Saturday, September 12, 2009

Barefoot Running Clinic - What I Learned

OK, I'm pretty sure that my non-running friends, who already think I've slipped over the edge into crazy, will now be convinced I'm nuts. But, I'm really excited by what I learned at this morning's barefoot running clinic. Here are my observations and thoughts about what I heard today. Any errors, misunderstandings or omissions are all mine. :)

For those of you who are wondering WHAT I'm talking about, here's the story.

This morning a group of the intrepid and curious met at ZombieRunner on California Avenue in Palo Alto for a barefoot running clinic. Why? Because this was an opportunity to listen to Christopher McDougall, author of the bestselling book Born to Run, and barefoot running expert Ted McDonald, share their knowledge and experience about this increasingly popular topic that fascinates, scares and entrances those of us who enjoy running.

Here are some highlights of what I learned at this clinic:

There is a right way to run – POSE METHOD, Chi and Evolution all identify key characteristics of correct running technique. Barefoot running naturally pushes us into technique that is
more efficient and works with our biomechanics.

Shoes often made to provide the most protection and support can actually increase the impact on our feet, joints and body because we run “heavier” in them than when running barefoot.

Ted's three key principles for barefoot technique:
  1. Run LIGHTLY and SILENTLY – Listen to your running, you should be light on your feet and you shouldn't hear your feet hitting the pavement. To help yourself be aware of this, you should try running without music. Listen and be aware of your connection to the ground.
  2. Use a quick cadence – Quick foot turnover will help ensure a light touch on the ground. It should feel like you’re floating across the ground, moving forward. Your feet should touch down and lift quickly – not sliding across or grinding against the ground (which is how you can get blisters).
  3. Maintain a tall posture – This helps ensure alignment and efficient movement when running.
A lot of running barefoot is about listening to your body – when you’re too tired to follow the key principles above, you’ll experience injury. Start out with barefoot walking, making sure to land on the front of your feet (no heel strikes). Remember the three principles, and build distance gradually.

Start barefoot walking and running on asphalt and other man-made surfaces. Your feet will manage the impact and you’ll be more likely to establish good technique habits (light, silent and quick cadence).

A couple of good training exercises to help with barefoot running technique:
  • Squats (using proper technique) – strengthens key muscles, builds control
  • Jumps that are accurate and light – jump up and down stairs or on the ground at precise distances, with your feet together, landing lightly and quietly. Again the key is to maintain control, keep a light touch, and in so doing build the muscle strength and control for great technique
Thanks to Don and Gillian, owners of ZombieRunner, who have provided great resources for runners through their store and sponsorship of this clinic.

14 comments:

Sheila said...

So how far did you run at the clinic? What kind of stuff did they have you participants do, other than listen? Did you like it? Will you be barefoot running more on your own? What do you think about this going forward?

Tanya said...

We walked about a mile and then did short sprints around a park and down a short block - discussed techniques and practiced some jumping exercises. We also spent a lot of time with Q&A and discussion. It was really interesting and encouraging. My plan is to work on my technique with VFFs this fall and winter and explore true "bare" foot running as well. :)

Denis said...

Is there a clear advantage to running barefoot as opposed to with the VFF? After reading BTR I think I can buy into the principles, but I think I would rely on the VFF for protection. As far as I can tell, the VFF eliminate all the things that over cushioned shoes have which cause injury.

I don't really know. I curious but ignorant.

Kathy said...

That's really cool Tanya! Thanks for the info and the great pics. It looks so funny to see people running around barefoot. I'm still a bit skeptical, but impressed that you went for it! You're inspiring me to do the same. What did they say about stubbed toes? That's really what I'm most concerned about... may be silly but I used to get stubbed toes all the time when I was little, so I'm a bit petrified of them!

I have a similar question to what Denis is asking. What is the advantage of running in VFF vs. Full Barefoot?

Pete said...

Sounds like it was an informative day - look forward to hearing more about your experiences. The point about not wearing headphones when you try it is a good one - I really need to concentrate on maintaining good form and staying relaxed when I run in VFF's.

Tanya said...

Both Chris and Ted were not religious about barefoot vs. VFF running - they said that VFFs or other minimalist foot gear are preferable to regular shoes, but neither said that it was barefoot or nothing.

As Ted talked about the practical skill development for barefoot running, I got the sense that running barefoot improved the "feedback" you received when running and can help correct the running form, especially when beginning.

My guess is that I'll probably use my VFFs initially and intersperse them with some real barefoot training, to make sure I'm listening to my body and keeping aware of correct form. (plus I'm vain and like to preserve my pedicures :D ) I'm three weeks away from my next half marathon, so either way, I'll only be doing barefoot/VFF walks until then, and then I'll really start my VFF regimens.

runluaurun said...

I am so jealous that you got to go to that...I would love to sit in on one of their clinics...I've been running in VFF's exclusively now for almost 5 months and I love it! I'm never going back to regular running shoes...looking to reading more of your stuff!
-Matt W.

PunkRockRunner said...

So now that you're an educated barefoot runner I am curious as to how often and how far you run in your VFF's (barefoot)?

I have yet to log more than 3-miles in mine BUT I do wear them all the time for walking.

Great post!

Take care,

Ron

瘦身 said...

Lucky to u........................................

Quaneshia said...

Wow this is interesting I had no idea something like this existed.

nomatfinke said...

盛年不再來,一日難再晨;及時當勉勵,歲月不待人..................................................

冷淡 said...

Everyone fastens where there is gain.........................................

勁爆 said...

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.............................................

sethigherstandards.com said...

I just did a barefoot running clinic with Ted yesterday. AWESOME! Just a few friends and I with Ted. Learned a ton. He's an amazing dude. Wrote more about what I learned here:

http://sethigherstandards.com/2010/12/12/running-clinic-with-barefoot-ted-from-born-to-run/