Create a Personal Plan for Success
Before you start running in Vibram FiveFingers®, we encourage you to read the important information in How To Get Started and Get To Know Your Feet. Once you follow our recommended program, you’ll probably notice some significant improvements in the strength and flexibility of your feet. Now you’re ready for a test session to explore the light and joyful feeling of barefoot running!
In order to make this as easy as possible, we’ve broken down the process into 4 parts: choosing a surface, barefoot technique, measurable distances, and a sample training plan. Please remember, the information and advice we are about to share is based on scientific research, anecdotal evidence, and personal experience. There is no single training and transition program that is suitable for everyone. You should try to discover what works for your body in order to make this transition safe and successful.
One of the reasons barefoot running has become so popular is that it is synonymous with freedom and exploration. Give yourself the gift of time and patience as you explore this “new” way of running and moving. Forget about splits, time, distance and PRs for a little while and focus on running for the pure joy of connecting to your body, and your environment in a new way. Your patience will pay off in the long run as you emerge from this experience with a refreshed outlook on running.
Things to Consider
Choosing a surface: Hard or soft? The answer might surprise you. It’s commonly thought that running on hard surfaces will immediately cause injuries and that all novice barefoot runners should stick to grass or sand.But this may not be the case. With proper forefoot or midfoot strike form, running on hard surfaces can be comfortable and safe. In fact, some experts suggest that the best way to learn proper barefoot running form is to begin on a smooth, hard surface such as pavement.
Running on soft surfaces such as grass, dirt trails, or sand can be extremely pleasurable, too. Oftentimes, they force us to use more of the muscles in our feet and ankles to compensate for the lack of regularity—something to consider if you are still a beginner with weaker foot muscles. Just know that the softer the surface, the less likely you are to land lightly and with the most compliance.
Whichever surface you choose, make sure to select a controlled, familiar environment to begin your training. Don’t venture too far from your starting point in case you need to stop and pack it in for the day. “Choosing” a surface actually means learning where to place your feet and how to negotiate every single step. In time, it becomes a high-speed reiterative process and contributes to a wonderful feeling of self-awareness.
Barefoot 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||PHASE 2|
|FiveFingers runnerstypically 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.||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 yourmidfoot, 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.
Barefoot Running Training Schedule
Measurable Distances: “How far should I run?” is probably the most frequently asked question we get from new Vibram FiveFingers® runners.
If you are an athlete with a “no pain, no gain” mentality, you may want to reconsider that approach. Your foot, ankle, and calf muscles could be very weak from spending a lifetime in traditional shoes. If you vigorously work out any ill-conditioned muscles in your body, they’ll become sore and stiff. Your foot and calf muscles are no exception. We sincerely recommend that you not overdo it, because you will probably injure yourself by doing too much too soon.
Here, you’ll find a conservative training plan to help build your Vibram FiveFingers® running distance in a safe and enjoyable way.
Don’t forget, this is about having fun and enjoying your run! Stress fractures, tendonitis, and other injuries are NOT fun, mostly because they prevent us from doing something we truly cherish. Also, in the long run, they may become debilitating.
Please listen to your body at every step of this process. You will thank yourself in the long run.
|WEEKS 1 & 2|
|Foot Training 3-5X/wk||Wear FiveFingers for 1 to 2 hour intervals per day (simple day-to-day activities: sitting, standing, walking, etc.)|
|WEEKS 3 & 4|
|Warm up with Foot TrainingGently stretch your calves and arches||Run 10%-20% of your normal running distance (in traditional shoes) no more than once every other day.*||Practice foot stretching and self-massage. Include calf massage as part of this recovery process.|
|WEEKS 5 THROUGH 12|
|Warm up with Foot TrainingGently stretch your calves and arches||Each week, increase yourFiveFingers running by no more than 10% of your distance from the previous week. Continue to run no more than once every other day.*||Practice foot stretching and self-massage. Include calf massage as part of this recovery process.|
|WEEKS 13 AND ON|
|Warm up with Foot TrainingGently stretch your calves and arches||At this stage you may be able to experiment with your distance, speed, and frequency. Continue to gradually increase your distance, but listen to your body every step of the way.||After each run, practice foot stretching and self-massage. Include calf massage as part of this recovery process. Self-massage will break down scar tissue and help your muscles heal and get stronger.|