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How to Run Barefoot

Updated on June 16, 2011

No Shoes!


Barefoot Instructions

Running barefoot is actually quite different from running with shoes on (unless you're making use of barefoot shoes). In the same way that mittens would hamper us if we tried to type with them on, shoes hamper our natural running rhythm. If you'd like to "re-learn" how to run barefoot it's best to start simple.

Pick a clean cut field or soft padded area that you think will comfortable for your feet, choosing a circuit you know well would be a smart place to start. Rugged, bump or dangerous terrain is not recommended for your first experience barefoot running. Relax, pick your path and start running as you normally would.

Starting from the top down; your head should be straight up along with your torso and your hips. There should be no hunching forward or leaning back. You want the upper half of your body completely upright. This is important for alignment and balance as you run.

As you start your run keep your toes in mind as they will be some of the more exposed areas. A sprained toe could severely hamper your barefoot running attempts so it's best to start cautiously and aim to to gently curve the toes upward to avoid stubbing.

As you do start running your actual steps should be a lot lighter and shorter than the traditional stride. Your running cadence should be more rapid instead of the loping thuds we usually associate with running. By making the strides shorter and quicker you avoid landing with excess weight on your heels and instead use a lighter load on top of your entire foot.

Work on lifting your legs up higher and kicking back – completing each and every movement purposefully. Your knees should retain a slight bend through out the entire stride, don't let the knee hyper-extend. There's no need to push your foot into the ground as gravity will take care of that. You should be feeling a quick, light and springy step as you move, not a bouncing up and down feeling.

To balance your body, pump gently with your arms in opposition to your legs. You should have a gently closed fist to remove any pressure within your arms (remember stay relaxed). Use your eyes to spot dangerous objects and focus on a light full body movement.

The feeling will take a little getting used, especially if you're a long time runner used to traditional running shoes. The most important thing is to listen to your body while at the same time remember to relax the joints and let it run in a natural manner. Running barefoot can be tough on the arches and the soles in particular if you're not used to using them as much.

You may find that you still heel strike if you let your focus go. None of these are significant problems, just correct the movement and continue on your way. Be aware of the ground under your feet, the terrain and what your soles are telling you. Push yourself to achieve (not too hard) and you'll be running barefoot in no time.

Heel Strike Explanation


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