Any runner knows that if you’re putting in heavy mileage each week, you’re bound to have a few aches and pains. With the idea of running barefoot becoming increasingly popular, unshod runners are claiming their bodies are plagued with less injuries (and not to mention, super sexy calves). Author, athlete, and coach, Michael Sandler, gives five tips for becoming and staying injury free.
1. Barefoot Training
According to Sandler, when able to reconnect with the ground we’re running on, our bodies work more efficiently. “In sneakers, there’s 3 times the impact upon hitting the ground, but when barefoot, there’s no impact,” Sandler says. The arch in our feet and our toes act as a human spring without shoes and absorbs the impact more efficiently, causing less injury to feet, tendons, knees, and muscles.
2. Learn Proper Running Form
“Good running form is always landing on your forefoot,” Sandler says. To achieve good running form, watch videos of elite runners’ form, purchase a book or DVD about running, or go to a running clinic. Also, strengthening your feet is key to achieving proper form. Using your toes, grab a golf ball, or just walk around grabbing at the ground with your toes. “Really become a student of running,” Sandler adds.
3. Take Baby Steps and Be Aware
The good feeling you get from running can be very addictive, causing you to go too far too fast. Be sure to stick to your gut and not push your limits too early, which will cause injury. Being barefoot forces runners to really focus on their surroundings, and especially on their next steps. “Shut off your iPod and listen to your body and surroundings,” Sandler says. “Running barefoot is running aware-foot.”
Most barefoot runners tend to go back into a shoe, be it for going out or going to work. According to Sandler, “it’s really hard to stay injury free in a typical shoe.” High heels and narrow shoes are the worst for feet, since they reshape the foot out of its normal form. Be sure to wear properly fitting shoes that aren’t too confining, your feet will thank you.
5. Make Sure You’re Having Fun
Run as if you were a child again. “If it feels great, keep running. But the moment your smile turns around and you’re tired, stop, don’t push yourself,” Sandler says. Forcing your body to continue moving after you feel overworked can cause injury. If muscles are sore, tight, and tired, take some time to relax and recover. “Always listen to your body,” Sandler says.