move freely with rubber

Barefoot Running (pt5) – Rubber soul

I have used my Vivobarefoot Ultra shoes for six weeks now, it’s about three weeks to go before my 10k race and I am getting more and more confident. The distance is no issue, I do easily do the double in modern running shoes (heel wedge and cushioning), but maintaining good natural running technique to have my calves last the distance…..

Since I changed over from my Saucony Grid racing shoe to my Vivobarefoot Ultras I have forced myself to clean up my technique as a natural running shoe is less forgiving. I have two cues on technique to share that may help you improve your technique.

Before I go into that let me just share my experience of one month with the Vivbarefoot Ultras.

A fantastic running and CrossFit shoe
It’s a minimalist shoe in a fairly neutral design with very good ground feel. I’ve used the shoe daily for a month now, both as a casual shoe in the office on the days I do not have client meetings and as workout shoe for CrossFit and running. As you may know, stability is key CrossFit as the skill training and workouts mainly are compound movements. Compound movements means that balance is key and for good balance you need to stand on solid ground. For this reason you should never wear modern running shoes (heel wedge and cushioning) performing exercises such as squats, deadlifts, any kettlebell exercises. In short, the Ultra is it’s a great CrossFit  shoe as well as the sole is thin and you stand as firm as if barefoot.

Rubber sole and sizing.
I’ve mainly used the shoes on asphalt and the rubber sole is not withstanding that very well. Having said that, some if the tear is probably down to my less than perfect running technique. As I am working on my technique, I develop a more and more vertical and brief touch to the ground, reducing the friction that occurs with a too long step applying a breaking force as the shoe slides to a halt on the ground.

I did not experience this degree of tear with my Vibram Fivefingers, I’ve haven’t used them as intensely but after 2 years the rubber sole looks new in comparison. I’d give my Ultras another month before I’ll probably need to get a new pair. The Vivobarefoot is only around 60% of the cost of the new VFFs but it’ll be expensive if I wear down a couple of pairs a year. With a natural running shoe market booming I’ll do some research on an alternative to the Ultras but I would prefer if the Vivobarefoot team at Terra Plana could look into the rubber they use for the sole.

reIntegrate - Eat clean, move freely, live consciously

Hard to see but rubber is down to approx. 50% of original thickness

Secondly, sizing is a bit weird. I had to go up two sizes for the neoprene sock to fit nicely but it would have been enough with one size up when just using the bare shoe without the neoprene sock. A friend of mine just bought a pair and had a to go one size up, a tight fit of the neoprene sock and perfect fit of the bare shoe. So I suggest that you try the shoe before buying, or at least buy from an online store that allows you to return and change if needed. You should probably start with one size above normal for a comfortable fit of both the neoprene sock and the bare shoe. If you think that you’ll only use the bare shoe, without the neoprene sock, you may want to try your normal size for snug, second skin kind of fit.

Placing your feet directly under your center of mass
If you’ve read my earlier posts in the series you may remember that it’s been a bit of trial and error in developing my natural running technique. I started out two years ago with too long strides and too much of a forefoot landing. Cleaning up my technique focusing on “let the heel kiss the ground” took me to the next level.

Lately, I have focused on making sure I place my feet directly under my center of mass to have as vertical movement of my feet as possible and secondly, focused on as brief touch to the ground as possible.

I have found that focusing on these two things makes “heel to butt” and “let the heel kiss the ground” come naturally.

Try this, stand up and lift one foot in a straight line towards your butt and back to the floor, without engaging any ankle muscles, you will naturally touch the ground with the ball of the foot first, following with your heel. However, the longer forward of your center of mass you want yo place your foot the more of an ankle strike you will have you need to actively stretch your foot for a full foot or forefoot strike.

So, rather than focusing on landing on the ball of foot or “heel kiss the ground” I have found that it comes naturally when I focus on placing my foot directly under my center of mass and I fix two technique flaws in one.

Secondly, by combining this with focusing on trying to have as brief touch with the ground as possible I automatically get an active pull of the feet towards the butt. Doing this while falling forward, i.e. running, I create forward motion and I run more “actively” rather than letting the feet follow.

Share your experience
As I said, my progress in natural running is a bit trial and error so I may re-evaluate some of the stuff I find working now as get more experience.

Let me know how you are progressing!
If you are a newbie, what are you struggling with? What have you found working well in developing your technique?
If you are an experienced natural runner, what was your eureka moments taking your technique to the next level? What would you recommend the beginning and intermediate natural runner to pay extra attention to?

Let me know in the comments section below!

Trivia: The album title “Rubber Soul” is conceived by Paul McCartney. Some American critic referred to Mick Jagger’s singing as ‘plastic soul’ and Paul thought “We can do better than plastic!”. 

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