I dug Google Search deep to find articles on 'Barefoot Running in India'. I could find nothing more than Milind Soman. With nothing more and substantial on this topic, the curious budding Indian barefoot runner hence moves on to articles on runnersworld.com to look for information.
Even though a very small number, India does have accomplished barefoot runners who have been passionately following their love for barefoot running despite the challenges of a completely barefoot unfriendly running road (no pun intended)!
And so I decided to bring on WellthyFit some experienced Indian Barefoot Runners who have been practicing barefoot running for more than 4 years and have run on various surfaces. This is a series on and by such experienced barefoot runners to educate the Indian runners on everything Barefoot Running.
My first Barefoot guest blog is by Aakash Nambiar. Aakash, 29, works as a Social Media Community manager for a US based software company. He started running in 2014 and switched to barefoot running within 2 months of running following the footsteps of his childhood superhero Captain Vyom, Milind Soman. He could adapt it to this style of running without any injuries. Having run 7 Full Marathons barefoot, Javadhu hills ultra 50km barefoot, Bangalore to Mysore, Goa to Gokarna and recently Una to Dharamshala. His run philosophy - "Run and be grounded"
In this blog we cover the very basics of How to Start Barefoot Running!
How to start running barefoot?
Whenever you try to take the decision of barefoot running, you have to be prepared to go slow. The transition mentally and physically has to be a slow process. for eg. initially one can wear thin sole slippers and walk around, run/walk on smooth surfaces like grass for a short time and gradually increase the time and distance) and on different surface.
In the beginning, running barefoot on trails is not advisable but I have seen experienced runners doing it (up to 40-50kms) and even I tried it quite comfortably. Rome was not built in a day.
Even those who don’t want to try running barefoot can try barefoot walks or short runs as a part of their workouts to understand the difference. Start with minimalistic shoes if you can – like Vibrams, Nike 3.0. The topic of minimalistic shoes is quite confusing for me. I do know that there is a big difference between running barefoot and running in minimal (more on that in a different blog by Tanya). I feel our feet should be able to breathe which is not possible in vibrams and even if there something in between your feet (even a 3mm or 2mm) and ground it’s not as comfortable as barefoot running for me. When you run barefoot, the effort is less and we engage more of core
START SLOW – HOW TO
- Start walking on smooth surfaces like grass and then hard surface, gradually increase the time and also distance. Initially try 2-3kms and then increase the distance.
- Increase the distance, but try once a week only.
- Strides should be short — don't extend your legs as far as you do with shoes.
- Land on your forefeet or midfeet (balls of your feet) instead of your heels. Too much on your forefeet can make your calves sore
- Don’t pound your feet too much. Because the heels will hurt very soon
- Try once in a week first, then increase to twice or thrice a week and once you feel you are comfortable (strong enough to run) barefoot you can say goodbye to shoes
- Don’t focus on speed, spend some quality time walking/running barefoot. You can try walking on your toes, walking on your heels (barefoot) and other kind of workouts barefoot
- Repeating – don’t focus on speed. So don’t try to sprint in the first few months of learning barefoot running. You will have heel injuries and very sore calves. You will want to give up barefoot running completely
- Strengthen the calves, quads and glutes. Do proper stretches
- Take time to graduate from 5k to 10k then to 21k and 42k. Don’t be in a hurry. The injury-free, staying light on your feet, getting comfortable with various kinds of concrete surfaces is the only way to take up barefoot running in the long way
- Dip your feet in saline lukewarm water (use rock salt) after the run.
Pros of Barefoot Running
- Natural movement of your feet is to land on toes or midfoot first and then the heel strikes, which is not possible with shoes (most of them)
- The form improves, running style changes
- Injury free ( I have never been injured, but I don’t think shoes create any injuries as the technology is so much advanced) but it takes time for your foot to adjust so if you don’t do it slowly you might injure yourself.
- It reduces the impact on your foot, gradually
Cons of Barefoot Running
- Feet getting dirty (If only you care about it)
- Injuries if you do too much in less time (remember strength training and proper building up of doing workouts barefoot)
- Blisters and bruises (Chances are more in the starting stage)
- Initially you get calf pain if you do too much in less time (thats why one should do it gradually)
Mostly injuries for barefoot runners are cuts, blisters and bruises or least case Achilles tendinitis (I never had any of these) but got blisters when I ran a 75km in vibrams. Try and see what works for you best.
Speed and Barefoot Running is something I can’t comment much on because I have never focused on speed training and have preferred working on increasing my distance. But once you are used to barefoot running, your cadence becomes strong, you run light and your performance improves (from my personal experience).
Run Barefoot and stay very grounded! Hope the above pointers will help you make a well planned start to your barefoot running journey.