Getting Started with Barefoot Running - The Bare Basics

 

By Rick Morris

 

Barefoot running is really the most natural form of running you can do. We were born knowing how to run barefoot. Unfortunately, years of wearing shoes with loads of support and cushioning have created bad habits, poor running stride characteristics and have de-conditioned our lower leg muscles and foot structures. That means that if you are completely new to barefoot running you probably shouldn't go right out and run a barefoot 5K. You need to gradually re-introduce your feet and muscles to going barefoot.

 

This is an 8 week plan that will very gradually strengthen your feet and lower legs to the point that you can run about 2 miles on a soft surface in your bare feet or 1 mile on a hard surface. Then you will be ready to move on to more advanced barefoot running. Note that this is not a beginning runners plan. This bare basics program assumes that you are already able to run at least 2 miles without stopping with your shoes on. If you are completely new to running I would suggest beginning with the shod version of our learn to run program before beginning a barefoot running program.

 

These are very basic level barefoot exercises intended to toughen your feet and strengthen your lower leg muscles. At this level the barefoot exercises are not intended to improve your running performance so each of these workouts are in addition to your normally planned running workout with shoes. This bare basics program also assumes that you are completely new to barefoot activity and begins with barefoot walking on a soft indoor surface. If you are currently at a more advanced barefoot level feel free to adjust your starting point accordingly. Every runner will react differently to barefoot training. If your feet or lower legs seem to be excessively sore you should progress more slowly. If you feel your feet and lower legs are gaining toughness and fitness more quickly you are probably able to proceed at a faster pace.

 

Barefoot Running Form

 

Proper barefoot running mechanics are no different than proper shod running form. Most runners actually find it easier to naturally fall into a proper stride when running barefoot. The stride keys you should focus on are:

 

Landing just slightly on the ball of your foot first, directly under your center of gravity.

Focus on quickly picking up your feet rather than keeping them on the ground and pushing off.

Maintain a quick cadence of around 180 steps or 90 full strides per minute.

Run lightly, fluidly and softly with very little vertical movement.

 

Lower Leg Strength Training

 

One of the main disadvantages of wearing supportive running shoes is the tendency of your lower leg muscles to become weak and de-trained. This bare basics barefoot running program includes frequent use of our specially developed lower leg strengthening series that will strengthen your lower leg muscles to improve both your injury resistance and barefoot running performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1

 

This week, begin your barefoot activity by walking around your house without shoes or socks as much as possible. Kick your shoes off as soon as you enter your house and don't put them on until you leave.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series two times this week.

 

Week 2

 

Continue to keep your shoes off while you are in the house. This week begin to walk outside on a soft surface such as grass, sand or artificial turf for about 10 minutes per day.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series two times this week.

 

Week 3

 

This week extend your walking on a soft outside surface to about 15 minutes per day. Begin to walk on concrete or asphalt for about 2 to 3 minutes per day.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series two times this week.

 

Week 4

 

This week I suggest taking your first barefoot running strides. Find an area of soft grass, sand or artificial turf. Scan the field to be sure there are no sharp objects you may step on. Run 5 x 2 minute repeats  at an easy pace. Let your feet relax for a 2 minutes between each repeat. Do this three times this week.

 

Walk barefoot on concrete or asphalt for about 10 minutes per day 3 times this week.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

 

Week 5

 

Run 5 x 5 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 2 minutes between each repeat. Perform this workout three times this week.

 

Walk barefoot on concrete or asphalt for about 15 minutes per day 3 times this week.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

 

Week 6

 

Run 2 x 10 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 1 minute between the repeats. Perform this workout three times this week.

 

Run 3 x 2 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt with 1 minute of rest between each repeat. Perform this workout three times this week.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

 

Week 7

 

Run 4 x 800 repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 1 minute between the repeats. Perform this workout three times this week.

 

Run 3 x 5 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt. Rest for 1 minute between each repeat. Perform this workout 2 times this week.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

 

Week 8

 

Run 2 miles at an easy pace on a soft surface. Perform this workout two times this week.

 

Run 1 mile at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt. Perform this workout one time this week.

 

Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

 

Congratulations - You're now a barefoot runner.

 

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