Why learn good barefoot form? (serious)

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by startingupagain, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. startingupagain

    startingupagain Barefooters
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    So this is a serious question: A lot of talk on this board about using proper barefoot form (lift up feet, bend knees, don't push off...). I'm not sure I understand why. I can see learning proper form to hit a baseball or swing a golf club since neither is an inherently natural activity. But running barefoot is. I don't think anyone is teaching the various indigenous barefoot runners we read about how to run. So it seems to me that (at least) one of the following three things has to be true (in which case I would love a discussion of which ones you guys think are most likely true, or if there is another possibility I am missing)

    1) You don't really need to consciously worry about good form. Just run barefoot. Some combination of your genes and feedback from your feet will get you running correctly as long as you increase mileage slowly.

    2) You need to consciously focus on good form because of all the years you wore shoes. If you hadn't worn shoes, you could just run and not worry about form, but you did wear shoes, so you have to worry about form.

    3) Even people who have never worn shoes would do well to consciously worry about form.
     
  2. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
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    I think if people are brought

    I think if people are brought up barefoot and running is part of their culture, as in the indigenous peoples around the world, then they more intuitively know how to place their feet.

    We, in so-called, civilized, western cultures have robbed ourselves of this sense, so it takes us longer to get it back, and therefore, we are more likely to become injured if we have already become accustomed to running in shoes and programmed our brains to run in a certain way, i.e., heel strike.

    The purpose of advising people to lift their feet, bend their knees, keep a quick cadence to shorten their stride, etc., (characteristics of natural running) helps them to get that natural running ability back.

    I also believe that those people who travel by foot throughout their lives are less likely to develop blisters and injuries because their feet have been able to adapt to the terrain from birth by simple exposure. Again, we have robbed ourselves of this advantage. Our soles have become weak, our muscoloskeletal system has become atrophied. If we had been raised barefoot, then we wouldn't have to worry about lifting our feet to keep from blistering.

    Blistering indicates too much force, friction, or shearing in a particular area of the foot, so blistering for us is a good thing. It teaches us how much weight we can place on any given part of the foot for any given terrain, it teaches us to tread lightly, it teaches us to limit shearing, etc. Same goes for other injuries of the foot, ankle, etc. Developing an injury will tell you exactly what you did wrong and why it's important to not repeat that same mistake. I'm sure the indigenous peoples have their share of foot, ankle, leg injuries, but just not to the magnitude that we do and not for the same reasons.
     
  3. stomper

    stomper Guest

    IMHO, #1.   Just run barefoot

    IMHO, #1. Just run barefoot and you'll figure it out.

    And I mean REALLY barefoot, not in minimal shoes, so you get the maximum feedback.

    But: you've really got to TAKE IT EASY and listen to your body. It's going to take a while for all those muscles and nerves to figure out what they need to do. For myself, I might have been more experienced than some other people in listening to my body. But once I really got the idea of just feeling my way through it and forgetting all the chi running and other stuff I had been taught, I got better at running, and it got more fun. Thinking of form constantly is a drag.
     
  4. sloutre

    sloutre Barefooters
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    #1, if you run alone, and if

    #1, if you run alone, and if you're not exhausted.

    If you're surrounded by people pounding the ground with their shoes, all at the same slow cadence, with long stride, it makes it harder to not mimic them. In that case I think there is benefit in thinking of form.

    Now I don't think about form much, but if something doesn't feel right (rough road surface, pain, fatigue, hill too steep,...) I remind myself to relax and bend my knees more. It usually fixes my form enough, but I have to make a conscious effort to do it.
     

  5. startingupagain

    startingupagain Barefooters
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    Ok.  So far, two votes for #1

    Ok. So far, two votes for #1 (stomper and sloutre) and one vote for #2 (TJ). And I understand that barefoot means barefoot. I usually run in VFF's and never think about form when actually running. But I do try to run barefoot barefoot often enough to keep my form in check. I'm looking forward to it being warm enough soon to that again.
     
  6. C. Beth Run.

    C. Beth Run. Barefooters
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    For me...#2. A lot of "proper

    For me...#2. A lot of "proper barefoot form" didn't feel natural to me even when I ditched the traditional running shoes. But thinking about those things and incorporating them helps me to be overall gentler in my running.
     

  7. ajb422

    ajb422 Barefooters
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    I vote number one. With the

    I vote number one. With the added mention of running on semi-nasty surfaces on occasion. I've never spent too much time worrying about form (except for a random hill paranoia I had for a few weeks), and just did it. But I find running the first and last half mile over nasty gravel helps my mind and feet figure things out alittle better. Some days I can feel the form clicking better than others but its not from any effort and the more I run the more often I feel everything clicking. And that goes for both my bf and minamalist running.
     
  8. AaronH

    AaronH Barefooters
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    I gave up on (and retracted)

    I gave up on (and retracted) most form advice; I think it's counterproductive. None of it helped me build up to long distances. The only practice that did was hiking then running on trails and light gravel. I won't even pretend to know precisely why that's been the case.
     
  9. JosephTree

    JosephTree Barefooters
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    Both 1 and 2:  I had to start

    Both 1 and 2: I had to start somewhere and everything had to have some story to help me make sense of it. I read about form, thought about it and gave it attention as I ran and then I pretty much began the process of forgetting about it. As abj said, clicking is better than selfconsciousness.
     
  10. Joshh

    Joshh Barefooters
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    I think your question is a

    I think your question is a good one. I would usually have the tendency to agree with the idea that we are natural runners and innately know "how."

    But, I have been surprised to discover that by simply looking down while I run I have found that my right foot swings out more than my left. By being conscious of it I can correct it but more than anything it has me wondering what else is swinging and where and how. I am just coming off a rehab'ed IT band issue and thanks to Jimmy on this forum have discovered that a three old surfing injury has left me with an unbalanced hip.

    So basically I would say that yes, we are natural runners and are truly "born to run" but life happens and instead of taking chances, we would do well to pay close attention to how we are moving. It SUCKS to not be able to run because of an injury. If you are like me, having the freedom of running taken away from you, you may find your beliefs about running changing in a hurry.
     
  11. Barefoot Gentile

    Barefoot Gentile Barefooters
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    startingupagain wrote:Ok.



    VFF are still running shoes, to me. Go out and run 10 miles barefoot this weekend, and see how your form compares to when you run in Vibrams.
     
  12. startingupagain

    startingupagain Barefooters
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    @Adam G. Umm.  I'm not sure

    @Adam G.



    Umm. I'm not sure I get your post at all. The part you quoted from me I thought made clear that I understand that barefoot means barefoot (as in not VFF's) and that I do try to run "barefoot barefoot" (as in, well, barefoot, as in, well, not wearing any shoes) "often enough to keep my form in check". Are we just misunderstanding each other? Because your suggestion sounds like exactly what I said I was planning on doing as soon as it got a little warmer.
     
  13. Danjo

    Danjo Barefooters
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    Throw my vote in for #1.

    Throw my vote in for #1. Because even if you read all the barefoot running books in the world and memorized Ken Bob's site, you'd still have crappy form for you first couple months. I think some of the tips are helpful, and some less so, but the most important thing is to just forget all of the things you learned about running from wearing shoes, and get out there barefoot. Nothing better for improving form than mileage. I think all the advice we give people is just to try and give them little hints of what they should be doing to figure things out for themselves.

    Take for example all the people who run without their heels touching the ground at all for their first couple times. Would the calf pain force them to change that eventually? Yes. But its faster for us to just say "Stop doing that you idiot, you'll destroy your calves." haha.

    But I also think you can only get the real basics down from word of mouth. Like your whole foot touching the ground, quick cadence, it shouldn't hurt and you shouldn't get blisters. Beyond that its up to you to figure stuff out just by doing it.
     
  14. saypay45

    saypay45 Chapter Presidents
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    I'm usually on the "who cares

    I'm usually on the "who cares about form" wagon. When I run I look like someone shot me in the kneecap. But I don't get blisters or hotspots, and I haven't for a long time.

    BUUUUUT, I'd qualify that my opinion only applies to barefooting in ideal conditions. In snow, rain, etc., you need to be conscious of your form because your feet aren't giving you perfect feedback. If you just run how you feel in those conditions, you'll end up with some fun injuries.
     
  15. Dirtbag

    Dirtbag Barefooters
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    I'm one of those people that

    I'm one of those people that needed form advice, more from a validation perspective than anything else. Running barefoot, or in VFFs as I normally do (I know its not really barefoot then so *raspberry*) was such a huge change for me than I wanted someone telling me, "No, this is what it should look like. How your gate is changing is correct." Especially since I injured myself right away from not taking my time building up distances. I needed (let's be honest, need) to be sure I was/am running properly. I'm a teacher, a reader, and a visual learner so I grabbed everything I could find, blogs, articles,and youtubes and filled up on proper form.

    I understand the holistic method of let it come, and I'm trying to move from thinking about running to purely running and my best runs happen when that happens, but I like form advice. Then I can listen to my body AND know how I should look when running. Those two pieces fit together well for me.
     

  16. Neil_D

    Neil_D Chapter Presidents
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    I'll go for statement 2.It

    I'll go for statement 2.

    It might be natural when you are a young child but you need to re-learn the skill if you have been wearing shoes for many years.

    It took me a year to learn the skill and I had to read extensively first, I still got injured but because I understood the method described in a book (Pose Method) I was able to change my form to stop the injuries reoccuring.

    I don't believe you can just naturally accquire the skill to run or else every runner would run exactly the same and we know that is not the case.

    Neil
     
  17. Joshh

    Joshh Barefooters
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    What Dirtbag said.  Listen to

    What Dirtbag said. Listen to your body AND know how you should look. Seems silly to disregard all the foreward thinking that's been done on the subject. Chi Running made a lot of sense to me, even if it was written by a guy who wears shoes.
     
  18. Joshh

    Joshh Barefooters
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    For everyone following this

    For everyone following this conversation, I recommend checking out the excellent vids on the INTERESTING VIDEO COMPARISON post.
     
  19. ajb422

    ajb422 Barefooters
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    Neil_D wrote: I don't believe

    Well not neccessarily, what is one persons perfect form might not work for another person. I don't think there is one perfect form that is ideal. Sure there are probably similarities but that doesn't mean its the same. We all have different strengths and weakness and I think that the goal is to find your perfect form not the perfect form.
     
  20. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
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    AJB, I think what you and

    AJB, I think what you and Neil are saying is the same thing, just using different words.
     

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