Home > community > blogs > tamara

‘Barefoot’ Barefoot Running - The Transition Phase

posted on Thursday, 11th October 2012 | find under Tamara

'Making the transition to barefoot running is like growing your food in an orchard instead of getting it from a shop, it is a slow, organic process.' - Barefoot Ted

Meeting the legendary 'Barefoot' Ted at the Sweaty Betty Guest Instructor event in July 2012 was a privilege and has inspired me to post my personal experience of changing to barefoot running (see the interview with 'Barefoot Ted' here).
The Transition Phase is where it all starts. My motivation to change running style was a sore back from 'regular' running plus growing excitement in the Sweaty Betty Office in 2011 about 'Barefoot'. Whatever your motivation, your first barefoot run is the start of a journey which might completely change the way you think about running.
Transition Tips:
  1. The transition to barefoot running takes time.  Months rather than weeks. Be patient and start slowly. In my case I went right back to beginner's steps - 'run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat'. The guys at Primal Lifestyle say you should start at 10% of your normal distance and progress by less than 10% per fortnight. It took 6 months before I felt comfortable running a 5k route barefoot.
  2. Listen to your body. Pain is an indicator to stop! Barefoot running uses new muscles and your calf muscles, in particular, take time to adapt to the extra work they are going to do.  I found that it took 24 hours after a run before the major muscle stiffness in my calves set in. After I started to gain mileage my arches and the top of my feet hurt – which I have since discovered is another classic warning sign that you are progressing too fast.
  3. Start actually barefoot. A lot of the advice I found online says you should start by walking around the house barefoot for a couple of weeks to get used to the feeling.  And if possible actually start running without shoes.  I was lucky enough to be near a beach at weekends so I would run ‘barefoot’ in a pair of old trainers to the beach and then take them off for some running actually barefoot in the sand. (You may be confused by now - 'barefoot running' does not actually mean that you are running without any shoes on.  It means that you are running as if 'barefoot'. In short, you are landing on your toes at each stride instead of landing on your heels (which requires padded soles). I will expand on this in a later post.)
  4. Get your basic technique right.The key things to know? Land first on the balls of your forefoot allowing your heel to then touch the ground gently. Massively increase your 'cadence' - your feet will be touching the ground 170-185 times per minute.Your feet should land lightly and directly underneath you (I spent the first 12 months landing with a skid as my foot was out in front of me, explaining at least some of my calf agony!).On landing, your shoulders, hips and ankle are all aligned. And finally, relax your body – you will be able to hear the difference when your foot lands softly.
  5. Do your research. You will find videos and articles which will help you. Here are some sources which have helped me:  VIBRAM , MERRELL, VIVO
In my case, after several months of slow transition, using an old pair of trail shoes or going fully barefoot where I could, I finally got hold of my first pair of barefoot trainers. Here is what I wrote in my running log: 'Total delight. Felt incredibly light. My first run in barefoot shoes so I really noticed the lack of a big heel in a good way (no need to point the heel so much to achieve a forefoot strike). Light, fast, floaty, exciting.'
My name is Simon and I have hijacked my wife's blog to write about my experiences as a novice barefoot runner. These are my personal reflections and do not represent advice. I work with Tamara at Sweaty Betty as CEO. I am hoping that others will read this post and add their comments and tips to help us all get the most out of the Barefoot movement.
If You Are Ever In Cambridge
By Andy - 18th October 2012
Hi Simon. I was made aware of this blog by my wife who manages your Cambridge branch. Brilliant blog. And well done for choosing to run barefoot and in minimalist shoes. I run a health and fitness company in Cambridge and teach bareform and barefoot running as part of my work. If you are ever in Cambridge and fancy a barefoot run around the trails here, get hold of me and I'll be more than happy to head out together and help you brush up on your form! Keep up the good work, I look forward to your next post. In the mean time have a look at my barefoot and natural living blog at www.caveman-clarke.blogspot.co.uk and tell me what you think Andy
Barefoot??? There Might Just Be A Runner In These Legs After All
By Casey Byrne - 12th October 2012
PART 1 Simon- I am pleased to say that I am a barefoot convert! Running has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I feel slow, I feel heavy and quite simply, I am just not very good at it. I really envy people that get joy from a long morning run and have always felt frustrated that I can't just hit the road and be happy to run. I picked up the book 'Born To Run' recently in the hopes that I could get some inspiration. I've done a bit of research and quizzed a few barefoot runners so was keen to give it a go.
Barefoot?? There Might Just Be A Runner In These Legs After All!
By Casey Byrne - 12th October 2012
PART 2 Although very much in the infant stages of transitioning to barefoot running, on my first run it just clicked! As Yolanda posted earlier the 'ski jump' position is what really put it all in to persperctive for me. Head up, shoulders square, heart forward and run...... First time around I ran a little further than I should have. It took me almost a week to recover. My calves ached like they have never ached before. But the running part was easy. EASY!!!! There might just be a runner in me yet. I now plan to start slow and build up over time. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes! Happy running
Barefoot Running Part 2
By Yolanda - 12th October 2012
Part 2 Once your shoes are sorted, posture is the most important thing. I like to tell running friends to stand still and tall. Head up, shoulders straight. Next, imagine that you are a ski jumper and lean your entire body (do not bend from the waist) forward until you are about to topple off your toes...and start moving forward. Starting like this forces you onto the balls of your feet but it also allows you to feel your feet landing underneath/slightly behind you and powering you forward. Relax the arms, relax the body, let the feet simply do their job. If at any point you feel yourself slipping back or leaning the torso back just remember the heart leads the way. I cannot recommend barefoot enough, but like any "new" sport you have to take the time to learn properly. Build up your core strength, build up your calves, start with a maximum of 1km and go from there. Happy running :)
Barefoot Love!
By Yolanda - 12th October 2012
Simon- firstly I am so glad that you are now running barefoot, its just the greatest feeling isnt it! PART 1: I have been running barefoot for the last year and took the transition slowly. I always think the best time to start is either if you are new to running, or if you have just finished a race and are back on the shorter runs. First off invest in some barefoot shoes. Standard running shoes can have up to a 30mm heel to toe height drop. Running in these shoes will mean that you have to lift up unnaturally high and will land too close to your toes. It makes the style of natural running feel uncomfortable and you will not be able to sustain it for any great distance.
(Leave blank to show as anonymous)
(Required, this will not display)
Back to Top
email a friend