Are you running too fast?

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Are you running too fast?

Running too fast on easy runs - the most common mistake runners make

I’ve done it too many times.

 

I laced up my running shoes, and headed out the door with my coaches’ words in mind: “Heart rate should stay in zone 2.” But with the beep of my watch and a few steps into the run, they vanished into oblivion.

 

This was going to be a good run. Each time I checked my pace, I was surprised I was running well below 7:30min/miles because it felt so effortless. But each time I checked my heart rate, I would watch it climbing from zone 2 into zone 3 into zone 4 as I kept going, reminding me my coaches’ words.

 

Did it make me slow down? Not really. 

Because it was much more fun to run fast. Because running slow just doesn’t feel like running. Because slowing down doesn’t get me into the flow state that I love about running.

Regret doesn’t settle in until a day later when I would take out my flats for a tempo session. As I lined up for the 1,000m repeats, my legs were heavy before even starting to run and the last 200m of each repeat felt like lactate was killing my quads. No matter how hard I ran, I wasn’t able to meet the times I was supposed to.

 

Long story short, it took me a while to understand that running too fast for easy runs doesn’t make me faster in the long run. And scrolling through Strava is proof enough that I am not the only runner who struggles to slow down. Keep reading to find out why this is a bigger problem than you think!

The most common mistake is running too hard on recovery days

Matt Fitzgerald, author of 80/20 Running, says that most runners make the mistake of running too fast for their easy runs. While 80% of your weekly training should be done at low intensity, he suggests that only 20% are supposed to be at moderate or high intensity. So, if you’re running five times a week, your heart rate should stay in zone 2 in four of these runs. The fifth run could be a tempo run or hard workout.1

This is why running too fast for easy runs will make you race slower

It’s a common misconception that only running fast will make you faster in races. In fact, it is the other way around.

High quality tempo workouts will give you the speed you need to race fast. But easy long runs will give you the fitness to keep up that pace for a longer time.

Now running too fast on recovery days will do two things. First, it will cost you too much energy which you could otherwise have used for a speed workout on the track. This means that your workout will lose quality as it will be much harder to meet the times you wanted to run. Secondly, running too fast for easy runs, with your heart rate above 80% of your maximum heart rate, might get you into the anaerobic zone rather than the aerobic zone. In this case, your body is producing more lactate than the body can break down and your legs will feel sore and heavy after or at the end of your run.2

 

Experts recommend a polarized approach to training, which means that you will either train in the aerobic zone (low intensity) or in the anaerobic (high intensity).1 Moderate intensity runs should be only a small part of your training, as it puts you right in the mid zone which trains neither your aerobic fitness nor anaerobic.

Low-intensity training is the foundation for speed work

Some people say that easy miles are “empty” miles that put you at higher risk for injury. This is only true to some extent.

If you are someone who likes to stick to running and avoids cross-training by all means, you need those easy runs to build up your basic fitness. Triathletes or someone who enjoys other endurance sports might consider recovery runs as useless as they can do their low-intensity training in the pool or on the bike. Any low-intensity activity will help build an aerobic base — your “fitness”.

To make sure that you are staying in the aerobic state, wear a heart rate monitor and aim for 60–75% of your maximum heart rate.3

The best runners of the world run easy on recovery days

When British missionaries built schools in rural Kenya, they did not know they were turning Kenya into the fastest nation of the world. Most students had to run to class every single day, which was essentially a low-intensity running program. Up until today, many elite runners from Kenya are known for running more than 80% of their training volume at an easy pace.1

 

It’s a similar story for most elite running teams in the US. Elite marathoners of the Mammoth Track Club even run 85–90% of their weekly mileage at an easy pace, says head coach Andrew Kastor.4

We get stronger on recovery days

Mozart once said that the breaks in between tones make the music. Just like that, we need recovery and rest days to bring harmony and balance into our training. So even if you’re feeling like you could run the race of your life when your training schedule says “4 miles easy”, you should stick to it. Remember, running your easy runs easy will shave off those 5 seconds you need for a new PR. 

References

1 Fitzgerald, Matt. 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. Penguin Books, 2015.

2 Jeff, Coach. “Want to Run Your Best? Understand Aerobic vs. Anaerobic.” Runners Connect, 1 June 2020, runnersconnect.net/aerobic-vs-anaerobic-training/.

3 Russell, Sarah. “Are You Sabotaging Your Long Run Running the Wrong Pace?” Runners Connect, 9 May 2016, runnersconnect.net/wrong-long-run-pace/.

4 “How Running Slower Makes You Faster.” On, www.on-running.com/en-de/articles/how-running-slower-makes-you-faster-marathon-training-tips.

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About The Author

I did my first triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at six years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it took another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 
Beyond Limits

Everything Endurance Sports. 

Disclaimer

All resources and information shared on this website are only for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease.

Copyright © 2022

10 Foam Rolling Secrets Everyone Should Know About

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10 Foam Rolling Secrets Everyone Should Know About

In the corner of my living room, there’s a container filled with foam rollers of all shapes and sizes. Cylinders, balls, mini balls, double balls, mini rollers. I sometimes make a detour around that corner of my apartment because I feel guilty for not using them as often as I should. But since doing research for this article, I’ve stopped avoiding foam rollers. Keep reading if you want to know why and if you want to learn how to use foam rollers the right way.

 

1. Always roll in only one direction/towards the core

Most people think that foam rolling is supposed to be a back-and-forth movement. Experts, however, recommend foam rolling in only one direction. There are two reasons for this.

 

Venous valves, which control blood flow, open up towards the glutes instead of the lower leg. That’s why it is detrimental to the venous valves if you’re rolling in the wrong direction. In the long run, this can even lead to varicose veins. However, when you’re only rolling towards the heart, your connective tissue loosens up and reduces stiffness.1

 

Fascia contains water which is expelled under compression. That’s why foam rolling has positive effects on muscles stiffness and flexibility.2 You will achieve the greatest effects when rolling towards the core instead of back and forth.

2. Pre-rolling improves sprint performance

If you’re a sprinter, you might want to consider foam rolling prior to exercise because it improves flexibility and therefore your sprint performance. Studies also suggest that the fact that athletes perceive less pain after foam rolling makes them run faster.3

3. Post-rolling improves recovery, speed, and strength performance

You’ve probably heard it before, but if you foam roll after intense exercise, your body needs less time to recover.3 And the faster you recover, the more time you have to get in quality training, which means that you’ll also get faster easier.

4. Foam Rolling breaks down trigger points

Trigger points are “muscle knots” of about 2-10mm in the myofascia. They are palpable and when compressed, they can elicit local twitch responses or jump signs.4 Trigger points can be one reason for unexplained aches and pains. Foam rolling can break those trigger points and therefore saves you from muscle pain (and possibly from a few visits to the physio).5 When you find a sore spot while you are foam rolling, pause and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Expect it to be painful, but it’s worth it!

5. Feedback on recovery status

If you foam roll on a regular basis, you can use the feedback you get through muscle pain to evaluate the workout’s effect on your body. Normally, your legs will be very sore after running intervals, so foam rolling will be more painful than after an easy run. This feedback can also be a great way to find out if you have recovered well after a hard workout or race and determine when you can schedule the next tempo run.

6. Treatment of injuries

Foam rolling increases blood flow in sore muscles and increases circulation.2 Depending on what kind of injury you have, be careful not to roll exactly on the spot that is hurting. For example, if you’re dealing with Achilles tendonitis, you should roll your calves and the sole of the foot as they are often related to the pain in your tendon. Make sure to talk to your doctor or physio to find out which areas you can foam roll and which to stay away from.

7. Do not roll your IT band

The IT band is not a muscle. If you are dealing with iliotibial band issues, the pain might be caused by muscular imbalances in other areas. So even if your IT band is hurting, you’re not treating the real problem by foam rolling it. Matthias Scheible, expert in physio therapy and osteopathy, recommends foam rolling the surrounding muscles instead. This includes the glutes, quads, and the hamstrings.

8. Do not roll with excessive force

Before you go all in with foam rolling, put only little pressure on your muscles at first. If the pain lessens right away, you’re good to go. If it takes more than 10 to 15 seconds to disappear, Matthias Scheible recommends to stop foam rolling as the pain might be caused by something else than sore muscles. In this case, foam rolling can even be detrimental to your muscles or the surrounding tissue.

9. Diversify your foam rolling

There are a lot more kinds of foam rollers out there than the cylinder. Generally speaking, the smaller the foam roller, the more punctual the compression on the muscle.

 

Here’s what to do with which foam roller:
Ball: This is your tool to break down trigger points even more efficiently. Roll your calves, foot, or shoulders.
Cylindric foam roller: This one’s best for rolling your hamstrings, quads, or latissimus.
Mini foam rollers: Because of their small size, these foam rollers are great for traveling. They work best for your calves and feet.
Double balls: There’s a gap between the two balls so that you can roll the areas alongside your spine.

10. Your foam roller is also a good training tool

Did you know that your foam roller is more than a recovery tool? You could also use it to mix up your strength training routine! 

We all respond to foam rolling differently but research shows that it has both preventive and regenerative effects on muscle soreness after exercise.5 If you want to improve your flexibility, speed, and recovery time, you should add foam rolling to your recovery routine, but treat it like an addition to stretching and strength exercises, not a replacement.

 

References

1 “Faszienrolle: Verursacht Sie Krampfadern Oder Was Kann Sie Wirklich?” Health Tv, 2019, www.healthtv.de/mediathek/666/Faszienrolle_Verursacht_sie_Krampfadern_oder_was_kann_sie_wirklich.html.

2 Laffaye, Guillaume, et al. “Self-Myofascial Release Effect With Foam Rolling on Recovery After High-Intensity Interval Training.” Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 10, 2019, doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.01287.

3 Wiewelhove, Thimo, et al. “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery.” Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 10, 2019, doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00376.

4 Paul Ingraham, updated Jun 25. “The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain (2020).” Www.PainScience.com, 2020, www.painscience.com/tutorials/trigger-points.php.

5 Fleckenstein, Johannes, et al. “Preventive and Regenerative Foam Rolling Are Equally    Effective in Reducing Fatigue-Related Impairments of Muscle Function Following Exercise.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, Uludag University, 1 Dec. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29238246.

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About The Author

I did my first triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at six years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it took another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 
Beyond Limits

Everything Endurance Sports. 

Disclaimer

All resources and information shared on this website are only for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease.

Copyright © 2022

5 Mental Strategies for Dealing with Injuries

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5 Mental Strategies for Dealing with Injuries

How to Change Your Mindset on Injuries

Before summer 2019 came around, I had never taken a break from running for more than two or three weeks due to injury or sickness. One year later, I’ve had a fair share of injuries ranging from an ankle sprain to Achilles tendonitis to stress fracture. In that year, my running shoes stayed in the closet more days than they were taken out.

 

And of course, there was a lot of doubt, fear, and yes, even tears. Because when you’re standing at the beginning of a road, you often can’t see the end of it. When will the injury be healed? Will I lose all my fitness in recovery? When will I be able to race again?

 

In the end, injuries are just part of sports although we do our best to avoid them or sometimes even to ignore them. But they want our attention and they want to be learned from.

 

Here are the best strategies that helped me change the way I think about injuries. 

Remind yourself of all the good things in your life. Be grateful.

You’ve heard it a hundred times. Maybe you’re annoyed of hearing it another time. If the latter is true, you should ask yourself if you’ve really been listening then. You’ve probably skipped this question before, but if you really want to change your mindset about injuries, you have to answer this for yourself: What am I grateful for?

 

There is so much to be thankful for. If you can’t come up with something personal yet, think about the people you’re close to, the fact that you have a safe place to sleep, and plenty of food to keep you healthy. Once you have found an answer that feels good, hold on to the feeling of gratitude.

 

Injuries are here to point out what you’ve been neglecting.

Problems, injuries, and diseases have one thing in common: They make us look at things we haven’t given enough attention to. The stress reaction might point out that you have been training too much for too long. The fatigue that constantly has your company might be a sign that you’ve been ignoring you sleeping needs. The tight calves might want to tell you that they need better recovery treatment.

 

It sounds weird, but be grateful for the injury because it points out mistakes of the past and it shows you the way to go in the future. Listen to your body and give yourself what you need!

The analogy of the prisoner.

Imagine you were wrongly convicted of a crime you had nothing to do with. You’re facing ten years of prison. How would you deal with that?

 

I think there are two ways to look at the situation. You could give up on hope and let your fate break you. Or you could take this as a chance. You could use this time to learn about yourself, to meditate, to read books, to write, to talk to other prisoners.

 

Now of course dealing with an injury is not as hard as dealing with ten years of prison. But no matter how bad or not-so-bad a situation is, you can always make the best of it and treat it like an opportunity.

Take running as a metaphor.

You’ve just passed the midpoint of your first half-marathon. You’re tired, your legs are heavy. You want to quit. But you don’t. Because you know how good it feels when you’re finally crossing the finish line. How good the food tastes after running for so long. Or when your friends and family cover you in hugs and congratulations.

 

 

Obviously, you can’t quit an injury like you can quit a race. But just like a race, an injury is a challenge. And no matter the size or shape of a challenge, once you’ve overcome it you’re stronger.

Find other things to occupy your mind with.

It’s a strategy you’ll probably read about in any guide about dealing with injuries. But it’s still a good one.

 

When you’re forced to take a break from running, you’ll have more or less time over that is looking for a new occupation! Why not take it as a chance to try something new?

 

Even if you have to spend a lot of time at home or even in the bed, there’s still plenty to explore. I guess we’ve all become experts in this since Covid-19, but from documentaries to books to online classes, the Internet has a lot more to offer than social media and Netflix.

 

If you’re allowed to do other sports, you could engage in cross-training such as swimming, cycling, and weight lifting. If that’s not for you, think about these options: aqua jogging, bouldering, kayaking, and the elliptical are just waiting to be discovered by you!

 

While I was recovering from the stress fracture, which required me to walk on crutches for two months, I kept reminding myself of these five things every single day. And you know what? The two months actually flew by like two weeks. Just remember to be nice to yourself, give your body all the time it needs to heal, and be patient! 

 

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About The Author

I did my debut triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at 6 years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it would take another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 

Book Reviews

Disclaimer

All resources and information shared on this website are only for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease.

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The Best Aqua Jogging Workouts With Music

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The Best Aqua Jogging Workouts with Music

If you want to give aquajogging a try, I’d recommend you buy a waterproof (or splash-proof) earphone set for three reasons:

  • It will make time pass about ten times faster while you’re in the pool.
  • You won’t need to use your watch to time intervals.
  • And going at a high intensity is a lot easier when you can just imitate the music’s rhythm. 

Here’s some inspiration for aquajogging workouts with music. But be warned: There’s some weird music coming your way!

Intense Workouts

Just klick on the images to get to the Spotify playlist! 

The Pyramid Workout

The hardest part when making this playlist was finding songs that are under two minutes long. That’s why some of these songs in this playlist really top the charts for the weirdest music out there. My personal favorite is “Waiting for My Cappuccino” by Dan Reeder. You should definitely check it out if you haven’t heard it yet! (I’d love to hear your interpretation of the lyrics!)

Duration: 1h15min 

Main Set: 1-5min hard, increasing by 30s with each repeat; 30s rest 

Intensity: 4/5

30s Fartlek

This one is a 14x2min in which the two minute sets consist of four thirty-second songs. Let me tell you: You probably won’t ever want to hear those four songs again when you’re done with the workout 🙂 

Duration: 53min 

Main Set: 14x 2min (30s sprint, 30s medium, 30s sprint, 30s medium)  

Intensity: 4/5

"Oh Hack" Workout

This playlist is based around the song “HACK” by Shuta Sueyoshi and Wonder Hack. Trust me when I’m saying that this song will turn your legs into jello at the end of the workout! I love and hate this song at the same time because it makes you feel like it’s about to end when it’s actually just taking a break before returning even faster. At least it makes a good workout!

Duration: 47min 

Main Set: 6x3min 

Intensity: 4/5

3min Fartlek

In this playlist, you’ll get to hear fast and slow songs alternatingly for about three to four minutes each. This workout is not as intense as the others, so it makes a great recovery workout. 

Duration: 1h  

Intensity: 2.5/5

Shuffle Play Workouts

Just hit the shuffle play button and let Spotify decide how hard your workout is going to be!  

International Songs

This is a wild mix featuring songs in any language except for English. Give it a try if you’re up for songs in Gaelic, French, or Vietnamese! 

Japanese Songs

This playlist is a mix of Japanese songs that either can be calm & slow or loud & fast. Japanese music has somewhat become my favorite for aqua jogging. 

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About The Author

I did my debut triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at 6 years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it would take another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 

Book Reviews

Disclaimer

All resources and information shared on this website are only for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease.

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Copyright © 2021 ASK Project

Aqua Jogging: How and Why to Run in the Pool

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Aqua Jogging: How and Why to Run in the Pool

There are many synonyms for aqua jogging: water running, pool running, or deep water running. But no matter what word is used, some people are still hesitant to jump in the pool for an aqua jogging workout. So keep reading if that’s you 🙂 

Why you should give aqua jogging a try (even if you’re not injured!)

When you start out with pool running, you might feel like you’re the only person in the pool that’s less than sixty years old. But don’t let yourself fool by that! Aqua jogging is not only an awesome way to maintain your fitness while being injured, but it’s also a great alternative for land running. Here are some more reasons to try it:

 

  1. Injury: Aquajogging is considered safe for almost any kind of injury since it is a non-weight-bearing activity.
  2. Cross Training: Next to cycling and swimming, aqua jogging is a great way to mix up your training.
  3. Recovery: The day after a hard workout, just jump in the pool for an easy water run!
  4. Improvement of Running Form: As you have to work against the water, your muscles get used to more resistance. When you get back to running on land, you’ll notice that it feels much easier

How elite runners use aqua jogging

Thanks to aqua jogging, some professional runners have come back stronger than ever after a period of injury.

  • Tina Muir qualified for the National Championships after a month long break from running and only six weeks of land running at drastically reduced mileage.
  • US-marathoner Meb Keflezighi used aqua jogging as cross-training once or twice a week.
  • Deena Kastor, who holds American records on several distances, won the 2005 Chicago marathon after training on an underwater treadmill for more than a month.
  • Dieter Baumann won Olympic Gold at the 5k race in Barcelona after completing most of his workouts in the pool because of Achilles tendonitis. (Click here to see an epic sprint finish!) 

How to start pool running

If you don’t have access to an aqua jogging belt or vest, you can certainly go without. However, it takes away from running specificity, as you have to kick more downwards so that you stay afloat. So if you’ll spend a lot of time in the pool, I’d recommend you buy a floatation belt (especially if you’re an insecure swimmer). That way, you can fully concentrate on implementing the right form. Make sure you’re in the deep end of the pool where your feet can’t reach the floor.

 

As a complete beginner, start out with 20 or 25 minutes for about a week so that your body can get used to running against water resistance. Make sure that your breath is regular and you’re not holding it unconsciously. You might also feel some soreness in the hip flexor at first because it’s working harder as your pushing against the water. You also shouldn’t worry about the intensity or your heartrate at first. It’s much more important that you get used to the correct form so that you get the most out of your aquajogging workouts. If you like swimming, you could alternate between pool running and swimming in intervals of ten or twenty minutes. That way, you’ll get a longer workout in.

 

Once your body is accustomed to the movement, you can start increasing the duration and intensity of the workout. If you’re using a heart rate monitor, keep in mind that your heart rate will be about ten percent lower than on land.

The right form

When an injury is keeping you from running on land, aqua jogging is the closest you can get to running without the pounding. That also means that the right form is as important in the pool as it is on land. 

 

  1. Imitate your running form: To get the maximum out of aqua jogging, try to imitate your running form as best as possible.
  2. Don’t lean forward: Make sure you’re not leaning forward too much without noticing. Just imagine there’s a cup of water on the top of your head that should not fall down.
  3. High knees: Get your knees up as if you were running up stairs. 
  4. Midfoot strike: From the high-knees-position, imagine making a midfoot strike so that your foot lands on imaginary ground right under your hips. 
  5. Hip extension: Push your leg backward. The most common mistake when aqua jogging is a short hip extension. As this is the most important part of your running form, don’t forget about that! 
  6. Forget about pace and distance: The slower you go, the more efficient you are. 
  7. Increase your cadence: If you want your workout to be more intense, increase your cadence rather than the speed at which you’re moving in the water. 

Aqua Jogging Workouts

If you’ve already tried pool running, you might know what I’m talking about: Each time you take a look at your watch, only one or two minutes have passed, while you could have sworn it felt like five minutes. Pool running can be boring, but there are definitely ways to make it more exciting.

 

  1. Bring a friend: Social aqua jogging definitely makes an equally good workout as going on a run with friends.
  2. Listen to music: My personal favorite is listening to music because it also makes it easier to find into the right intensity. Moving your legs fast in the water gets a lot easier when you’re listening to equally fast music. Check out this post, if you need aqua jogging workouts with music.
  3. Listen to an audiobook or podcast: For long (water) runs, this is a great alternative to music. Just tune in to an interesting podcast or audiobook and 90 minutes will pass like nothing!
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About The Author

I did my debut triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at 6 years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it would take another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 

Book Reviews

Disclaimer

All resources and information shared on this website are only for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease.

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Copyright © 2021 ASK Project

How Barefoot Running Makes You A Better Runner

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How Barefoot Running Makes You a Better Runner

A Short Guide to Barefoot Running Shoes

Barefoot running has the potential to make you a better runner – that idea is around at least since the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall was published. Although many people write barefoot running off as a short-lived trend, there are a number of benefits you should know about. In this interview with the barefoot running expert Ralf Kusterer, who is also a passionate trail runner, you’ll find out how to make your training more effective and how to get started.

 

How can runners benefit from adding barefoot runs into their training schedule?

Running barefoot is the most natural way of running. In barefoot running shoes, your body will automatically adapt its natural running form. In the long run, this can prevent injuries. If you’re just starting out, it is essential to increase your barefoot running mileage very slowly because going too fast and too far in the beginning might have contrary effects. However, if you give your body enough time to adapt to your new training tool, it will make you more injury-resistant.

 

On the other hand, you also shouldn’t get rid of your running shoes. While conventional running shoes provide arch support and come with cushioning, they also cover up muscular weaknesses. Barefoot running shoes, however, can help us work on these weaknesses. While you can certainly run without any barefoot shoes and get the same results, they protect your feet from cuts and infections.

What’s the greatest difference between conventional and barefoot running shoes?

Barefoot running shoes are zero-drop shoes because there is no height difference between heel and forefoot. The extreme flexibility of the sole allows your feet to move naturally, which means that your foot muscles and Achilles tendons have to do the work that normally the shoe would do for you. Another difference is that in barefoot shoes, you can feel the ground you’re running on. These sensory stimuli are lost when you’re wearing conventional shoes.

Which barefoot running shoes are best for me?

When deciding which barefoot shoe to buy, you should first consider if you want a shoe with separate spaces for each toe like the Vibram FiveFingers or a minimalist shoe with a single toe box. The Vibram FiveFingers fully incorporate the concept of barefoot running as every toe gets to move actively and adapts to the ground. For people who don’t like the extra fabric in between the toes, minimalist shoes like the New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 are a good alternative.

What about foot deformities like hallux valgus or splayfoot?

Barefoot shoes, especially those with separate toe boxes, are the perfect training and therapy device to treat hallux valgus or splayfoot. Each toe is in its natural position and is forced to move actively, which means that the extensors and flexors of the toes are strengthened. In a normal shoe, the toes stay passive and a high heel drop increases the pressure on the forefoot.

Are there any health risks with barefoot running?

Increasing your barefoot running mileage or pace too quickly leads to too much stress in your feet and lower legs. That’s why it is important to build up mileage very slowly, so that the body has enough time to adapt. Ambitious runners are often more at risk of running too fast and too far in barefoot shoes. While their well-trained cardiovascular system isn’t impacted by the change of running shoes, this is different when it comes to tendons, ligaments, and joints. These do not only have to buffer the pounding now that there’s no artificial cushioning, but also need more time to adapt to new stresses and strains.

How should runners increase their barefoot running mileage?

No matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced runner – when you’re running barefoot, you should focus on your form and start at a slow pace. Here’s my short guide to barefoot running:

 

  • Level 1: Start with wearing your barefoot shoes in everyday life for about an hour a day, alternating between walking, sitting, and standing. Your feet have to get used to the absence of the cushioning and support of normal shoes.
  • Level 2: After three or four days, you can start going for short walks. Those should not be longer than an hour.
  • Level 3: Once your muscles don’t get sore anymore, you can extend your walks to up to two hours.
  • Level 4: Only when you don’t feel any soreness after longer walks, you can start running in barefoot shoes. Run and walk in intervals of two minutes. While the intervals should have the same length in the beginning, you can extend the running intervals until you can run at an easy pace for an hour.
  • Level 5: When you’re able to run consecutively, start increasing the pace.

 

As soon as you notice your running from change from a midfoot strike to a heel strike, take this as a sign that your body is not yet strong enough to sustain barefoot running for a longer period of time. In this case, you should switch back to walking or shorten your run. Always keep an eye on your running form and use it as a way to determine the length of your intervals.

What else should I know about barefoot running?

Although barefoot running can have tremendous benefits, it’s not the answer to everything. Barefoot shoes are training devices that help you work on specific problems, while conventional running shoes protect and support. Our body is a creature of habit. If the body receives the same stimuli again and again, it will adapt but it won’t evolve and improve. By switching your running shoes, your body is exposed to different stimuli which makes your training more effective.

 

There are four parameters to consider when choosing the right trainers for your run: distance, pace, terrain, and level of muscle fatigue.

  1. Distance: The longer you run, the more cushioning you need.
  2. Pace: The faster you run, the lower the heel drop should be because the ground contact time is shorter.
  3. Terrain: When running on trails, choose a shoe with profiled soles.
  4. Muscle fatigue: If you feel recovered, barefoot shoes are a good choice. The day after hard workouts, rather choose well-cushioned shoes to avoid overstressing your feet.

Are there any additional exercises I should do?

Especially when you are increasing your barefoot running mileage, you should do follow-up exercises. Those include stretching, strengthening, and massaging with a foam roller.

 

For stretching, position yourself on a stair standing on your forefoot. Then lower your heel to stretch your calves. Slightly push your knees forward to stretch your Achilles tendon.

 

The strengthening exercise for your calf muscles starts in the same position as the stretching exercise above. Slowly lower your heels and then push upwards. Repeat this about ten times and add one more repeat each time you’re doing the exercise.

 

Foam rollers are a great tool to loosen up your calf muscles. Use a mini roller to massage the bottom of your foot, starting at your heel and going up to your toes. Additionally, you should treat your calf muscles with a large roller to get rid of the tension.

What’s the bottom line?

Barefoot running shoes are a great training tool that you should use to diversify your running, make your training more effective, and to prevent injuries in the long-term.

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About The Author

I did my debut triathlon on a pink kid’s bike with training wheels at 6 years old. That’s where my love for the sport was born, but it would take another decade until I figured out that I wanted to combine my passions for sports and writing. 

 

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