I am an avid minimalist runner. I usually run in minimalist shoes (I live in the city) but whenever I can, usually in the Summer, I try to do some real barefooting off road. Barefoot/Minimalist running has now hit the mainstream and nearly all the big brands are offering a more minimal shoe. If you are interested in minimalist running you will probably have heard about the need to transition slowly to avoid injury. I cannot argue with this! You MUST transition slowly, and try to do most of your running off road because hard surfaces will just increase the pain in your calves the next day! However, I feel that the magazines, manuals and bloggers out there are failing to mention a couple of major reasons as to why people are getting injured.
People overthink technique
In sports science this is known as “paralysis by analysis”. It is the inability to perform a manoeuvre or action due to the brain over analyzing every tiny detail. This is an issue which I came across when starting to run in a more natural style. I knew what to do – fast turn over, mid-forefoot strike, lean forward from the ankles – but I over analysed. That is not to say that I could not run! However I do believe that, because I was thinking about every stride and concentrating incredibly hard on not heel striking, that I ran on my toes too much. I was running like a sprinter. Silly me. My calves and Achilles tendon were agonizingly tight within a mile. This is the mistake that a lot of people make. They are getting screamed at (metaphorically) from every angle NOT TO HEEL STRIKE. So they take it too far and run on their toes…..and this is as unnatural as heel striking. You end up putting far too much strain on your calves which don’t have the strength or endurance to maintain such an innefficient technique. So remember, if you are looking to start running in a minimalist style, it is a mid to forefoot strike. This does not mean heel striking, but it also does not mean running completely on your toes. Mid-forefoot. Don’t make the same mistake I made.
A follow on from running on your toes. Again, people are overthinking their running technique which results in them being very rigid when they run. The secret is to relax. You should feel like you are simply flowing across the ground rather than forcing your way along. If you are tense when you are running, your form will automatically suffer – and I wouldn’t be writing this article if I did not take running form seriously! So remember to run tall, keep the shoulders and arms in a comfortable but relaxed position. I see too many people running with a really aggressive and rigid technique, just look at the Kenyan marathon runners. They looked chilled.
Minimalist or barefoot running is as much about ‘letting it all flow’ as it is about concentrating on technique. Both are incredibly important but I definitely feel as though too many people spend too much time doing the latter. Just relax, enjoy yourself and let it all go…
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