Running Technique: Fundamental and Incidental Actions

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Barefoot Ken Bob, Jan 28, 2015.

  1. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
    1. California...

    Apr 3, 2010
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    Running Technique: Fundamental and Incidental Actions
    By Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton

    When we look at running technique, it's often easy to focus too much on specific actions that are incidental to other more fundamental actions. Then when we try to imitate those incidental actions, all hell breaks loose.

    For example, if we move our body forward, our feet will move quickly to catch up. This fast cadence is observed by a student of running, and that student might jump to the conclusion that she/he needs to move his/her feet quickly to match the technique of that runner. But, from that runner's point of view, she/he simply tried to move forward, and her/his feet moved quickly in response to get back under their body.

    Another example is "leaping". Running, by definition, means that both feet are off the ground at some point in each step. So the observer may conclude that "leaping" or "jumping" is fundamental to running. It almost makes sense, if the feet both need to be off the ground to be running, then it must be necessary to launch the body up into the air, in a jumping manner.

    However, it isn't necessary, and in fact, it can be counter-productive to TRY to jump with each step. After all, the fundamental goal of running is to move the body forward. "Leaping" or "Jumping" is up and down movement, which may be incidental to a fast cadence while the body is moving forward quickly... But fast cadence, itself, as I mentioned above, is incidental to moving the body forward.

    Will the body move up and down while running? Probably. But if you TRY to launch your body into the air, we lose several things;
    1. Forward momentum - we have just diverted our bodies from moving forward (the direction we're trying to go).
    2. Cadence - The harder we push our body up into the air, the longer we need to wait for it to come crashing down again - that excess time necessarily slows down our cadence.
    3. Gentleness - The harder we push our body up into the air, the harder we come crashing down again.

    Anyway, it's a lot easier to use our massive (relative to our feet) body to lift our small (relative to our body) feet, than it is to launch our massive (relatively speaking) body into the air using our small (relative to our body) feet.

    So, essentially, running (and walking) is about moving the body forward. Most every other action, it could be argued (and I am), is incidental to that.

    The following video is old, but it emphasizes the same point:


    Barefoot Ken Bob,

    About the Author

    Webmaster and founder of the Original Running Barefoot website (1997-present) -, President Los Angeles Chapter of The Barefoot Runners Society (2010-present), Co-author; Barefoot Running Step by Step (2011), Barefoot Running Guru (1997-present), completed more than 400 races barefoot (as of 2012), including 79 marathons (26.2 miles each), and one ultra-marathon (50 kilometers+)
    Arjan Muthert, Dima, Tedlet and 4 others like this.
  2. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
    1. Nomad

    Mar 5, 2010
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    I equate this to wearing orthotics. If they change my foot positioning, the rest of my body will follow, and that's not necessarily always a good thing.
    Tedlet likes this.
  3. Dirty Toes Joe

    Dirty Toes Joe Barefooters
    1. Michigan

    Jul 20, 2010
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    Well said both of you! Probably one of the best explanations for the whole "lift the feet" thing I have ever read.
  4. Sly

    Sly Chapter Presidents
    1. Portugal

    Oct 8, 2013
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    it's like when I started to read about running techniques, I was too much focused on the "ball-of-the-foot" landing
    now I understand this is not what we have to think about, it is just the result of a good posture.

    if you tell a hardcore heel-striker "go midfoot", the guy may try but the result will be just so weird and not efficient.
    it took me time to realize that
    Tedlet, Bare Lee and DNEchris like this.
  5. Bare Lee

    Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
    1. Minnesota
    2. Presidents

    Jul 25, 2011
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    That's what I've concluded too. Get a good, athletic, relaxed posture and everything else will follow, as long as you're barefoot. All those form cues are for shoddies with limited proprioception, as far as I can tell.

    Deadlifts and rows are great for posture. We sit too much, and then if we strength-train, we press too much, both of which draw the body forward. It's really helpful to do some pulls to counteract that.
    Tedlet and Sly like this.
  6. Dima

    Dima Barefooters
    1. Ohio

    Jun 10, 2012
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    That was very well written. It reminds me to keep my soles no higher than i need to. No need to waste energy!
    Barefoot TJ likes this.

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