Does “Lifting the Foot” Make Us Slower?

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Last Place Jason, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. Larry Barefooters
    1. Australia

    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2012
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    Without being too extravagant about it, I've probably been trying to lift the foot a tiny bit and put more into each step recently to see if I could increase my pace by a fraction. Not a major focus, but just a minor thing to think about while running. I've probably found myself picking up a little bit of pace on short (3km) runs, but not being faster overall on longer runs.

    The one major difference I have noticed is that I seem to fatigue faster and my calves have started to flare up. I'm not sure if this is the slight form change or the fact that my mileage is catching up on me (I'm still ramping things up slowly), but this gives me plenty to think about. My last run I went back to my old thoughts of being efficient and not doing anything special with my form and it probably felt better all up.
  2. sanatangolden-PT Barefooters
    1. Oregon

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2011
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    TJ,

    So sorry to hear about your son and the bully. Your boy sounds like a pretty cool little dude…



    Jason,

    Thanks so much for your post on foot lift. This is an often discussed topic, both with my patients and running technique training group that utilizes, Minimalist Mondays (MM). For those not familiar, I am a longtime barefoot runner, recovering mechanical engineer, and physical therapist in downtown Portland, OR who has been treating patients utilizing a natural foot perspective for years. My partner and co-instructor in MM is Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM who is also a member of the Natural Running group with Dr. Cucuzzella, and they collaborate often. We are very aware of his views on this subject, and I think that perhaps ‘foot lift’ and the ‘free’ swing phase are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    As you discussed, this is a nuanced part of the gait cycle but as many people on this thread posted, there is nothing nuanced about NOT lifting their feet and the resultant blisters, especially for newbies. I appreciate the posts of ‘just stop talking and run,’ but the biomechanist in me gets piqued with this stuff. I’m sure many of those purists (?) have already stopped reading…and are out running right now.

    I would argue that an (early) focus on lifting the feet is very helpful in not only skin resilience but increasing cadence for most. As you indicated the, the efficient height of the foot on swing phase varies with speed and for each person. .OverPOSEing., (over-lifiting) just like ‘overCHIing’ (leaning too far forward) , or over anything will cause efficiency to suffer. However, there is pretty good agreement (Mark is this category) that for most conventional runners, increasing cadence is one of the best ways to improve efficiency and reduce forces. My question is: If we ‘load and let go’ (per Dr. Mark, DiCharry and others) and just let the swing leg recoil passively, where do we get an increase cadence as it has to come from the stance or swing phase?

    Here is where I think we find a possible early answer to this discussion. When you are flying down roads at the speed of Dr. Mark or other elite runners (see picture below), you don’t need active lift because you are getting enough hip extension (leg behind you) via momentum to get allow the stretch response of the hip flexors to slow the leg and bring the thigh forward, with the foot following like a marionette. Just about anytime we can get free energy back via the stretch-shortening cycle, it’s helpful for efficiency. Muscle EMG and joint kinematics analysis support this as you have referenced. (Fellow PT and biomechanics expert Jay Dicharry’s great new book Anatomy for Runners, has some excellent information on this).


    The runners below clearly aren’t using their hamstrings to get their foot/leg in this position. Try to hold your foot in that position, and enjoy a great cramp. But what about the rest of us, or folks who are just getting into barefooting? We probably all know the results of trying to run fast barefooted before your body and technique are ready. But the average Joe runner does not maintain the speed required to reach the tissue stretch position to get the snappy recoil. And certainly not the beginning barefooter.

    [IMG]






    This is where I believe the ‘foot lift’ has its best purpose. To get cadence improvements and force reductions associated in part with decreased falling time/height, one must reduce time in some part of the stride. We use the foot lift, or as we describe it ‘leafing the feet’ (peeling it off like a wet leaf) more for how and when the foot leaves the ground, in order to increase cadence and relaxation. By sending the signal to start the release as the foot as it is underneath ones center of mass we can reduce both stance time and potentially swing time, at the expense of a little active co-contraction of the hip flexors and hamstrings. Probably a good investment. In my experience, the timing of the foot release signal is most important (earlier for many). With a little practice most runners can feel when it is too high (road runner) or too low (shimmy running) and can tune it to where it feels free and easiest for them at a given speed.

    It seems that for most runners a shift starts to happen often somewhere around 8 minute miles: where cadence improvements and early release of the foot no longer help efficiency much, and starts to wane, and a shift towards ‘opening up the hips’ or more of a ‘load and let go’ technique starts to wax.

    So, should we lift the feet or not? My answer is: ‘Yes!’
  3. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
    1. Minnesota

    Member Since:
    Jul 25, 2011
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    A few responses come to mind, from someone with no qualifications whatsoever(!). So please forgive the presumptuousness, but I would like to hear whatever feedback you may have to these ideas.

    1.) I think the 'just run' approach can work for a certain percentage of people, but certainly not all. I think Jason once estimated that about 20 to 25 percent of the people he's worked with belong to this category. I think it's important to acknowledge this possibility, so as to avoid fixing something that isn't broken.

    2.) I think anyone taking up barefoot running should condition their soles to some extent beforehand, by barefoot walking first. I never had any trouble with blisters, but I had already been walking barefoot for a few months before I decided to get back into running again.

    3.) As you point out, a lot of these form considerations become pointless once a certain pace has been achieved. I've also found that 8-9 mm pace is the sweet spot below which things open up and become easy. Although I have no experience in coaching, this suggests to me that beginners should begin not by taking it slow and trying to think about several coaching cues all at once, but rather, they should first try running (relatively) fast for short distances, see how that feels, and then try to translate that feeling, consciously (through form cues) or subconsciously (as intuitive somatic experience), to more sustainable slower paces, switching back and forth between the different paces until it becomes easy. This is what I've done, and I can now run 10-11 mm pace with the same (self-perceived) smoothness of a 8mm pace (although the goal is make 8mm pace my LSD pace at some point, and not have to run 10mm paces at all).

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  4. murls Barefooters
    1. Australia

    Member Since:
    Jan 28, 2013
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    Wow. thanks for letting us know about the interview. It was a great read and well done on the great set of questions!
    Barefoot TJ likes this.
  5. ChasingShadows Barefooters
    1. United Kingdom

    Member Since:
    Jan 6, 2012
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    241
    Jason - personally I'm glad you used to promote lifting the feet, it definitely helped me in the beginning as it took me quite a while to stop digging my toes into the ground, so thanks for the help over on the RW forum. Certainly it's not something I think about now, but it was very useful for transitioning.
    On the other hand there were many people quoting many things as being essential to good BF form when I started & while it was great to try out lots of different techniques & take what worked for me I did get the impression there were others who were getting very hung up on having to get everything just so & from that point of view I think it is very good to simplify things.
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  6. Barefoot TJ Administrator
    1. Nomad
    2. Presidents

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    Mar 5, 2010
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    Well, after researching the local Karate studios here, I enrolled both my boys in Taekwon-Do/Jiu Jitsu (the gentle art of submission...loves it). Today was their first day, and they did wonderful! I could see "extreme" progress with my oldest in just a short hour-long class. They are both excited. And where my oldest was very disinterested two days ago, after the class today, when I asked him if he would like to go two or three days each week, he responded, "Three." Hee. We also got to watch a ceremony where a 5 year-old boy was promoted in level from a white belt to a white belt with yellow stripe. It was really sweet.

    ________________________

  7. sanatangolden-PT Barefooters
    1. Oregon

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2011
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    Bare Lee,
    Thanks for your excellent insight. I agree with your takes:

    1) 25% may be a bit high from my experience but this subset exists, no doubt!
    2) Yes! In fact Week 1 of Minimalist Mondays is Barefoot Walking, for technique, awarness, and building resiliance.
    3) Agree also. Week 4 is the first week of running within the curriculim and it is titled : The Power of the Run/Walk. This emphasizes the importance of quality (which may include some speed for many) work. Once mental or physical fatigue causes quality to decline, then we suggest a return to a walk until quality can be repeated.

    On a personal note, I have been trying to increase my effieciency at slower paces as they often feel awkward, as though I get outside of my natural rebound resonance. (We've all probably had awful runs with someone who is at just the wrong pace). My goal is to have the skill to be able to move at any speed that the situation requres with efficiency and relaxation.

    Again, I appreciate your response and this forum as a place to tap into a wealth of experiences...

    Sanatan

    " I've got no witty, barefoot-inspired, BRS footer quotation" --- Sanatan Golden
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  8. Dan Mozell Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 2013
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    I applaud your willingness to reconsider ideas you’ve held. If everyone in every field of endeavor did this, human knowledge would greatly advance!

    The foot lifting idea, as typically described, doesn’t make much sense to me. In order to actually lift your foot off the ground, you’d have to first grab on to a tree limb with your hands. To get your foot off the ground you have to first jump into the air, which requires pushing off the ground. This of course is the opposite of lifting your foot. Once you’re off the ground you can lift your foot, but I don’t believe this is necessary or useful. On the other hand, two different people using the same mental cue may actually each do something physically different from each other.

    The Steve Magness quote about leg recovery is about much more than foot lift. Magness and Cucuzzella do not agree on leg recovery. In one of his on-line videos, Cucuzzella says that fast runners use an active recovery in addition to the recoil. Magness says the recovery is entirely from the stretch reflex. I’m not entirely convinced of this though I probably haven’t read all the research that Magness has. But I would expect the stretch reflex to vary from person to person based on muscle length, leg length, speed, etc.

    Much of the discussion of this topic involves looking at movements in isolation from each other. The recovery of one leg is accompanied by a rotation of the pelvis around a vertical axis. If your right leg is moving forward, your pelvis is rotating such that the right side is moving forward and the left side is moving backward along with the simultaneous extension of the left leg. It seems to me that a conscious movement of the right thigh forward should actually assist with the extension of the left leg. I think this is the approach that Orton takes. I think it’s also pretty much what Feldenkrais instructors would say.

    I’m no authority, just an old slow runner with an opinion. The advice I’m currently giving myself is at http://www.danmozell.com/running
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  9. kozz Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jan 6, 2011
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    It sounds like you've finally abandoned that Pose-method nonsense. The only thing it's good for is making sure newbies stay slow until their bodies adapt and their heel-striking is cured.

    Experienced BF runners should not be afraid to go fast. I sped things up a little over a year ago and now I'm nearing my 18/19 year old form over 800 meters, and faster than ever over 400.
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  10. JEFF CT Chapter Presidents
    1. Connecticut
    2. Presidents

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    Jul 15, 2013
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    HI BAREFUSSER-

    I get your point about there being more barefoot runners that are naturally slow runners, but not sure I agree. I am hearing about barefoot runners in my State, but havent "run" into one yet. I did my 2nd BF 5K yesterday. Out of 503, there was just 1 BF guy. :) I finished 161/503, my PR, but Im still too heavy. I have a solid 10, and probably 30 lbs I am working to lose. My pace was 8:15, which isnt fast, especially since there were little kids and teens in the 17-22 min range. I did my last shod PR in June at 8:18, and was shocked when I was able to beat that unshod. Whenever possible, Id like to keep racing unshod. Which is hard to evaluate if I can run faster with shoes.

    So- although I can imagine that BF runners may be slower, I wonder if they really are - you know, on average. Ken Bob mentions qualifying for Boston BF, and to me, thats a pretty fast pace.

    It may be that BF runners care more about the BF than the pace, but I WANT IT ALL! LOL - I read a comment somewhere that a BF runner got a comment that another runner was afraid of him being fast, BECAUSE he was a BF runner, prior to race start.

    Anyway- Just saying, I dont think we should assume that BF = slow.

    Jeff-

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  11. flammee Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2012
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    I finally got myself to physical therapist because of my groin pain while running. It seems I have tight (and strong) hamstrings, my glutes don't activate - hamstrings do their work. And I also have weak iliopsoas / hip flexor muscles. And my hip is too much front. Kinda like posterior pelvic tilt, but without that tilt the pelvis is leaning just too front.. I would guess that foot lifting is part of problem - glutes should be working when your leg is in support phase, but because of several barefoot running techniques, I have been trying to concentrate on foot lift immediately the foot lands and it's hamstrings that lift the foot. So no wonder glutes are not doing anything. When glutes are not working, hip section is unstable and also hamstring activation pulls head of thigh bone at it's attachment point at pelvis different way, and that's what causes the pain.. And having hip too much front deactivates hip flexors and they become weak.

    So, I would guess that overdoing leaning with hip can be bad and foot lift may cause bad things too. I have history of being real hardcore nerd, I used to sit on front of computer for 8-10 hours / day my whole youth, so there probably is some abnormally weak or tight body parts that are the main problem.
    migangelo likes this.
  12. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
    1. Minnesota

    Member Since:
    Jul 25, 2011
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    Flammee, besides ditching the foot lift, one of the more bizarre advices given, given that 70-80% of leg return is reflexive, needing no muscle activation whatsoever, you might try strength training. You probably already know this, but deadlifts and squats will strengthen your hip flexors and glutes, and presses and rows will help with posture. I didn't have the same issues as you, but once I began doing the first two lifts in earnest, my ITBS cleared up. And I notice my posture starts to go after just a week or so break from upper body lifts. Of course, more frequent massage and stretching also played a big role in curing me of ITBS, but it seems more and more recreational runners are discovering the importance of supporting their running with a little ST.

    ________________________

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  13. flammee Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2012
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    Well, for now I will do only those few moves that physical therapist told to do plus little push ups, pull ups, abs and back exercises. And stretching of hamstrings. I tried before to do some squats, deadlifts and stretching of hip region few months ago, but problem is that my hip flexors and maybe adductors are too strained for that. At the end of last summer I tried doing squats, but even just 20 kg barbell was too heavy to squat - it caused pain to hip flexors at the bottom of squat, but wasn't much resistance to lift.. Also stretching seemed to just cumulatively add pain, so I guess it's time for resting and light therapeutic exercising.

    Deadlift might be bit problematic in my case because there's that problem of hamstrings doing the work of glutes. In straight leg lift, while lying face down, my hamstrings activate before glutes and it should be glutes to activate first. It most certainly is not all blame of foot lifting, because I haven't done that actively very much, just time to time for different reasons. Last year I increased sitting because I got back to school and also swapped to work that has more sitting.

    BTW, reading great books to self diagnose the problem didn't work for me. I read Jay Dicharrys anatomy for runners and thought I had tight hip flexors and pelvis tilting forwards. It has some of the same symptoms that I had, but according to physical therapist, my problem is pretty much opposite.

    I haven't found much advice what I should do while running. There's advice to concentrate on glute activation, but it's pretty hard thing to do when you can't do it consciously while running. I can move my legs, but it's pretty hard to know which muscles are firing and even harder to change that.


    As a sidenote, I trained martial arts about a decade before I started running, I could always kick easily pretty high, something like hand length upwards from head level. I wondered how it is possible because in stretching moves I was not much limber than people who have hard time kicking at head level. Now it seems that my core let's hip tilt more to front, back and sides so I can reach with my foot easily higher. Useful in kicking, bad support while running.
    Sid likes this.
  14. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
    1. Minnesota

    Member Since:
    Jul 25, 2011
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    Sounds like you're in good hands and have a good handle on what will work and what won't. I was just making a suggestion in case you hadn't tried it. In the same spirit, another thing I like for the hip and butt area are leg swings, both front and back, side to side, with ankle weights. Oh and one more thing to try, especially good for the glutes, would be donkey kicks and/or hyperextensions. Opps, also sprints and/or hills perhaps.

    In any case, all the best in getting things sorted out and getting back to good running.

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  15. RockyMtn Barefooters
    1. Colorado

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    Jan 20, 2014
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    I am faster barefoot. I have been running barefoot about 3 years and did a few races this year: 1 M, 5k, 10k, 10 M, and a half marathon. I ran them all barefoot and I PR'ed every distance at the age of 46. While this increase in speed may be due to other variables, I feel a lot faster barefoot.
  16. Sid Barefooters

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  17. migangelo Barefooters
    1. Oregon
    2. California -...

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    Jun 5, 2010
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    so i just discovered i was "lifting my foot" all wrong. i was more pushing or lifting with my calve, not my psoas. big difference. with a little time and training i'll be looking like Dr Cucazella.

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