A few months into barefoot running I have two major learnings:
1, It’s so smooth, effortless and joyful compared to conventional running, IF you get the technique right.
2, It’s very hard work and takes a lot of patience to reset the muscles, calves in particular, to tune into barefoot running technique.
I have searched the Internet for more guidance on barefoot running technique and reviewed a lot of videos and texts. The most comprehensive and scientifically backed approach I have found is the POSE method.
POSE and CrossFit
The POSE method is a system of teaching efficient human movement developed by Dr Romanov, former Olympic coach from Russia. In essence his method is focused on getting the hamstrings to work by pulling the heel towards the butt and then letting it fall to the ground again landing on the ball of the foot. Keep your upper arms vertical and bend at the elbow to keep your fore arms horizontal. Try this standing still in one spot. Assume the POSE and focus on pulling the heel towards your butt. When you feel comfortable with this continue the same pattern of movement and adjust your centre of gravity slightly forward. You will notice that just a little lean will make you start moving. That’s pretty much it! Check out PoseTV on YouTube for more about Dr Romanov and POSE.
So back to my own experiences of barefoot running. I have actually stopped barefoot running. Temporarily.
The new muscular stress on my calves has only become slightly milder so in a transition period to running in my Vibram Fivefingers I have bought a pair of Puma LIFT. A very light shoe with minimal cushioning and therefore very little wedge between your foot and the ground. The little shock absorption it offers makes a huge difference for how my calves handle barefoot running according to the POSE method. In one of the CrossFit videos below they talk about problems with calves in POSE running and state that it only occurs when you run on your toes. I beg to differ. I am very conscious of landing on the ball of my foot and falling forward rather then stretching forward in each step. My problem may be that I have a calves of a bodybuilder rather than a runner and years of conventional running technique with poor stretching habits gives me a tougher starting point than the average runner.
There are two videos in particular that I strongly recommend that you watch to get the fundamentals of proper running technique .
Teaching Running as a Skill by Brian McKenzie and Intro to the POSE Method for Distance Running by Mike Collins. You will need a subscription to CrossFit Journal to view the clips but do not hesitate – it’s only USD25 per year. A CrossFit Journal subscription is a must have for anybody interested in perfection of motion technique to maximize your physical ability in most areas of physical exercise. For a taste of CrossFit Journal and a few previews check the running section in the open part of CrossFit.com.
My focus now is on POSE drills in my Puma LIFT shoes to work on technique and getting more used to the Vibram Fivefingers by wearing them as often as possible. As mentioned the first part of the barefoot running series the FiveFingers do look a bit weird and I get a lot of looks and comments. Wearing them a day on town is a great way of spreading happiness, I have never had so many people looking at me, my shoes and them me again with a big smile! Vibram FiveFingers – spreading happiness, one step at a time! ,-)
Let me know how you are progressing developing proper running technique!