will entirely take care of themselves — no overstriding, no excess stress. Just lovely, gliding, efficient movement. If you overdo it you’re salsa dancing and you may interfere with the ability to have your legs move straight forward and back, and cause them to start twisting instead. (Underdoing it causes twisting as well, leading to overstriding, overpronation, ITB syndrome, and orthotics.

I wrote an article which you’ll find here explaining this further: http://balancedrunner.com/pdf/12Things-2.pdf

You should also take a look at this YouTube video we made: http://youtu.be/EAXIieLyW9A You’ll be able to see that when Oliver restricts the movement of his pelvis by tightening his core, it actually CAUSES overstriding. And then when he lets his pelvis move his feet land underneath him.

And finally, this is so important that I have an entire set of audio Feldenkrais lessons to help you develop your ability to do it correctly. It’s called the Core Action Collection and you can find it here: www.cdbaby.com/jaegruenkegcfp.

I hope that’s helpful to you!

Run smooth,


Gray CawsGray Caws of N8pt.com

Hi Anne – You should certainly be using your core when running and it is indeed integral to good posture. Firstly it’s important to understand what the core is. Basically if you chop off your moving parts (not recommended!) you are left with your core – a great definition of it’s functional role is “The ability of your trunk to support the effort and forces from your arms and legs, so that muscles and joints can perform in their safest, strongest and most effective positions” (Elphinstone and Pook, 1998). Often we don’t fully understand what the core is, focussing solely on the stomach muscles. We think that by pulling in at the belly button we are engaging the core. However, more often than not I find when people do this they push out the chest too much and try to flatten the stomach. This restricts breathing and puts tension in the upper body.

In Chi Running (as in T’ai Chi) the focus point for engaging core muscles is the dantien, an energy centre three finger-widths down from the belly button and two inches into the spine – the body’s center of mass. If you engage this point there should be no sucking in or pushing out, just a feeling of being strong, grounded and centered.

Good posture (vertical alignment) is when your body weight is supported by your structure – bones, ligaments, tendons and fascia. Whether this be on both legs when standing or one leg (support phase) when running. If you are out of alignment vertically (eg bent at the waist), directionally (eg feet turning out, knee twisting in), symmetrically (eg hips dropping on landing or imbalanced arm swing) then muscles and joints are over used and put under unnecessary stress. A strong and stable core is essential for runners. In Chi Running the focus is on bringing the workload to the core. When running, core muscles should keep the spine in a neutral position with pelvis level allowing hips to extend and no hyperextension in the lower back. Neck muscles should be relaxed so arms can swing freely from stable shoulders.

There are lots of good core exercises but it is important to know why you are doing them and what muscles you are working on. I would say this but it is always good to have a professional demonstrate and watch you doing the exercises to make sure you have the right technique and understanding. I see too many bad planks, sit-ups, squats and lunges etc. It is also important to know of any muscular imbalances you might have – tight hip flexors, weak glutes is common due to too much sitting. Almost certainly misalignment and / or muscular imbalance with be causing the achilles and hip problem and it could be very obvious from watching you run.

The good thing is that you are identifying that your niggles are worst when posture is poor so you should stop running when you get to this point otherwise you will be susceptible to injury. Continuously practice posture and core exercises and gradually build the distance / time on feet you can running with good posture. Practice makes perfect as your body learns by repetition but make sure it is perfect practice then you’ll be able to go on and enjoy your running for years to come. Best of luck!

Best wishes


Gray Caws Certified Chi Running Instructor


PS Have a read of my article on posture here at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/2013/04/23/the-key-to-good-running-form/

Anna Toombes of BarefootRunningUK

Hi Anne –  It’s probably worth trying to figure out why your posture feels worse on certain days. Perhaps you’re doing something in your daily life that exacerbates your imbalances? Or it might not be something physical, but perhaps that you’ve been more stressed on certain days than others which may have affected how you breathe and therefore affected your posture.
Balancing exercises are useful to get your core working in a more functional way.
Remember also that if you have any tightness or restriction in your body it will affect the flow of movement when you run. If the flow is getting ‘stuck’ somewhere, you’ll develop niggles as the run progresses.

Posture is fluid, it’s not about one single position, so try not to force anything. I think (if you’re the same Anne!) we’ve talked about the use of imagery to encourage a more gentle lengthening, rather than forcing your spine straight, so maybe focus on using this approach a bit more. Identify areas that are tight and try to loosen them. May throw some yoga into the mix. There’s sometimes too much emphasis on the core and core exercises.
Are you still doing all your running drills? It’s often just a case of getting stronger in your own body by using different drills, rather than trying to have perfect posture.
Most important: relax, breathe, smile.

Anna Toombs

Many thanks once again to the coaches for being so generous with their time and advice. You can find their answers to other Barefoot FAQ here.

The Barefoot Beginner facebook group is growing all the time and a great place to hang out nd discuss all things barefoot/minimal realted. We are a friendly bunch and you would be made very welcome.

Jul 22

Is there method in your madness? – Chi Running coach Gray Caws

Gray CawsGray Caws is a Chi Running coach and each month is giving us his view of things from a Chi Running perspective. Here is his July post. If you would like to leave Gray a comment, he is a member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. Thanks Gray.

Last month I presented at the Barefoot Connections Conference 2013. It was a great experience and an honour to work alongside such barefoot aficionados as Barefoot Ted McDonald, Helen Hall, Matt Wallden and Joe Warne.

As the only person representing an established ‘method’ of training (Chi Running), a number of people questioned me on the pros and cons of teaching and learning a method. This indeed is something that I thought long and hard about before I decided to train as a Chi Running Instructor.

Firstly, what exactly is a method? The dictionary definition is “Method: a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one”.

There seem to be very few established running methods out there. Pose (1970s) and Chi (1999) are established methods (existed for a long time, recognised and generally accepted) whilst Vivobarefoot is newer, coming to light with the increase in minimalist and barefoot running. Each are systematic, being methodical in approach and focusing on the body as a whole system.

There are also some excellent running coaches and personal trainers who have developed their own systematic training programmes and whilst not perhaps established, I would still suggest that they are teaching a method. For the purposes of this post however I’d like to look at the benefits and pitfalls associated with established methods. I will focus on Chi Running as this is the method I am trained to teach and have most knowledge of but I expect that practitioners of other methods will relate to the following points.

One of the main benefits of an established method is the support network of registered instructors alongside other runners to share ideas with, question and learn from. Chi Running instructors have access to an instructor’s Facebook group and regularly attend face-to-face instructor weekends where the principles of the method are constantly tried, tested and developed. This ensures that we are a strong force in supporting the many students of the Chi Running technique.

Established methods tend to have supporting literature; books, articles, blogs etc. This is a great benefit as it gives the student easy access to learning, however, a plethora of information can often be a pitfall – if not from a reputable source it can be wrong and, what’s more common, correct information can be misinterpreted. An often contentious principle of Chi Running that is regularly misinterpreted is ‘the lean’. This is often taken to mean bend forward at the waist but if taken in context with the rest of the Chi Running principles it is clear that you lean your aligned posture from the ankles, allowing the hip to extend as the leg swings rearward. When I demonstrated this principle at the conference I had a number of people who came up to me afterwards to say “ah… now I get it!”.

Learning by ‘soundbites’ can also be a pitfall of a method. Information taken out of context can be misinterpreted. “Knees down, heels up” is a Chi Running drill. It is important to realise the difference between a drill and actual running. This drill emphasises the importance of not lifting the knee but allowing it to bend. Practiced on the spot, the focus is ‘lift the heel’ but when translated into movement the heel should lift naturally. A stationary arm-swing drill will focus on the elbow moving rearward. In practice the arm should swing back naturally to counterbalance forward movement. We shouldn’t be pushing or forcing anything when we run. Here you can see how taking soundbites or snippets of information out of context can be easily misinterpret. It’s important to research and understand fully the whole of the method’s teachings.

So what about the disadvantages? People often suggest that a method is not focussed on the individual. However this really does depend on the method and, perhaps more importantly, the teacher.

The Chi Running method has a solid foundation in the principles of T’ai Chi and Qigong that have stood the test of time. Exercises and movements follow guidelines that are not overly rigid making them easily adaptable for the individual. It uses drills, exercises and visualisation focusing body alignment and relaxation to allow fluid movement and flow of energy.

As an instructor I have a responsibility to question, test and challenge the method and my way of teaching. It has to work 100% for me. I am constantly learning from my own training, research and study. I have to have empathy for my students and be able to adapt my teaching, within the method’s framework, to suit individuals and groups alike. The key to a good method and the teaching of is it’s ability to empower the individual.

If you decide to choose a method of running it is important that you choose one that has a solid foundation, clear principles, is structured but not rigid, fluid and open to interpretation. Ensure that it feels right in your body and don’t be afraid to question. The important thing is that the method works for you.

© Gray Caws www.N8pt.com

You can book a Chi Running session with Gray at 10% discount through our store.

Jul 22

Meet Chirunning coach Ian Hough

I have been chatting with Ian for a while and have just added him to our list of coaches. I have said many times that Chirunning was my route into barefoot running and although my style shows influences from a number of other barefoot influences, I still consider myself a Chirunner. Here is Ian’s Biography.

Ian HoughAs the driving force behind RUNFIT, I want to share my knowlage and experience, inspire runners to complete their own personal challenges and to enjoy experiences through running and fitness. My passion for running started at a young age; representing Kent at the English schools and going on to compete at a senior level for Kent, South Of England and the City of Sheffield AC over 800m and 1500m.

After suffering a series of running related injuries that put pay to me competing i was keen to continue with running, and in an effort to prevent further injuries started to look at how to improve my running form.

In 2010 I discovered Chi Running; a technique to reduce injuries and increase efficiency. Since adopting principles of Chi Running I haven’t looked back. I was so impressed with this technique in enhancing performance that in September 2012 I went to North Carolina to train to become one of a handful of UK Certified Instructors. I offer workshops and 1-2-1 coaching in Kent and south east.
for more details go to www.runfit.co.uk or contact ian at info@runfit.co.uk tel 07904435048

Jul 22

Contender for the most amazing Xero shoes ever seen – Ian Hick’s barefoot post July 2013

Ian Hicks is a member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group and a founder member of the Wiltshire Barefoot Runners. Each month he is keeping us upto date with all things barefoot. Here is his post for July. Thanks Ian.

I have been customizing my Xero Shoes. Cutting away areas, that for me are not needed. My toes have no protection now – the more ground feel the happier my feet are. The heel has also gone as I do not need my heel protecting as I naturally land on my forefoot. I have punched holes around the midfoot to make them more flexible. This all came about after seeing a picture of a pair of Xeros with holes punched in them. I thought it was a good idea, so I decided I would cut away part of the foot arch and go for a run to test them. This process went on until I felt I had my perfect sandal. Now, I know these are not for everyone and some people will be horrified but they are truly made to measure and suit my feet and running style.

Every year at work we have a walking challenge. In previous years we have been in teams, but this year it was individuals taking part. We set ourselves a number of steps we have to complete each day. It is a very good way of monitoring how active or inactive we are. I opted for the platinum level 18,000 per day but decided this was not enough for me so I set myself a goal of 30,000 per day. There are 2,000 steps per mile, so I was aiming for 15 miles per day! This was okay on running days but on non-running days this was a struggle. I had an advantage though. I work in a warehouse, so I spend my working days on my feet running around and dashing up and down stairs.

I enjoy this challenge every year, it only lasts for 8 weeks but in that time you come to realise that the body is designed to move around all day and only rest at the end of the day. Standing and walking become very easy and natural and when I do sit down I find it very uncomfortable and unnatural.

At the end of June I started to run every day. After about a week I posted this on Chris’ facebook group “Barefoot Beginner this prompted Chris to invite me to join his “Barefoot Mile A Day” group. I have a confession, I have not been able to run every day. But I have increased the number of days I run per week from 3 – 4 to 5 – 6 times. This has been great, getting up early before work and running around 5 miles. The air is so fresh, I get home so relaxed and calm ready for the day ahead.  So thanks and sorry Chris, thanks for showing that it is okay to run more days a week and sorry I’ve been unable to run every day.

Ian Hicks2My review of the Paleo Pronativ is finished and I have sent a copy of it to Anna and David for inclusion in their next magazine. So please look out for this one.

The Wiltshire Barefoot Runners have started their training for the Chippenham Half, which is on Sunday 15th September. There are three of us taking part, all barefoot. The whole course is tarmac and flat so much easier going than our last race which was primarily gravel!

While out running the other day, two young girls drove past and beeped their horn. I politely waved and smiled as they drove past. I’m sure they must have been attracted to my good looks and the horn beeping had nothing to do with the fact that I was running barefoot!

You can leave Ian a comment or just join in the chat at out Barefoot Beginner Facebook group. We also have a facebook page for you to like and you can follow us on twitter. Happy running.

Jul 18

Barefoot running review of the We Love Manchester 10k 2013 – Greg Dimelow

Greg Dimelow is a member of the Northwest Barefooters running group and an active contributor to our Barefoot Beginner Facebook group. The group is a great place to keep up to dat with all things barefoot/minimalist related. The chat is warm and friendly. We don’t put up with anything less. Come and join in.

Here is Greg’s barefoot review of the We Love Manchester 10k 2013

I got a number and ran. The route is well at best boring…..at worst disinteresting…sorry but that’s about it. If you want a start and finish in a stadium then its great. Tons of support and crowd opportunities along the way then its great. But other than that, boring route.

Ok start again. Smile…breathe….smile again …feel positive…..


The route started in the Etihad running stadium and gave the opportunity for spectators to enjoy a great view. We had to do a full loop then 3/4 of a loop of the track before hitting the roads around the city stadium. The conditions underfoot where less than conducive to barefoot running. Small stones, smashed Tarmac and lots of broken glass ! But as I had laid down the challenge that if a very fast runner would go slow with me I would go fully barefoot …..well the gauntlet had been laid so …….I picked it up ….when am I going to learn !?!

The run takes in 2 loops around the local area and is quite flat so a Pb course is on offer. I started completely at the back …no really I was still chilling out and chatting as everybody else set off that much that nearly everybody had done half a lap of the track before I even started walking…..barefoot running is great for your ego as you are a hero even at walking pace ! Lol

We hit the streets and started passing people to various shouts of ” your mad” and ” your brave round here ” ….now being used to running barefoot in Manchester the course held no fear for me ! …….well I have just done a fell race bf so roads ! Pah ! For amateurs……

I did great and felt great so at 6 ish k I threw my hand made hurraches to a spectator I knew. Then BAM ! Around the corner smashed broken glass,duffed Tarmac and cheese grater pavements …….OMG ! ( not lightly used I assure you ) there was nowhere to barefoot ! Now remember my running buddy who threw the gauntlet down…well by now he had started to realise what I was looking for as a surface and he appreciated what I have been saying for months ( BFer in the making I tell you!) and he just looked at me and said…….oh bugger ! Chuckling away and replying ouch ouch ouch I just bent my knees and hit the glass !

Approaching the stadium I got concerned with my target of sub hour so picked up the pace as I turned into the grounds…..my pacer ( Jamie ) shouted 58 mins……I’m not going to make it ! ………bend knees,……good form……..lean from the ankles…..feel the speed ! Feel the speed! ….. Hit the tartan ! Look to the finish…..lean more…..trust me if I had leant more from my ankles my shins would of scraped the floor ! Sprint finish ……cross the line ! I did it finished a rough as road 10 k fully barefoot…but what about the time 59:42 ! Whoohoo ! Result !

Then the queue for the not so goody bag…..ages !

As for a barefoot review …would I do it again ? …..not at full price, get an early entry and get it cheap, do it with friends for the chuckle its great!

I would rate the course underfoot as BBB (Difficult) as there was nowhere to hide from the cheese grater road.

I would like to thank my pacer/ challenger/ water mule Jamie cook for a great run……for somebody who can go sub 35 mins for a 10 to go as slow as I do was very supportive thank you !

We are slowly and steadily building up a list of barefoot race reviews to help those looking for a barefoot friendly event. We would love to hear from you if you would like to submit your views. You can use the contact form at the top of the page or use our facebook group.

Jul 15

A barefoot mile a day (Well almost) – from barefoot runner Tim Hines

8734992546_34501cc1b1_mTim Hines is a member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group and a founder member of the Northwest Barefooters running group. He is posting his barefoot adventures for us each month. Thanks Tim.

Another month goes by in a flash and it is with deep regret and a fair dose of shame that I admit that I have not run every day this month. I missed my run a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday after a great day out with my family. I’m embarrassed and will tender my resignation to the Facebook group “a barefoot mile a day”.

Apart from this one disgraceful transgression, or omission, I have managed to get out every day. How absurd. I genuinely cannot remember ever running for all but one day out of two months. I can remember sitting on a sofa playing PlayStation with that kind of dedication but not running.

At this point I am tempted to launch into the standard dialogue for us formerly injured shod runners who have found salvation in a less footwear-lead life, but I will resist the temptation. I shall resist the urge to point out that I could never have managed this before I started barefooting. Then, of course, running “a barefoot mile a day” would definitely have been impossible in the days before I ran barefoot.

My favourite barefoot run this month was dancing along the cliffs of Whitsand Bay in Cornwall, for a rapid mile after a bit of kayaking in the surf. The kayaking having been ended prematurely by an RNLI boat with two very polite men in it asking me to leave the military exclusion zone as there was a live firing exercise about to start. That was a real shame as the waves were much better there, but probably not worth risking getting arrested or shot. Close, but not quite worth it. So I returned to my car and packed up, before seeing the little coast path sign and feeling obliged to hit the trail barefoot. What a great way to spend a morning.

Other barefoot travels this month have led me to consider the North South divide in a barefoot context.

Now before I start on such a divisive subject, let me set out my credentials for commenting on it. I’m from the South West, which, although not explicitly stated in the official documentation on the NS divide, is clearly not included. Anything west of Bristol is in a different divide, whereby we just think anyone on the other side is either northern, Scottish or cockney. Similarly, both northerners and southerners seek to think that the South West is just full of farmers and people who make cream teas (not far from the truth, if you exclude all of the people who’ve relocated for a “change of pace”).

In addition to being from an excluded territory, I have lived for a reasonable period in the South East and in the North West, with a few years in between living in the Caribbean as a palate cleanser.

Anyway, what struck me this weekend as I ran around in Greater London, barefoot and soaking up the sun, was the lack of comments. I ran past so many people, unsurprisingly given what a glorious day it was, and only one person made a comment. They said something along the lines of “you’re brave”. Which made it quite clear that they had no idea how I feel in the night when I hear a strange noise. On a sunny day in Greater Manchester, I am confident I would have attracted more comments from strangers.

So are they less willing to comment about the strange bloke with no shoes, sunburnt forearms and a tattoo because they’re scared? Or less friendly? Or are they more used to seeing progress in the world around them and therefore less inclined to exclaim at the sight of a barefoot runner as they’ve seen it all before?

As well as leaving a comment for Tim in our facebook group, you can also visit and like our facebook page and follow us on twitter.

Jul 10

Add some speed to your running – Lou Nicholettos

Our Barefoot Beginner facebook group now has over 300 members. It is a great place to keep up to date with all things barefoot/minimalist related. The chat is warm and friendly. You will be made very welcome. Join here.

We also have a facebook page for you to like (I usually post things here first) and you can follow us in twitter.


So you’ve mastered a decent 180 cadence, you’re running tall and relaxed and you’re putting in consistent mileage… what comes next?

Runners usually start looking at running technique with a purpose in mind. The ‘big two’ that I hear repeatedly are 1) to reduce their risk of injury and 2) to get faster.

When transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running, speed will usually decrease in the early stages as changing how your run requires a certain amount of concentration and restraint. As people start to master efficient technique they often start to gradually increase mileage. Now they’re running well and over a decent distance but speed is seemingly forgotten about.

When I do gait analysis I deliberately look at different speeds of running. It’s really common that a runner will be able to maintain decent-ish technique at slower speeds, but as I challenge them to speed up they revert to bending forwards from the waist and over-striding.

Working on technique can help with speed, but playing with speed may actually also help with technique. Runners often get  ‘stuck in one gear’ whereby they always train at the same pace. It’s really important to become proficient at different speeds whether you want to be a competitive runner or just want to run well with efficient technique.

LouHere’s a couple of ways to improve speed with technique and to improve technique by using different speeds in training:

1)    Add speed bursts to your steady-state runs.

Adding quick bursts of acceleration will help you to recruit different muscle fibres and provide your technique with a pick-me-up. Try throwing in bursts of 15-30 seconds of faster running. For example, if you’re training at Marathon pace pick up the pace to 1/2M or 10k pace. These bursts will help you to run taller, increase you’re cadence and invigorate your running as you’re starting to fatigue. Space the bursts out by at least a mile or 10-15mins and include 2-3 per run.

2) Become proficient at slow speeds

Maintaining a quick cadence at slow speeds can help you to master relaxation and learn to move with the least amount of energy expenditure. Try running at around 4miles per hour (or 15minute-mile pace) whilst maintaining a 180 cadence. Run tall and relaxed with minimal effort.

3) Work on technique to run faster.

Finally, improving technique can be a great tool for increasing speed. A really important aspect of technique for speed is what we call ‘posterior chain engagement’ or put more simply, how well you use your hamstrings and glutes to propel you forwards. For this purpose I use a number of drills plus some conditioning exercises. The pull drill shown here is a really simple place to start. It gives you a feel for using your hamstrings to pick your foot up. If you leave your foot in contact with the ground for too long you create excess leverage and slow yourself down. After performing the drill you should feel your running gets a little boost of extra speed.

 Check out Lou’s Cornwall Physio site at http://www.cornwallphysio.co.uk/

Jul 05

Form, Distance and now the barefoot speed is starting to show itself

Our Barefoot Beginner facebook group now has around 300 members. It is a great place to keep up to date with all things barefoot/minimalist related. The chat is warm and friendly. You will be made very welcome. Join here.

We also have a facebook page for you to like (I usually post things here first) and you can follow us in twitter.

Since beginning to barefoot run, I have not really worried about speed and running quickly. My reasons for barefoot running were all to do with injury prevention and to be honest, I have just been grateful to run consistently and without fear.

Over the past year, I have completely changed my running form from a bouncy, loping style to a pitter-patter that I sometimes feel I could maintain for hours.

My bouncy, loping style was fast though. I was never going to win any races but my pbs were 38 mins for a 10k and 1hr 28 mins for a half marathon. I would usually be somewhere in the top quarter of races and enjoyed running against my club mates in our own competitive championship.

I discovered interval training and ran half mile repeats on a section of road near home. I loved the feeling of being on the edge of what I could manage and to be powering along.

All that vanished in a long, sorry tale of calf injuries and I was finally at the point of hanging up my running shoes for good. (That wasn’t meant to be literal)

The new challenge has simply been to run without hurting myself. It has taken patience and although I am not there yet, I am feeling a little more like my old speedy self.

Alot of the barefoot running advice I respect, talks about a 3 stage process.

  • Form

  • Distance

  • Speed

You cannot put one in front of the other as you relearn how to run.

Form is everything to begin with. I started out convinced that I could study books and videos and change my form whilst running in shoes. A metronome helped but I still picked up injuries. At this stage, I was still in footwear and looking back, it may have been that I was just running too fast. Becoming a true barefooter has slowed me down and my form has improved as my soles feel what is underneath them. I ran a couple of days ago, half barefoot and half in RunAmoks. My barefoot miles were between 11 and 13 minute mile pace and my shod miles were just under 9 minute mile pace. I only found this out when I looked at my log when got home.

Distance – I also ran too far when I started out. I have spent the last year slowly building up my barefoot distance to the point where I have just completed a barefoot half marathon. Taking my shoes off has made me limit my distance. I try not to run any further in shoes than I can manage barefoot and it has served me well.

Speed – I have always read that if you look after the form and the distance, the speed will come. Well, I can say that it has started to arrive. I first became aware of it when running up hills near home. I found myself unconsciously increasing my cadence and flying along. My head stayed remarkably level and there was no hint of a bounce in my stride. I did a 2 mile relay race with friends and enjoyed seeing how quickly I could run. I was amazed when it was my lack of fitness that limited my speed rather than my feet. My heart and lungs couldn’t keep up. I took that as a good sign.

I am running barefoot everyday and to mix things up, I have started to include that half mile repetition route into my runs. I only do it if I am in the mood but I am finding that I look forward to it. My legs and feet  have a couple of niggles in response but nothing that I am concerned about. It just feels like they are waking up and ready for this next step.

I do worry about standing on a stone at speed but I have found that I am more vigilant than ever and I am convinced that because running at speed is so unforgiving, my form is better. It has to be. My cadence goes way above 180 bpm when I am at speed but I don’t worry about that.

I feel like I need a 5k to have a really good go at. I will look for a night race over the summer.

I love barefoot running. Without it, I would have become just another broken runner.

Xero Shoes - Lots of Feet - 728 x 90



Jul 03

12. Barefoot sprinting – Does my cadence need to increase?

There is a Barefoot Beginner facebook page for you to visit and like. There is also a Barefoot Beginner group which acts a bit like a forum. It is a good place to comment and join in the chat. You will be made very welcome. Follow us on twitter here.

Ian Hicks is one of our regular contributors. You can read his monthly posts here. In our facebook group, he asked this question about barefoot sprinting.

Question: For barefoot sprinting does cadence need to get higher, stride length get longer or a combination of the two? I’ve started sprinting over 200m on tarmac and love it, no blisters! But I’m only increasing my cadence, is there more to it than this?

I suggested that he contact Steven Sashen from Xero shoes as I know that he is a sprinter. He also got an excellent response from Rene Borg of Champions Everywhere. Ian’s question also prompted a post on Barefoot Beginner by Chirunning coach Gray Caws.

Steven Sashen from Xero shoes

Some of the biomechanical goals of sprinting are similar to any sort of barefoot running:

1) You don’t want to overstride, but land with your foot closer to your center of mass
2) You want your feet to be moving when they touch the ground at the speed you’re moving across the ground (so you’re not braking or “landing”)
3) You want to get your feet off the ground quickly

If you stick with those points, you won’t try to arbitrarily lengthen your stride (that’ll turn into overstriding). But your stride will be longer when you sprint… simply as an effect of running faster and applying more force into the ground when you sprint vs. slower running.
For real sprinting, there’s another biomechanical event that is arguably similar to barefoot running: a forefoot landing.

The difference, though, is that for sprinting your heel should never touch the ground. But for regular barefoot running, there’s no reason for it not to.
Your cadence will, of course, increase when you run faster than usual. But this “push off” thing is highly misunderstood. In short: There’s no such thing. It’s an optical illusion.
If you look at a sprinter’s landing and take off on a force plate, the maximum force occurs in mid-stance. After that, the amount of force on the ground drops dramatically. By the time the sprinter is in a position where you would see them seemingly push off with their toes, there’s actually almost no force on the ground. The plantar flexion (toe pointing) you see, has zero effect on speed and is just an artifact. It’s not an active thing that you do.
Now many runners, when they try to sprint, think that they’re supposed to push off with their toes. Nope. Don’t do it.
Like barefoot running, when you sprint you want to think of lifting your foot off the ground by flexing at the hip, not by pushing with your foot/calf.

In other words, cadence and stride length have nothing to do with this part of the gait cycle… you simply don’t want to “scrape” your foot or “cycle” your leg. You want to hit the ground and get off of it as fast as possible.
And “push off” keeps your foot on the ground too long (and, again, for no reason).

Quick story: I was at a barefoot 5k and at the end of the race, some guy shows me the bottom of his foot… every toe was ripped raw. He said, “I guess I need to toughen up my feet.” “No,” I said, “you need to stop running like you have to wipe something off your toes with every step!”

Same thing here — if you’re getting blisters, you’re simply applying unnecessary horizontal force to the ground.

Without seeing you run and giving you real time coaching, the only thing I
can say is: CUT THAT OUT!

Experiment and see how you can get your feet off the ground faster without wiping/scraping them. You might want to do this at 80% of your full speed… then, once that’s comfy, at 85%, then 90%, then 95%, then full speed.

Keep me posted.

Feel The World!

-Steven Sashen, CEO
Xero Shoes • Original Barefootware

Rene BorgRene Borg of Champions Everywhere

Hi guys, my sprinting is almost “too slow” on the video to be “real sprinting” (not a fast-twitch fibre in my body!) but essentially what we teach in our coaching model about the difference is this:

1) Sprinting involves much higher forces than running and thus you have to land on your toes (rather than mid-foot/forefoot depending on the terminology you use) with each step and…

2) The cadence in sprinting can easily go over 240 strides per minute. There are a few other subtle differences but they are the main ones. It’s worth remembering that the transition from running to sprinting is fluid and individual – if you notice middle-distance runners will approximate sprint paces and at some stage in each race their cadence moves beyond 180 and up towards 195 or higher. The same for runners running downhill. It’s a natural response to mounting ground reaction force. You’ll notice the moment you begin landing directly on your toes, there is zero heel contact. This video (about 55 secs in), shows it well:

The debate about push-off versus pull-off is pretty rampant on the internet these days and it seems to come down to a disagreement about terminology. By the laws of physics there is some degree of “push-off” required in all running and sprinting, even correctly executed, but the key is that it should be “reflexive” and runners and coaches who focus on coaching push-off tend to end up with sticky or injured runner (we did in the early days using the Lydiard hill circuits with over-active pushoff, knee drive etc.). We dismissed this once I began working with Tony Riddle and changed our focus to the pull (i.e. think about getting off the ground) with no knee drive. There are different cues you can adopt to go this direction, all that seems certain to me is that if you coach an active push-off in running and sprinting you’ll generally not get the response you are looking for from the athlete. The mainstream view is still to coach active push-off and knee drive and this is what was taught at the UKA (so the mainstream view). Having seen the facts in practice working with Tony, we could no longer support this but you’ll notice it is a contentious issue if you research it.

I love barefoot sprinting myself and try to do it once per week. Some clients we have cannot quite take quite handle that amount of force, however, so if you’re a coach or looking for a coach, it’s best to build up to it. If you can find a coach who can teach very good jumping mechanics and knows how to progress the difficulty (i.e. jumping from heights etc.). We mixed in elements from both traditional Russian athletics, parkour and free running (all of the latter came from Ben Medder) to achieve this. We saw great results when Jason Kehoe made his comeback finishing 2nd in a mountain race in Ireland after a blistering descent off the back of mainly technical training compared with free-running/MovNat style workouts (but tailored a bit to be specific to mountain running where possible)

Champions Everywhere

Thankyou to Steven and Rene for being so generous with their responses.

You can see Ian’s original facebook question here. A good place to carry on the chat.