There are three main tips for conserving energy when running barefoot so you can run faster & longer before pooping out. The first tip is to RELAX. (Oh, you’ve heard me say that before? Multiple times even? It’s because it’s that important!) The other two tips I’ll elaborate on below.
1. Keep a Fast Cadence
You want to aim for a bicycle-inspired cadence of 180+ steps per minute (that’s at least 3 steps per second). This isn’t to be confused with fast running, though! Eventually you will get faster as you train barefoot with proper technique, but for right now, focus on your form before speed.
Many fast steps are better than a few long strides. Every step you take is essentially you falling back to earth, right? There’s no need to waste time waiting to fall back to earth before you can take another step. Also, every time you lift your foot, you’re working against gravity. But if we break that lift into smaller chunks by running with a faster cadence, it’s less work and requires less energy. But here’s the key: focus on a foot lift, not a foot push. If you use a metronome or other handy training tool, use the light or the sound to cue your foot lifting off the ground instead of pushing off. You’re not playing the drums with your feet here!
Bicycling can be a great form of cross-training for running barefoot so you get a good feel for that smooth, fast cadence when cycling. But you don’t necessarily have to cycle barefoot. I tend to ride my bike wearing my FiveFingers. I actually tend to do quite a lot while wearing my FiveFingers, which explains the tan lines on my feet! ;)
This fast cadence can actually help reduce injuries since it lessens the impact as you run. Check out the math & physics from Barefoot Ken Bob:
“Earth’s gravity accelerates any body (us, balls, rocks, etc.) by 9.8 meters per second squared, which means each second we spend falling, we are accelerating another 9.8 meters per second. Spend twice as much time falling, and we are falling twice as fast, and therefore, landing with double the impact. If we could reduce the effect of gravity, we could land more gently, obviously decreasing the risk of injuries.”
2. Run in a Straight Line
This might sound pretty ridiculous if you’re completely sober when you’re running (which you would be, I should hope!), but it actually makes a lot of sense and can help you conserve energy when running.
As you run, one foot is momentarily supporting the weight of the entire body. If your feet don’t follow a straight line (one foot directly in front of the other), your entire body weight will shift from side to side to stay balanced over each foot. But this wastes energy. The goal of running isn’t to move from side to side, but forward!
Allow your hips to rotate naturally (relax them!) so your feet can land in a straight line. If you run on the road, try following the white or yellow lines (but keep your head up and eyes ahead).
Well, that just about concludes my Lose the Shoes series on barefoot running technique! Next week I’ll share a sample training plan for easing into barefoot running and then training for a race. Speaking of which, my first 5K is next Saturday! I’ll report back with my time (my goal is to come in under 30 minutes).
Lose the Shoes Series Posts
- Lose the Shoes & Keep Your Head Up
- Lose the Shoes & RELAX Your Shoulders
- Lose the Shoes & Bend Your Knees
- The All-Important Barefoot Running Landing
- Lose the Shoes & Feel Like You’re Falling
- Conserve Energy When Running Barefoot
- Training Plan for a Barefoot 5K
This post is linked to Sunday School