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What is barefoot running?

20.000 years ago, people who didn't believe in barefoot running got eaten. It's a joke we use from time to time. As with anything, there are proponents and opponents of barefoot running.

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    The above quote does illustrate that it is the "natural" form of walking. It is the way of walking that almost everyone used to do. And I'm not just talking about the Stone Age, but even until the 1970s when the "modern" running shoe was introduced.

    What is Barefoot Running?

    Barefoot running means ... literally running barefoot. And although there are also many people who really run barefoot, barefoot runners usually use specific barefoot shoes. A more correct term is actually natural running or minimalistic running. In this special form of running, very flexible (barefoot) running shoes are used. These shoes provide protection for the foot and give you extra grip, but are not made to provide extra cushioning or support. So they give the feeling of bare feet; hence the term barefoot shoes or barefoot shoes.

    And actually it doesn't even have to be about running, it's just about moving in the way our bodies are made. Without tools, without support but just trust our own body. So you can safely expand barefoot running to barefoot living and in that respect you can rather see it as a lifestyle than as a technique.

    How we all learned to run in school....

    Almost everyone learned the same thing at school: when we run we must first lift the knees. Then you swing the lower leg forward as far as possible. You place your heel on the ground and then you roll the foot off. Now let's analyze this.

    Placement of the supporting leg in "classic" running:

    By lifting the knees and extending the lower leg, you place your foot in front of the body. The center of gravity of the body is at the level of your pelvis. This means that your center of gravity is behind your fulcrum while running. So you must actively move your center of gravity across your point of rotation.

    Because your fulcrum is placed so far in front of your center of gravity, you will almost automatically perform a heel landing. Your whole body weight ends up on the heel bone. I don't know how much fat there is under your heel bone, but for me personally it's not that much. In other words, the heel bone is actually not naturally protected to land on it!

    Placement of the supporting leg in barefoot running:

    In barefoot running, you lean forward from your center of gravity (note: do not bend forward! Then your upper body leans forward, but you usually put your pelvis back!). By leaning slightly forward, your center of gravity automatically moves past your fulcrum and you "fall" forward, so to speak. Now place one foot forward. You land on your front foot, with the foot under your body. At this point, your pelvis, knee and ankle are quasi on top of each other. These are your natural shock absorbers. Only then does the heel hit the ground. As you lean forward, you automatically move to the next step. The beginning of the step, however, is not the raising of the knee, but the lifting of your foot (towards the back).

    So the movement in barefoot running starts from the hamstrings (lifting the foot toward the buttock) and not from the quadriceps (lifting the knee). How close the heel comes to the buttock depends on the running speed. Only in the second phase does the upper leg move forward. This is more of a passive movement (due to the speed of heel strike) and less of an active movement. Again, the higher the speed, the higher the knee rises (due to higher speed and a large mass of the leg, it is thrown forward).

    In barefoot running, the stride length will be much smaller and the stride frequency much higher. A normal stride frequency in barefoot running is over 180 strides per minute!

    And say to yourself. What sounds more logical: pulling yourself over your center of gravity or falling over your center of gravity almost automatically due to an adjusted body position?

    Reset your body

    One can never stress it enough: but to switch to barefoot running, your body needs time. For years on end, you probably tucked your feet away in (too) narrow shoes. Shoes in which your foot muscles were hardly or not at all active. And therefore were not trained.

    In barefoot running, your foot suddenly gets all the freedom it needs. Either because it is not limited at all (barefoot) or because it finally gets the space a foot actually needs (barefoot or minimalist shoes). On top of that, the foot has much more ground control and the foot muscles can anticipate better to the surface.

    But: most likely your body is not adapted to this. The bones of your forefoot are not (anymore) used to being loaded so heavily, your foot muscles have been lazy for years. In other words, you will have to train your body. Give your body time to adjust to your new technique. Actually, this is ironic. You need to "reset" your body because you stood and walked wrong for years.

    Starting with barefoot running

    Don't walk more than a few hundred yards the first time. You can do this as a "run-out" from your normal training if necessary. Your body will need about 12 weeks to adjust to your new technique. After 12 weeks, you will basically be able to run easily for 15-20 minutes with the barefoot running technique. Then you can continue to build volume, an ideal amount from then on is 10% extra per week. Keep in mind that it can take up to a year before your body has adapted 100%. The more you run barefoot or minimalist shoes in everyday life, the faster your body will get used to its new alignment.

    Do you want to learn the right running technique as soon as possible? Then it is actually best to run barefoot on a hard surface. Your body will get the most feedback and you will catch yourself on mistakes faster. Do you want to run on minimalist shoes? Even then it can be interesting to train barefoot first and perfect your technique! 

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    IEDEREEN LOOPT 9,5 / 10 - 908 Reviews @ WebwinkelKeur
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