As promised, top five barefoot running tips.

This is a tip list for those who are interested in trying out shoe-less running, courtesy of barefoot runner Robert Shackelford. You can read his story in yesterday’s post.

5 BAREFOOT RUNNING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

1. LOSE THE SHOES!

Regardless what the media tells you, running with something on your feet is in no way similar to barefoot running. Your running will progress so much faster due to the feedback the soles of your feet will give you. A common issue with those starting out is what is referred to “top of foot pain” (TOFP), which occurs when you do much more than your feet are able to handle.

Your feet have been supported by shoes all your life and so it is unrealistic to go out and run six miles without that support. Scrap whatever mileage you have built up to and start all over. And I mean all over!

Try just walking around the house for a day while barefoot and see how you feel the next day. Maybe do a slow jog for a 1/4 mile and then see how you feel the next day. More than likely your calves will become sore as well as the arch of your feet. I can’t stress this enough – start off very slowly!

2. IGNORE THE MEDIA AND SO-CALLED EXPERTS.

There are a lot of articles out there telling people how to start barefoot running. After reading quite a few of these, I have my doubts that these people actually run barefoot themselves. Most of these people will tell you to start off on grass but I strongly disagree with this, as will most barefoot runners that have been at this for a while. In fact, grass is on the bottom of the list of surfaces that I enjoy running on.

As a new barefoot runner, your ankles are probably fairly weak due to years of wearing shoes. Grassy surfaces are usually uneven and can cause you to roll an ankle quite easily if you are not careful. Also grass can hide harmful objects which can put you on the shelf for a few days.

I am lucky enough to live near some pretty awesome beaches and built up my mileage there. Not the soft sand like you would expect, but the hard packed sand right where the water is. Not only is the sand hard enough to get a good gauge on how you are landing, but your footprints can be a good measure of how you are doing.

Your footprints should be fairly uniform and your toes should not be digging into the sand. Also check and see if the heel print is deeper than the forefoot. This could mean that you are landing heel first, which should be corrected. Again, your footprints should be fairly light and uniform. On a good day when I have everything working for me, I just see a light outline of where I am landing. These are the days I enjoy, as the running is seemingly effortless.

If you want some great advice on barefoot running, go read Ken Bob Saxton’s site.

3. RUN SILENT.

This is good to do even if you are running in shoes. That thudding sound you hear? That is being felt in all of your joints. I like playing a game with this and seeing if I can run completely silent and not have people or animals hear me coming. It’s actually cool to run up right behind someone and state “on your left” and have them nearly jump out of their shoes. Ninja running. I also enjoy running along a trail and having the local wildlife such as rabbits and birds not even notice me or at least pretend not to care.

4. HAVE FUN.

Look at children running around and most will have a big grin on their faces as they race. Why can’t we as adults do the same? I still catch myself running around with a big grin on my face sometimes and could care less what people think, which leads me to my next point.

5. IGNORE EVERYBODY.

When I first started, I could have sworn that everyone was staring at the loony without the shoes and that everyone was talking behind my back. This just isn’t so. Sure, you will get a few comments. But I have found that the majority of people are inquisitive and generally positive.

Have fun with the questions and try not to be defensive. And if you happen to get a negative comment thrown you way, just ignore it. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing, that’s all that should matter.

If you’d like, you can ignore everything I’ve written above and just follow the advice from Caballo Blanco in the book Born to Run:

Easy – If it’s not easy, you’re working too hard. Slow down, take smaller steps, and simplify.

Light – Be light on your feet. Your joints aren’t made to POUND into the ground.

Smooth – Make your movements smooth and efficient. Excessive bouncing wastes energy. You want to move forward, not up.

Fast – Fast will happen naturally when you master easy, light, and smooth.