Having read around the subject of barefoot mechanics/running for a few months, I am now reconstructing my approach to the treatment of running injuries. I have personally ditched the orthotics and have been running in minimalist shoes for 2 or 3 months – to my amazement, the shin splints which have plagued me all my adult life have vanished! I do however have a couple of questions which I hope you will be able to clarify:
In your experience, are mild forefoot aches and pains a normal adaptation response in runners who change from a heel to forefoot strike in a minimalist shoe? There seems to be some scaremongering (particularly amongst the podiatry fraternity) that forefoot running may lead to metatarsal stress fracture. I am yet to see good evidence of this.
From personal experience, changing to a forefoot strike puts significant eccentric stress on an unconditioned soleus causing aching which no doubt will diminish over time with adaptation. Do you recommend supplementing this new running pattern with an eccentric calf loading program such as the Alfredson protocol or similar, or do you simply advise your clients to take it easy and nudge up their mileage slowly.
Thanks in advance.
Building adequate strength, flexibility and elasticity in the plantar arch and achilles is of paramount importance. Jumping rope barefoot is an excellent drill for conditioning this area. The eccentric strain experienced is normal but I would allow 72hrs between each barefoot session to optimise recovery. Metatarsal stress fractures are coming in POSE runners due to ‘active landing’ ie adding muscle action to gravitational acceleration but are rare in true barefoot technique. I would suggest looking at Steven Robbins MD website and research for anatomical aspects of barefoot running.
I had been an avid runner for years but have not run in the past 3 years due to heel pain that would not go away- I was on vacation and read Born to Run and I am now re energized to begin the barefoot running technique- I started doing the drills Lee recommends and have been running barefoot in a gym for the last week, 3 days per week, doing quarter mile runs up to a mile and have been going without shoes while at my house- I was wondering how long before I should go out with my new VIVOBAREFOOT shoes? should I wait for my feet to get acclimated while going barefoot? also, what discomfort should I expect when starting the barefoot technique- the only thing I have felt so far is strain around my ankles but that only lasted a few days- thanks for your help
You are now ready for a mile outside with your VIVOBAREFOOT shoes! Try to stay relaxed and bouncy (cadence 180bpm) and make sure your heel lightly touches the ground . Keeping the heel elevated will strain your calves/achilles. I recommend you leave 72hrs between each run to allow your muscles and tendons to adapt.
I was recently introduced to barefoot running after recovering from an injury, so I’m breaking into it slowly. I’m bad at squatting and getting my butt parallel with the floor without raising my toes off the ground takes a lot of concentration. Besides continuing to practice, what else should I try? Should I work on strengthening my quads and my lower back, maybe? Or could it be that I am too inflexible and need to learn some new stretches?
I’m eager to hear your advice.
Thank you very much,
The squat is a very important ‘motor skill milestone’ that develops the strength and flexibility required in the ankles and hips for barefoot running. There really is no substitute for squatting and most flexibility problems are ‘software problems’ due to lack of use rather than an anatomical ‘hardware’ problem. Try squatting whilst holding onto a support (bannister, table leg etc) until you become more skilfull. I strongly suggest conquering the squat before moving on to running.
I have a right leg shorter than the left one. I enjoy running and I used to run with nike shoes worn with my compensation sole. I have severely harmed my left knee 2 years ago. I would like to start running again and try VIVOBAREFOOT running shoes. I have to keep my compensaton sole inside a shoe if I don’ t want my right ankle to hurt. Could I wear VIVOBAREFOOT with my sole ? The effects won’ t be less effective ? I hope I won’ t harm me something once again.
Thank you for your response??,
I suggest you master barefoot walking and the squat before trying to run. If you experience pain from these movements then I am fairly certain running will be even more painful.
The secret to running with a limb length discrepancy is to land on the forefoot and keep the knees flexed (more on the left) to level the pelvis.
I love your training videos! Thanks so much for taking the time to prepare them!
I have flat feet and normally wear orthotics. I find that my feet are sore after running with regular shoes and orthotics.
Do you think barefoot running is today for flat footed folks? I’d like to give it a try!
I think barefoot running is perfect for ‘flat feet’. A natural foot has strong intrinsic muscles that provide an arch when it is not loaded (no weight applied) but the same muscles and the plantar fascia are flexible enough to allow the foot to be ‘flat’ when loaded. This a natural,flexible, elastic foot that is perfect for shock absorption and the best way to develop this is barefoot running. Start with a mile and do not run more frequently than every 72hrs so your body can recover fully between runs.
Love the training vids! Thanks so much. I always thought with squats that you wanted to keep your knees behind your toes and weight on heels to protect your knees. Thoughts on the different approach? You feel it’s healthy for knees?
Conventional squatting wisdom is as you describe. This is based on emg studies /muscle activation. Biomechanically the body is designed to absorb high loads through the ball of the foot. To illustrate my point just jump up and down in barefoot and feel what happens.
I got your email from the VIVOBAREFOOT website.
I just got about 2 weeks ago a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes and I am using them for crossfit which involves weight lifting drills and running although our running wont go over a mile every now and then I Started to feel like a fatigue pain at my lower calfs and i think is starting to afect my shins as well, i might be doing something wrong . like today we did some power cleans then 50 squads and then a 400 meter run for 3 rounds and after my last run and rest i could fell some pain.
Any adviced would be highly appreciated.
Sounds like you are over supinating (lateral forefoot strike). Get someone to film you running. It is essential your foot is flat when loaded and you try to land ‘under your hips’ not in front.
Dear Mr. Saxby,
having just started running in my new VIVOBAREFOOT Neos, I really enjoy the experience
(although it is still a brief one – less than one k as of this morning) and your informative instruction videos. Thank you!
I have still have one technical question though. When I run, I seem to land with the outer edge of my foot (beginning under my small toe) first, then landing on the ball of foot. You advise landing on the ball of the foot, which, if I tried to do that, would result in me rotating my foot inwards in an artificial way.
Some of the runners in your videos land the same way (or so it seems) as me. So my question is: am I alright or should I work on really landing on the ball of the foot first? Looking forward to your reply, thanks again for the instructive videos!
The ball of the foot is the body’s natural loading and pivot point (try jumping up and down on the same spot and feel where you are landing on the foot).
The more skillful you are at barefoot running the closer to the ball of the foot you will land. It is a coaching cue rather than a scientific fact but it is important to prevent achilles/ calf problems.
I have been running outdoors, 80% offroad, for around 15 years. I have always been an over-pronator with a heel stike. When I was pregnant, I subconsciously started running on the forefoot and it has stuck since. I have always run in Asics, primarily Kayanos but, when it’s very wet in the winter, Morekos. I would like to try a barefoot shoe but don’t know which to start with. Any advice please?
Also, I am a normal shoe size 6 (euro 39) but run in an 8 (42) because anything smaller bruises my toes. What size barefoot shoe would you recommend please? Unfortunately, I live out of town so can’t get in to one of your stores to try them on.
Many thanks in anticipation of your help!
Heelstrike and overpronation come as a package! If you are already a forefoot striker the transition to minimal/barefoot should be no problem. It is important to allow a finger width distance between your toes and the end of the shoe. I would suggest sticking to a 42 or even try a 43.
This summer will mark the one-year anniversary of my move to barefoot running (spurred by a bout of injuries and Born to Run). Although most of my injuries have all but disappeared and I am now faster and stronger as a runner, I still have a nagging issue of my IT band (which is only slightly better since beginning my barefoot regimen). I generally run in my Terra Plana barefoot Running shoes (Evo’s) and I have to admit, I am by no means a distance runner (I did my first half marathon last summer).
Is this an issue that is caused by poor running form? Is there a specific fix for this? I’ve been to chiropractors and doctors of all sorts and they cannot agree on what is the root cause – my hips are out of place, I need to stop running hills, and I need to stop running completely – and I just don’t buy it. I’ve done the exercises on the terra plana website and am very conscious of my running form (which has changed dramatically since making the switch) – and cadence. I was just wondering if you had an idea of the root cause of IT band soreness (which manifests itself as a pinching in the outside portion of my knee where the IT band connects) and whether it could be corrected by changing something in my running.
ITB syndrome is caused by a slow sticky running rhythm. The body evolved ‘elastic bands’ in areas where elastic recoil is important (plantar fascia, achilles, ITB etc) The optimum cadence to tap into this elasticity and prevent strains to elastic tissues is 180 BPM. However, this cadence must be relaxed and bouncy, not forced and stiff and your feet must feel that they land directly under your hips not in front. I would suggest running with a clip on metronome to help you maintain 180 (the human brain is not reliable on this matter!)
I’m interested in barefoot sports, especially court sports like squash
and tennis. Is this healthy? I’m having a hard time finding research
outside of running.
All sports that require footwork are best practised barefoot.
Sports such as gymnastics and martial arts where skill and balance are paramount are performed barefoot.
Racquet sports are just as skilful.