Thursday, June 9, 2011

Head-to-Toe Guide to Barefoot Running


No, that's not ChrisK getting his manly groove on, but Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton, barefoot running guru. This morning I finished reading his new book, Barefoot Running Step by Step (review forthcoming), which I will say is an interesting book, veering between missionary zeal, outright goofiness, and, surprisingly, common sense. It's a good read. One of the things Barefoot Ken Bob (BFKB) preaches/suggests is that barefoot running should begin with the head and work its way down the body, ending finally and appropriately in his case, with unshod feet. He is pretty adamant that barefooting is only appropriate for those who take the time to learn the technique. He suggests 9 steps:
  1. Head, neck and face kept upright, facing forward and not down, to maintain efficient balance, breathing and direction.
  2. Ditto for the torso (not leaning forward).
  3. Shoulders are kept relaxed so they can rotate and counterbalance hip rotation.
  4. Arms swing vertically and quickly to encourage fast leg cadence and reduce torso sway.
  5. Hips are relaxed and rotate to keep feet under center of balance.
  6. Knees are bent (more than you imagine) to make them into shock-absorbers.
  7. Calves should be relaxed - tense calves lead to injury.
  8. Feet are lifted - no pushing off. High cadence is key.
  9. Toes are curved up to promote a ball, toe, heel landing (or ball, heel, toe).
It seems like a lot of this would help all runners, barefoot or shod, so I'm interested in trying it out. I've taken the last 2 weeks off running, plan to start fresh on Tuesday, and I'll be adding BFKB's suggestions once I do. Updates weekly as I progress.

18 comments:

  1. Ha, when I first saw this in my just woke up state of mind I thought you were writing about HTC...Hood to Coast Barefoot running and I was like ...wow, this will be interesting! Some good tips here and I hope they work for you! :)

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  2. How do you relax you calves while running? Mine always seem tight with a midfoot strike and the day after running.

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  3. From the book: " If you bend the knees more and learn to allow a heel touch after the ball-of-the-foot landing, you should not suffer much, if any, calf pain." He really believes most people don't bend the knees enough when running.

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  4. No idea Bob wrote a book. I see him every once in a awhile, usually on the beach path or in Bolsa Chica.

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  5. 9 steps? 9 steps? wt? i thought you just took your shoes off?

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  6. ...and that's why so many newbie BFers get injured Q! :)

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  7. You know, I might go barefoot, except ... all the barefoot runners kind of look like Bob.

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  8. YAY good for you!!! The biggest things I can tell you is keep your knees bent. Remember when you run BF it's a lift up not a push back like in shoes.. but you'll realize your doing it wrong it you are because it will hurt. :) Bending the knees has helped me tremendously! BTW those dipped socks would be great!

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  9. Why would you insinuate Chris K has a manly groove?

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  10. Jamoosh, if it appears that I insinuated a manly groove on ChrisK's part, I assure you it was strictly intentional. For proof, please reference his new baby, which, while clearly not his biologically, shows a paternal side lacking to this point.

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  11. I should've read this before I did that experiment…here I was, all this time, thinking the dang hippie skirt was the problem!

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  12. Never would've guessed there are 9 steps! I'll be interested to see how it goes. I've occasionally run a lap around the track barefoot after a workout, it's amazing at how your stride/footstrike instantly changes!

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  13. My husband went to a barefoot meet up run by him last summer. He found it very informative. Plus he got to meet other barefoot runners and validated his feelings about it since not so many people were knowledgeable about it last year.

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  14. There are actually 10, or 7 steps in the book, depending on which part of the chapter you look at... but in reality, the most important step, is the one that results from listening to what your soles felt on the previous step. The 10 (or 7) steps are just to get a head start... after all, it took me some 50 years of barefoot running to learn what is in the book (or at least a couple decades of analyzing what I learned running barefoot for the previous few decades). Think of those "basics" or "fundamentals" as a starting point. Your own bare soles will help fine-tune the technique from there for your specific body, on any specific day, on any specific terrain, with each and every specific step.

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  15. Thanks Barefoot Ken Bob! The thing I probably appreciated most about the book was the emphasis on patience and acceptance that, for some, barefooting was a supplement and not an ultimate goal.

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  16. Interesting, especially about the calf pain thing, that seems to be a common issue with new barefooters. thanks for posting this!

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  17. I knew that the "day in a life" post wasn't right. It was missing the kovas beard! Glad you were able to get a self portrait into this one.

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