Minimalist Running Technique

Minimalist Running Technique

Minimalist Technique: A good landing should feel gentle, relaxed, and compliant. Professor Dan Lieberman of Harvard University suggests trying these two phases to learn the recommended forefoot technique:

Phase 1

FiveFingers runners typically land on the ball of the foot towards the lateral side. It’s probably good to land with the foot nearly horizontal, so you don’t work your calves too much.

Phase 2

After the front of your foot lands, let the heel down gradually, bringing the foot and lower leg to a gentle landing. (It’s like when you land from a jump, flexing the hip, knee and ankle.) Again, the landing should feel soft, springy, and comfortable.

Heel striking video

In this video you will notice a Force Curve showing the amount of force transferred to the human skeletal system when the foot impacts the ground. With a traditional heel striking form, the force curve shows a significant impact transient force when the heel lands. This transient force is an unnecessary force that we inflict on the body by utilizing a heel striking form. Over time this impact transient force becomes magnified and it has been believed to contribute to injury.

The proper barefoot form video

With proper Barefoot form the force curve has a smooth line indicating a natural transfer of energy to and from the body. You will notice unlike in the heel striking video above, the impact transient force is nonexistent when the runner utilizes a proper barefoot running form.

Important barefoot running points to remember:

Do not over stride (this means landing with your foot too far in front of your hips). Over striding while forefoot or midfoot striking requires you to point your toe more than necessary, adding stress to the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot. It often feels as if your feet are striking the ground beneath your hips. It is similar to the way one’s feet land when skipping rope or when running in place (as runners sometimes do when waiting to cross a street).

  • Not sure if you’re landing properly? Try running totally barefoot on a hard, smooth surface (e.g. pavement) that is free of debris. Sensory feedback will quickly tell you if you are landing too hard. Conversely, if you run barefoot on too soft a surface, like a beach, you might not learn proper form.
  • If you just can’t seem to get the feel for landing on your midfoot, try the following to get better acclimated:
    • walk backwards leaning slightly forward. Then try to do it faster, making sure there are no obstacles in your way
    • walk or run (slowly is okay) up a steep-ish hill. It is practically impossible to strike heel first
    • jump on two feet and see how you land
    • run in place, and make an effort to lean forward a little and lift your thighs up
  • Always be patient, and build gradually. It can take several months to a year to make the transition to running in FiveFingers.It takes time for your feet and lower legs to increase strength and mobility.
  • A gradual transition doesn’t mean a setback in your training. Running in Vibram FiveFingers requires a significant increase in lower leg and foot strength. A gradual transition is critical to avoid overuse injuries. If running is your primary form of exercise, gradually increase the proportion of forefoot or mid-foot striking by about 10% per week over the course of several months as you reduce running in your old style. Remember, this is an experiment to find something that suits you. To make a clean break from traditional heel striking, supplement running with biking, swimming, cardio machines, and fitness classes to maintain your fitness level, while giving primary running muscles a chance to recover.