So you’ve made the switch to barefoot. You’ve got a nice new pair of minimalist running shoes, the sun is shining, you’ve got a couple hours to kill and you’re feeling like a run might be the perfect activity. Besides you’ve missed your last scheduled run and you’ve got extra energy, you’re really ready to go!
But wait, there’s something you need to learn, something small and quick before you go that will help you understand barefoot running and make the transfer so much easier… forefoot running.
What is forefoot running? Forefoot running is the style of running that is associated with barefoot and minimalist shoes. The overarching goal is to use the balls of the feet as the area to propel oneself forward rather than the heels or the toes. Landing on the forefoot on each stride allows us to absorb shock much more efficiently than we would with conventional running shoes.
Long time runners who don’t use minimalist shoes often get caught in the heel striking trap where each of their strides directs their bodyweight on top of the heel. Instead what we should be doing using the propulsive and breaking muscle to absorb impact and redirect energy into the ground.
Landing on the heel provides no cushion and sends the shock up your legs into into the base of your spine. Old shoes were produced with a heavy cushioned portion in the heel to help remove any force felt by the heel from running in this manner, unfortunately the negative side effects weren’t eliminated, they were merely hidden in the short term. The best minimalist running shoes allow one to run in a comfortable and balanced manner.
It’s natural while walking to allow the heel to strike first in the same way it’s natural while sprinting to use the toes to push oneself forward while sprinting. The key is that during jogging, middle distance and endurance running one lands on the balls of the feet. This not only eliminates strain on the legs but also conserves energy enabling you to run farther and tire less rapidly.
Forefoot running can take some getting used to. If you’ve just transferred to minimalist shoes it can take some time to reestablish your stride and running rhythm. Forefoot running generally requires that you take smaller strides and lift your knees more. The action is more of a pump and push off the ground rather than simply stepping forward in a “running walk”. Your cadence may need to increase but likely you’ll find that you naturally get accustomed to minimalist shoes the more you wear them.
Minimal shoes and forefoot running can appear intimidating, sometimes more to the experienced runner rather than the novice. Learning an entirely new style of movement might seem like a big task but in reality it’s much easier than you think. Simple practise and awareness of your own body’s movement will help you to adjust and to run even better than before.