No matter what barefoot running method you use, there are some important principles you should keep in mind. By doing so, you will run further, avoid injury, and most importantly, enjoy it.
The heel strike is the most potentially injury-inducing aspect of traditional running form. Unfortunately, you have probably been heel-striking all of your life. Now that you’re a barefoot runner, those days are done. ALWAYS land on the middle of your foot.
Your stride will probably be shorter, but that is just fine. It will take your foot and leg muscles a little while to adapt to the correct style of running, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t run as long or as far as you could before. Once those muscle are conditioned, you will be running better than ever. To see the Harvard Medical study showing just how terrible the heel-strike is, check out this page: Will I get injured barefoot running?
In order to better understand the concept behind a midfoot strike, consider the cheetah. As you are well aware, the cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet. In analyzing the cheetah’s running style, we find a few interesting things we can apply to our own running.
First of all, when the cheetah’s paws make contact with the ground, it doesn’t “strike” the ground. Instead, it “skims” the ground.
As indicated by the arrow and red highlight, the cheetah’s paw makes only light contact with the surface. We can apply this to our own running efficiency by understanding that the heel strike stops motion, while a midfoot strike continues momentum. When you heel strike while running, you kill your own momentum with each step. The midfoot strike works with your motion, rather than against it.
You can also see another very important point illustrated in the diagram above. The cheetah, like nearly all animals built for speed, doesn’t even have a heel. None. This is because the heel is inefficient and unnecessary in any type of running. Whether you prefer long distance treks or interval sprints, eliminating the heel strike will greatly increase your speed and mechanical efficiency.
While the midfoot strike is the golden rule of good running form, there are many other technical aspects that should be considered. When beginning, it’s important that you choose a specific style (such as Pose Running) and study proper form. Ideally, you should get a certified running coach that can observe and teach you based on your individual posture and gait.
Mega bounce? Ultra-cushion? Shock absorbing technology? Just say NO! If you would like to run efficiently and injury free, you will have to ditch the traditional running shoes. These shoes promote the heel-strike and go against natural running form. A high price does not mean better shoes. People will buy these shoes because giant and evil shoe companies (we won’t name names) spend millions on advertisements convincing people the newest shoe is the best. This simply isn’t true.
The principle reason athletic shoes should not be word is heel elevation. A cursory glance at any typical athletic shoe will reveal that the heel is significantly higher than the midfoot.
This elevated heel causes the body to naturally compensate by striking the ground with the heel. Shoe companies have recognized that this causes a great amount of force, and thus they have attempted to reduce the impact by increasing “cushioning”. It’s not that traditional athletic shoes are designed poorly, but rather that the designers are aiming at the wrong target. Instead of trying to lessen the total force of the heel strike, shoes should eliminate the heel strike altogether and promote midfoot landing. Barefoot running shoes accomplish just that. By way of a neutral base, the foot lands in the efficient way it was intended: on the midfoot.
Most of us run on sidewalks, public tracks, and the occasional field or trail. No matter where you run, there is a good chance there will be some unfriendly things on your route. Stepping on glass, sharp stones, or even smaller pebbles can cut your feet and leave you couch-bound until the wounds heal.
To solve this, you need to get a quality pair of barefoot shoes that protect your feet without impairing form. For beginners, we recommend the New Balance shoes or the Vibram Five Fingers shoes.
To see read some in-depth analysis of the best barefoot running shoes, visit our review page and select your experience level. After all, what fun is running if you can’t run?
Want to try barefoot running, but not sure how? Here is the ultimate guide to barefoot running that you don’t want to miss!