Barefoot seems like a great way to run but you need to work your way to it, writes Deepthi Velkur.
Barefoot and minimalist shoe running is slowly but surely gaining popularity despite substantial advances in shoe technology alongside enhanced shoe features like better cushioning, motion control, and even the arrival of special fitness shoes. Running barefoot strengthens your feet, helps you feel more connected to the ground and is definitely more fun.
Barefoot running can be quite a dreadful experience at first as your feet will be weak, so taking it slow is the way to go. When your feet touch the ground, make sure you land on your mid-foot or the ball of your feet followed by the toes and then the heel touching the ground. It easily takes anywhere between several weeks to months to build up the strength necessary for faster or longer running.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you start out running barefoot –
- Take baby steps– Muscles in your body take about 6 – 8 weeks to adapt to something new. For the first 4 weeks, do walk barefoot for 20 – 30 mins a day. The next 4 weeks focus on running short distances on smooth surfaces like a few laps around a park or an easy jog around a soft indoor track. Once you are more comfortable, gradually increase the distance every week and move on to running on hard surfaces. Keep a close check on how your feet are adapting to the new surface to avoid injury.
- Maintaining a good form– When you start running barefoot, you also need to focus on training your body on how to run with a good form. Skipping, toe-up drill or the lean drill are a few exercises you could try in training. Doing these drills ensures your running efficiency, help in striking the ground properly and staying injury-free.
- Feel the ground– By wearing protective shoes all along, your feet find it difficult in sensing the ground. Try and include ‘feel the ground activities’ such as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, using a balance disc / pillow at the gym or bouncing on one leg on a mini trampoline a few times a week.
- Be Flexible– You might feel some tightness or pain in the Achilles tendon. Making the back of your leg flexible with calf stretches or foam rolling helps during the transition to barefoot running.
- Strong Feet– By doing a lot of balancing exercises, you can strengthen your feet. This can be achieved by standing on one leg, rolling your entire body weight from the outside to the inside of the foot and back.
- Plyometrics– Since your feet have been cushioned with shoes, feeling the impact of the ground with barefoot running becomes a challenge. Plyometrics are exercises which include hop or skip with one or two legs, side to side hops or single leg box jump are good for preparing you for barefoot running.
Using the above tips will help in a smooth transition to barefoot running by reducing the tiredness in your knees and hips after a run or workout, helps in feeling the ground during a run and increasing the joy of running barefoot.