Before jumping into any high aerobic activity, we always advise warming up first. Our favorite method of warming up is to simply walk barefoot uphill (slowly). If there are no hills near you, try the exercise below. In our book Barefoot Running, we have dozens of exercises for waking up your muscles. A great one to begin with helps you wake up the arch of your foot. This exercise is called the Tiger Claw and can be done before each of your barefoot runs.
Do the Tiger Claw!
Pretend you have claws at the end of your toes, just like a cat or tiger’s claws. You simply want to walk very slowly for fifty feet with your claws extending, grabbing and pulling on the ground with your toes. Notice how much it builds up the shape of the arch. Do this for 3-5 times your first day, then increase by 1-2 more times every other day.
Doing this strengthens your toes and the arch of your foot, helping you to naturally support and propel yourself forward, rather than relying on the arch support of a shoe. Remember, a support is nothing more than a crutch and doesn’t strengthen you. Our bodies work on the use it or lose it principle, if we don’t work the muscles of the feet, we incrementally need more and more support until we’re in a lot of trouble. Wake up the muscles though and you’ll have years of pain free, healthy running to come!
Baby-Stepping Your Way Into Barefoot Form
Barefoot Running and Barefoot Running Form means waking up your feet and lower legs. Initially, it’s much harder on your feet, as they’re forced to move 3-dimensionally, rather than 2-dimensionally in a shoe. And the stride is like doing a calf-raise with each and every step. To help the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones to adapt, we need to begin slowly.
- Start fully barefoot – maximum feedback helps you find your lightest stride.
- Always go barefoot before you’re shod – think form first, before you fatigue and before your feet get sweaty in a shoe.
- Begin with only 200 yards – this gives your feet time to adapt to the new 3-dimensional movement.
- Add 100 yards of barefoot time every other day – this gives the muscles, ligaments, tendons and even bones time to rest and recover.
- Carry your shoes – these are your hand weights, hold them nice and high to practice proper form.
- For the first three months only run barefoot every other day – spend the rest of your running time in your regular shoes and orthotics.
- As you slowly increase your barefoot time, you can slowly decrease your time in supportive shoes and orthotics
- Have fun and don’t forget to smile!