With all the hype surrounding the natural running movement, perhaps the most important question to consider is, "Am I ready to make the transition?" Running in natural running footwear requires stronger, and more elastic muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Here is an excellent self-assessment guide from physical therapist and gait expert, Jay Dicharry.
Regardless of how you fared on the above assessment, one of the finest drills for building the necessary muscle memory while transitioning to natural running footwear is the century-old 100 up drill. This is best done barefoot, while concentrating on consistent, concise, and fluid movements. Christopher McDougall, author of the bestseller “Born To Run” demonstrates this invaluable drill.
We also recommend doing many of your daily activities barefoot, or in light weight shoes. Davinci called the human foot a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. Consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, the foot is incredibly complex, and sadly, often neglected in traditional footwear. The more we engage the feet by wearing "less shoe", the stronger and more flexible they become. This last video, featuring our friend Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, highlights the beauty of natural running form, and is perhaps the finest tutorial we've seen.
Finally, here are three important considerations when making the transition to natural running shoes.
1. Start slowly. Just as "Rome wasn't built in a day", natural running takes time and patience, particularly if you're coming from a heel striking background. We suggest starting with one or two miles on your first day, and increasing your mileage in small increments on subsequent days. If you need to maintain higher mileage weeks, run the bulk of your miles in your "familiar" shoes, and change into your new shoes for the last couple of miles.
2. Listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you've done too much. Many people experience tenderness in their quads, calves, achilles, and feet when transitioning. While some soreness is natural, persistent pain is not, and should be addressed by easing your mileage. Your body is a remarkable machine, and adjusts to these new stresses by becoming stronger and more efficient when you approach things gradually.
3. Keep it simple. Try not to over think it. Natural running is graceful, requiring quick, light steps, under your center of gravity, an upright posture with a slight forward lean at the ankles, and a compact arm swing. We often tell our customers to pretend they are sneaking up on someone while running, by keeping their footfalls as quiet as possible. The less you hear the better.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We have four running coaches on our staff eager to help. Also, check out our Facebook page, where the dialogue quite often revolves around natural running. Have fun, and we'll look forward to seeing you in the store!