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Great Form Running Tip #289: Run on Ice

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 | 4 Comments

Most runners avoid ice.  They run around it.  They wear YakTrax.  They stud their shoes.  They move to warmer climates.  Whatever.

Why do they avoid it?  Running on ice is hard.  It’s scary.  There’s a chance you could fall and seriously hurt yourself.  It’s too bad.  Ice is one of the best coaching tools available… assuming you don’t run in huge cushioned foot coffins that promote a hard heel-first foot strike.

Why is ice such an effective teacher?  It’s slippery.  It requires great balance, coordination, and proper form to prevent slippage.

If using proper form, your foot should land directly under your center of gravity.  If this occurs and the surface is flat, the weight of your body is perfectly centered over your foot on the ground.

Try standing on one leg on a patch of ice.  It should be pretty easy to balance.  That’s the principle, only you add forward movement to the drill.

The other benefit of ice- it helps prevent pushing off.  Ideally, you should lift your foot vertically off the ground with each stride.  This is a stark contrast to the heavy heel strike from a typical shod runner.  If you try pushing off to propel yourself forward on ice, you slip.  If you lift your foot off the ground, there is no slipping.

This POSE video demonstrates the concept perfectly:

Next time you’re out for a run and you happen across a patch of ice, try running across it.  See if you can maintain your balance.  If not, your form needs some work.  I’d shamelessly suggest picking up my stocking stuffer-sized book here:  Order it from me and I will guarantee the book will help you learn to run barefoot or else I will refund your money and let you keep the book! </salespitch>

Since running on ice presents the possibility for danger, I’ll add a modified version of Pete Kemme’s disclaimer from his functional fitness website:

This website is for recreational use only. Barefoot Running University is merely the title of the blog run by Jason Robillard. Jason Robillard is not a licensed physical therapist or physician and has no certifications related to fitness. See either a physician or physical therapist prior to doing any exercise. None of the material on this blog is a recommendation. Jason Robillard is simply sharing what he does and has learned about running barefoot while living in the frozen tundra that is Michigan. If you perform any of the activities described on this blog, you are doing so at your own risk.

On a related note, Pete has been working on a fitness book he will be releasing in ebook format in the near future.  For my readers that are serious about fitness but are easily bored by the same routines, this is your answer.  Pete’s workouts are the foundation of the crosstraining I used to finish my last two 100 milers despite only averaging about 45 weekly miles.  😉

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  1. CourirPiedsNus
    December 19, 2010

    Pure coincidence, but with all the snow we’ve had recently in Paris, I got a chance to shuck my ZEMgears and run a couple of miles barefoot, partly over snow and ice. I didn’t crash, nor lose any toes. Waddayaknow – all that foot heat going to a good cause! I did note some loss of sensation in both heals towards the end, which I took as my cue to re-shoe…

  2. Kate (KittyK)
    December 16, 2010

    It’s so true. There are a few things that are easier when you run Barefoot; hills and ice. I always try and run through patches of ice as a check to see if my form needs work.. haven’t fallen over.. YET! 🙂

  3. Jen
    December 14, 2010

    I found this out by accident a couple of weeks ago and then read about it in your book the very same day. I did find that you can’t have poor form. You really have to concentrate on lifting rather than pushing off. Since then I have looked for ice patches to see how I’m doing. I slow down to be cautious but try to keep the same form for the test. Thanks for all your info!

  4. Brandon Mulnix
    December 14, 2010

    There is plenty of ice right now in Michigan to practice on. The other good news is that if you fall and hurt yourself, you can start Icing your new injury right away. The sub freezing temps help with swelling and restrict your activity so you should heal twice as fast….right?