Monday, April 28, 2014

Wanting to Run Barefoot? Here's how! - Phase 2

This is a continuation from Phase 1, please take the time to read it before jumping into this post!

Your Next Steps

You've done your reading and your pre-strengthening exercises and you're ready to take the plunge into minimalist running, so let's do it!

First thing to do now is figure out where you're at along the horizontal axis of the Minimalist Progression Scale below. Your goal is to progress rightward along the scale and downward, until you reach your desired result.
Start slowly by either incorporating a short period of fore-foot running into a longer run, or go out for couple minute 'minimalist run' (MR). In both cases you should start at the top of the vertical axis (0-2 min) and focus on proper form - light, quick, short strides. To help facilitate the fore-foot strike you can try moving one level to the right for your MRs. If you do this, you may want to stick with your typical shoes/style for your normal longer runs, that way you don't overdo it. For your MRs, only go as long as you are able to maintain that proper form otherwise you risk injuring yourself. And only progress when you're comfortable with that time and distance.

Progression should always follow the 10% percent rule. Just keep in mind that you will be changing both the distance ran and what you are running in and since the latter is a big change it's advisable to  decrease your time/distance when shifting right along the scale. Even starting again at the 0-2 minute mark is not unreasonable! Starting slowly will ensure a safe and happy transition to a minimalist running style.

Take Home Message: Find your current horizontal axis category and shift one to the right. Now increase time and distance in that category starting from 0-2 min. When you've reached an acceptable target distance, shift one more category to the right, and start again from the top of the vertical axis. Repeat as needed!

If you haven't been running recently at all, or are just getting into running and are wanting to go minimalist then you will want to start farther along the scale to the right and just progress slowly. You may even want to start at the Phase 3 Barefoot stage as suggested by So those of you who run a lot don't get jealous and try to skip ahead, it's easier to start running in this new form as a new runner, than it is to transition to a different running style. This is due to the potential muscle imbalances that you must overcome and rectify during the transition.

A Note About Form

Although it is called a fore-foot strike and you are supposed to land on your fore-foot first, some people think that they should only land on their fore-foot, but this just sets you up for problems. Try landing first with the fore-foot and then allowing the mid-foot to come into contact with the ground in a controlled manner. The heel can contact after this (if you're going slowly), but very little force should be applied.

Another way of encouraging that fore-foot strike is to run faster. If you've ever watched sprinters run, you'll have noticed that they're landing on their toes the entire time; this is just natural when you run that fast. So feel free to increase your speed a little, but be aware that with increasing speed comes increasing loading of the calf etc, so it may be smart to reduce the length of your MR.


The key to any great training program it to recover properly. This involves allowing sufficient time between work-outs and can include other recovery techniques such as stretching, rolling, massage or icing.

You'll likely notice that your calves and foot muscles are more sore than usual after you first start running with a minimalist style. This is normal as you're using a part of your body more than you did before. However, there are some things you can do to help those muscles recover:
Stretch after a MR, specifically the muscles of the calf, the arches of your feet and your hamstrings.

A golf ball can be quite helpful to massage out the arches. Another helpful trick is to use a small foam roller (or Trigger Point Quadballer or poly-carbonate water bottle) to roll out the calf muscles. This one always hurts so good, so be gentle.

For painful DOMS in the foot and calf muscles ice (or ice-baths) can be used. Remember not to stretch right after icing!!

A good massage therapist is always a welcome addition to any recovery regime. They'll be able to work out some of those knots that stretching and rolling just can't get at. Self-massage can also be a good idea if you know what you're doing. When booking a massage keep in mind that you will want a couple days of rest (ie. no running!) around the massage date. My suggestion would be at least no running for 1 day before and 1 day after the massage - 2 after preferred. This allows those muscles to really relax and stretch out. Gentle stretching recommended during this period.

Take Home Message: Recovery is extremely important! Rest and stretch it out after a hard work-out.

Happy running!
Check back for Part 3 of your guide to barefoot running.

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