I recently picked up The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard from the library (where else?). Like so many others, I became interested in barefoot running after reading about the concept in Born to Run. Turns out, the book is a fascinating read that I recommend to all my fellow runners or runners-to-be out there. The arguments for running barefoot are quite staggering.
Take, for example, the studies explored in the beginning of the book. They seem to suggest that running in old, worn out, cheap shoes is the best for running. The closer to barefoot you get, the better for your body. The modern cushioned running shoe has led to a higher injury rate. Absolutely no studies indicate that they're any good for you. In fact, the total opposite is true. One study of over 5000 race finishers shows that "those who ran in expensive shoes (costing more than $95) were more than twice as likely to have been injured in the past year than those who ran in cheaper shoes (costing less than $40)." See page 6 for this fascinating research.
Some takeaway tips and tricks that I will be incorporating into my own training are these:
1. On page 104, Robillard suggests that "a necklace can be a handy training tool. As you run, the necklace should remain more or less stationary around you neck. If it bounces up and down, you are probably over striding. If it sways side to side, your upper body is moving too much or your arms are moving across your body." I love this simple way to tell if you're running with the correct form. Unless I have someone following me who is trained in critiquing running form, how would I know if I was doing it correctly? I might feel as though I am running efficiently, but, on my own, I am always uncertain about the correct posture. A necklace! Simple as that.
2. You should practice running in short, quick strides. One way to train yourself to take short enough strides is to set a metronome to 180 beats per minute and keep pace. Reason being that shorter, softer, less vertical movement uses less energy than big vertical movements. Also it's helpful to focus on lifting the foot versus landing. This way, you're always thinking of elevating, creating lighter footing.
3. Robillard also offers another handy nugget about proper posture with this super simple exercise. Raise your hands over your head and stretch upward. The posture that this leaves you in is the best posture for running. I have routinely stopped myself on the treadmill when I have felt myself slumping and perform this exercise. It really brings awareness back to the correct body posture.
I have tried a little bit of barefoot running on my home treadmill. I can't wait to try it out this summer on the sidewalk, as the ground is like permafrost right now in Wisconsin. That's right--the sidewalk. Robillard emphasizes the efficiency of running on concrete. If you see a goofy blond running around sans shoes, now you'll know the backstory.
And I'll leave you with some handy resources reiterated several times throughout the book for further exploration:
Good Form Running
Barefoot Running University: Robillard's very own website
Have you jumped on the barefoot running train yet? Would you ever consider running barefoot?