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Piers Stockwell's 10 Commandments to Barefoot Running

Whether you’re a barefoot aficionado, a relative newcomer or still pondering whether or not to make the switch, learning the correct barefoot running technique is essential. Research about the benefits and ‘how to’s’ on barefoot running are aplenty, but here Merrell Pack Leader and barefoot running specialist, Piers Stockwell, gives you his bite size top 10 tips on how to achieve the perfect Merrell Bareform running technique.

1. Increase your distance slowly
Barefoot running will put more strain on your calves and feet to start with. To begin with, run 5 minutes every other day for the first week, 10 minutes every other day the second week, 15 minutes every other day the third week and 20 minutes every other day the fourth week. After this increase your mileage by about 10% a week. It’s fine to keep your mileage up by switching shoes to carry on training but as you increase the barefoot, decrease the cushioned shoes. A full transition to minimalist barefoot shoes will take around 3 months.

2. Take a few rest days if you feel any foot pain
From wearing cushioned shoes, the muscles and tendons in your feet will have become weak and will take a while to strengthen in order to hold your foot bones properly. It’s better to stop before you do any damage.

3. Pick your feet up
It is very difficult to get your feet to land underneath you if you are shuffling.

4. Posture, posture, posture
Keep your stomach strong and imagine you have a handle on top of your head which someone is pulling upwards. If you slouch, your body will become unaligned causing your feet to land in front of you.

5. Make sure your heels very lightly touch the ground after your mid-foot underneath you
This will spread the pressure through your feet. Don’t run on your tip toes as it will hurt!

6. Don’t push off from your ankles at the end of your stride
Simply pick your feet up off the ground at the end of your stride.

7. Use a foam roller regularly on your calves
This will help with the soreness by pumping blood to places where there is less blood flow. This helps to heal and mend as well as improving flexibility.

8. Stretch
Pay attention to stretching your leg muscles regularly; not just after exercise but mornings and evenings as well. You will gain flexibility through giving your muscles stimulus to grow longer by stretching. If you are inflexible then it’s difficult for your legs to move into the correct position to run efficiently.

9. Run completely barefoot regularly
Even if you don’t run far, it will help to feel what is going on with your foot placement. Your body will tell you quickly if you’re doing something wrong. If you become sore or blister on your heels, then you are heel striking. If this happens on the tips of your toes, then you are pushing off at the end of your stride. Make sure you run on pavements or smooth paths so that you will get proper feedback; grass is very forgiving and can allow you to cheat (and you can’t see any nasties that might be lurking in there).

10. Make sure your arms are swinging properly
Your hand and elbow should pass by the top of your pelvis and your hands should not cross your centre line. Using your arms effectively will provide your legs with more power by aiding muscle contractions down your back to your bottom muscles.



Posted by Kate

I do/ did all of what you suggest but got Achilles tendonitis (now cleared up). My physio tells me that if I carry on running barefoot (or essentially barefoot), I will get problems with my Achilles. I've taken to wearing Merrells almost all the time (when not actually barefoot) to condition my Achilles as much as possible to the barefoot way.... but, what else can I do to ensure that I'm the one with the smug smile and not my physio?

04/07/2013 | 09:23

Posted by Piers Stockwell

Hi Kate, I’m sorry to hear about the tendonitis. The most common cause of it is being a little over enthusiastic about mileage running as it takes time for your achilles tendon and calf muscles to lengthen after being shortened through wearing shoes with heels. The other thing which may have caused it would be if you are overstriding a little as this would mean your calves and tendons would be working through a greater range of motion though being pointed while reaching forward. Think about shortening your stride and increasing your cadence to account for this. The other thing you can do is run regularly completely barefoot which will give you the proprioception you need to adjust your stride naturally. To facilitate achilles and calf muscle lengthening, work your calves regularly with a hard foam roller as well as trigger pointing (using your thumb to press on the tender points or pinch them with your thumb and forefinger) around the bottom of the main bump of the calf muscle. In terms of mileage, if you feel pain try and take a longer rest period between runs and reduce the length of your run. Keep on wearing minimalist shoes and barefoot through the day to help as well.This process may take some time if your calves and achilles have shortened a lot, so be patient and you will be the one with the smug smile! Piers

15/07/2013 | 05:07

Posted by chimo

Hi, I'm a new barefoot runner but I've noticed the soil of my shoes are worn on the external side and I don't know how to fix this problem? Any advice? Thanks a lot.

07/07/2014 | 08:48


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