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ABC’s of Barefoot Running

Posted by on Aug 19, 2011 | 6 Comments

Over the last few months, Merrell and I have been working on a new barefoot/minimalist shoe running format.  The goal of the new format was simple:

Create a method of teaching barefoot running that was simple and easy for the average person to share with others.

The result: BareForm.

We teach BareForm as the “ABC’s” of barefoot running.  Here’s the run-down:

A = Align Posture.  We have people interlock their fingers and stretch them over their heads, then slightly bend their knees and bring their arms down to their sides at a 45° angle.

B = Balanced Footstrike.  We teach people people to allow their feet to land under their hips.  The foot should land almost “pancake flat” and every part of the sole should touch the ground.

C = Count Your Cadence.  Both feet should touch the ground at least 180 times per minute.

That’s it.  If a person achieves all three of these elements, they’ll have learned about 95% of good form.

Of course, running form can get MUCH more complex than this.  The ABC method isn’t meant to be an exhaustive method to teach the nuances of barefoot and minimalist shoe running.  It is meant to be a simple easy to share introduction.




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  1. David Sutherland
    August 22, 2011

    The 180 cadence thing means each foot hits the ground 90 times in a minute. But it would be cool to see somebody actually trying to go at 360/min!!!

    Unless you violate the laws of physics (or have a 60mph headwind), the foot must fall in front of your center of gravity. If not, you will fall flat on your face.

    My take on the landing is that you want the shin to be vertical, and thus avoid overstriding. But both perfect form barefooters, and heal striking overstriders will land with the foot in front of the hips to a greater or lesser degree.

  2. D Patterson
    August 22, 2011

    All of this makes perfect sense as it did when Robbins observed this type of stuff back in the 80″s and when the Canadian company Barefoot Science started it’s product development around the same time. Both have looked at either the use of proprioception and/or barefoot exercise as a catalyst for changes in foot morphology, as a method to observe benefits such as injury prevention, injury rehabilitation and increased performance. Over such short periods of time the only logical way you will see a morphological change is through soft tissue adaptation and most notably the increased strength and flexibility of associated muscles. Although bone is capable of shape change as a response to strain/stress it would have to be observed over a much longer period of time. Therefore you simply need to imagine an igloo with a bunch of loose blocks – that is the weakened foot – now take and tighten/secure these blocks into place ie secure them, with increased muscle contribution – the shape of the igloo has changed. Now imagine that you want those blocks to move out of place if necessary, maybe to react to the ground surface or dissipate to type of impact energy, but return back to place. You might to it with a buggy cord – but a single bungee cord (weak muscle and poor muscle spring properties) would be less effective than say 4 bungee cords used in parallel (stronger muscle and improved spring properties) Now you get the morphological change + increased functionality. That is what I believe is what is happening as you introduce increased ROM (or rather remove the restrictiveness and bracing of modern footwear), introduce a strain/stress component to the muscle to illicit a strengthening response, and add proprioception (ie an insole like Barefoot Science if you are in a minimal shoe, or simply the uneven contours of the natural support surface.). The end result would be a morphological change to the foot as a result of the 26 bones interacting with each other in a more naturally efficient manner, increase natural cushioning and support through improved eccentric control by the supporting musculature and more efficient use of the muscles throughout the body in controlling the other gait characteristics.

    It is refreshing to see all of the excitement over something that has been introduced 20 years ago but poo-pooed then by the running giants and the podiatric industry. Finally social media has given these people an effective means to communicate to the masses.

  3. becky
    August 21, 2011

    I have a question about “C” ~ Cadence… both feet hit the ground 180/min?!?!? Am I reading that correctly? That would be both feet hitting the ground 3 times/second!!! If that is accurate, then barefoot running is not for me, ’cause I can’t move THAT fast!!! I could understand running to music that has a beat of 180 beats / minute tho…
    Kindest Regards, Becky

  4. corey
    August 19, 2011

    “C = Count Your Cadence. Both feet should touch the ground at least 180 times per minute.”

    Isn’t 180 steps per foot, per minute, a little fast?

    That’s a cadence of 360 steps per minute!

  5. Zak
    August 19, 2011

    I like it as well, except that on the Merrell BareForm website, the white male outline is clearly not striking the ground “beneath your hips” as it states. He is hitting his foot flat, but way out front of his hips. Sort of misleading. I like the concept and it all seems right, just that graphic isn’t quite right.

  6. kai keliikuli
    August 19, 2011

    I like it. simple and easy to remember and think about while running.