Here's your second installment in my series of barefoot running form tips. Or rather, should I call them barefoot running ANTI-form tips. In the previous installment, I told you how to use barefoot walking to help you get in touch with your proprioception. Quick recap: barefoot walking allows you to practice having comfortable footstrikes without the same risk of blistering and other newbie injuries.
As I said in my previous post, I think doing a lot of conscious manipulation of your form is a great way to overly complicate matters and end up frustrated. That being said, I don't think that barefoot running is necessarily all touchy-feely hippie crap. There are some things that are okay to tweak. Specifically, I think that there are four areas where you can consciously change your form for the better: your posture, your knee-bend, your forward lean, and your cadence.
But as I mentioned in my last post, I'm not all about having people put too much thought into various aspects of good form. I think that it distracts from the most important aspect of good barefooting: relaxed, comfortable feet. So instead of describing what each of those elements should look like individually, I'm going to give you a quick and easy way to put them all together.
The best way I know how to do that is with visualization. I'm going to put together all these elements into a drill using a concept that I think most people already understand. That way your mind isn't focusing on a million different things at once. It's focusing on the drill, and having relaxed, comfortable feet.
My number one barefoot running visualization drill is something that I learned during my MovNat seminar. It is entitled "Skipping Zee Rope". It's called that because the founder of MovNat, Erwan Le Corre, is French. So he talks funny. Anyway, the drill is exactly what the name implies (without the ridiculous French accent). You pretend to jump a rope while running. It goes like this:
Step 1: Pretend to jump rope with alternating legs
Step 2: Lean forward slightly while maintaining your jump rope posture
Step 3: Move forward while continuing to jump rope
Step 4: Try not to look at anyone. You're pretending to jump rope in public after all.
Why pretend to jump rope? Because it takes all the elements of good barefoot form and puts them together without you really having to think about them. Instead, you're just trying to avoid tripping on the rope. Think about it...if you're jumping rope at a reasonable pace, you need to alternate your feet using short, quick steps. There's your correct cadence! If you travel forward while jumping rope, you can't stick your foot out in front of you or you'll hit the rope. You need to lean forward, let gravity take you forward, and keep your feet under you. There's your forward lean! You can't slouch or the rope will snash against the ground. And you'll look ridiculous. There's your posture! And while moving are your legs straight and locked, or bent and relaxed so that you can easily alternate legs? There's your knee bend!
Congratulations, you just achieved good barefoot running form. Continue the drill while running, and when you can do it without thinking shift your concentration to having relaxed, comfortable feet.
Think the drill seems a little silly? Well then check out this video that was on the Natural Running Center website about a month ago.
See anything you should be doing? How about everything. She has pretty much perfect running form folks. Okay...maybe a little less spastic arm movement would be better. But same concept...except instead of being the person frolicking down the street with a jump rope, this drill uses all the benefits of a jump rope without all the prancing. Although I do find her pink jump rope very stylish. I may be purchasing one for my daughter...
I guarantee if you do it, you'll be able to run barefoot better than ever before! Try it today!