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22 October, 2020
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Barefoot-running

Learn to Run the Minimalist Style

Learn to Run the Minimalist Style

–  High cadence:

Although at first it may sound unintuitive, a higher cadence is always more efficient than a low cadence. Although this high cadence requires moving the legs more times, it also favors the possibility of falling under our body, right in the center of gravity (for more information see the previous point). This is because, with a high cadence, we automatically shorten the distance of each of the steps – otherwise we would start running faster – which makes it easier for the foot to be supported just below the body.

On the other hand, a higher cadence favors the natural use of the elastic components of our body, which means that we have to use less muscular effort to achieve movement. That a high cadence facilitates movement is clear when, for example, you try to jump continuously without moving from the same point. There is no doubt that it is much easier to take quick little jumps without stopping than to rest for half a second between jumps. This is because we make better use of the energy and elastic components of the body, just like running at a high cadence.

Another advantage of running at a high cadence is that we minimize contact time with the ground. Without going into too much detail about physical laws, each time we touch the ground friction is created that slows our progress. This friction can be minimized to the maximum by reducing the time our feet touch the ground, and this is achieved by taking many more steps per minute.

There are many ways to measure running cadence, for example, there are specialized watches that have an adapter for the shoe that counts the steps. A more rudimentary –although very effective- way of knowing your cadence is to count the number of steps you make with one leg in the race during 30 seconds, and multiply that number by 4. We recommend that, if you want to know your cadence more accurately, repeat this measurement a couple of times and then average the results.

–  Body posture:

Running with correct body posture is also very important. If we look at amateur runners, most of them run with a very bad body posture, probably derived from the terrible posture that we are used to having at home and at work.

To maintain proper running posture, the body posturerunner should have their body fully aligned so that a straight line can be drawn from head to toe , even if the knees are slightly forward and bent. To achieve this position it is important not to tense the body, keep the shoulders relaxed and try to make the posture as less tense as possible.

Some of the most common postural errors to try to improve are leaning the body forward from the hips, running with the head in front of the body, or even running with the back too bent. 

Points Of Disagreement Between The Different Minimalist Methods

One of the reasons why it is more difficult to learn to run with a minimalist and natural style is the lack of agreement that exists between the different methods that use this style.

For a broker who is learning what the minimalist style is, it can be very difficult to choose between a lot of conflicting opinions, especially if you cannot distinguish which of these points are most important and how to adapt each recommendation to your own style.

Here you can find information on some of the points where there is a greater number of different opinions, and some recommendations on how to choose which tips to apply to your own form of running.

–   How to step on the foot

how to step on the foot

The tread is one of the points that minimalist runners focus on the most and what most distinguishes them from traditional runners. Even so, the different minimalist methods have different opinions on how the floor supports should be made. Some methods recommend stepping with the front of the foot, while others recommend stepping with the entire sole at the same time. Actually the differences between them are not as great as it may seem, and what they all agree on (most of the methods) is the importance of getting your whole foot on the ground at some point before start lifting it.

Both forms of support can be difficult for novice runners to learn. On the one hand, if you step with the front of your foot, you risk running on your toes and not touching the ground with your entire foot at any time. This is a very common mistake among new minimalist runners and a very inefficient way of running that increases the likelihood of future injuries. On the other hand, if you step with the entire sole of the foot at the same time, it increases the probability that you will touch the heel first, and also, it is a way of stepping that is very difficult to maintain, so sometimes you step with the foot. toe, others with the whole foot and others with the heel.

In any case, it is necessary for each one to find the method that works best for them. Therefore, the important thing is that you prove for yourself which tread works best for you, although you should always keep in mind not to step on your heels first in order to really change your running style. If you are not sure if you are heel or not, it is best to start the change by stepping with the front of the foot, and then adjust the way that best suits you once you have stopped leaning on your heels.

–   Exact cadence

The exact cadence to have when running is another point on which all minimalist methods do not agree. If we look at how elite runners run, they usually have a cadence of between 180 and 200 steps per minute, while an amateur runner with a heel usually has a cadence of between 140 and 160 steps. All minimalist methods recommend a cadence of between 170 and 190 steps, some are more flexible while others are very strict and recommend achieving an exact 180 steps per minute.

One idea that we suggest is to measure your cadence before starting your change to the minimalist style. If you have a cadence close to 140 steps, raising it to 170 would be a great advance, while if you walk close to 160 steps it is necessary that, at least, you reach 180 steps to notice the difference between styles.

–  Body tilt

body tilt

The inclination of the body is another of the parts in which we find the most important differences between the different minimalist methods. Everyone agrees that it is necessary to maintain a straight posture, where there is not the same consensus is whether to run completely straight or with an incline (always with an incline that begins at the ankles and not at the hips, to thus keep the body straight although inclined).

One of the hardest parts to learn from the minimalist style is running by leaning from the ankles. If you don’t have someone to correct mistakes, it is very easy to make mistakes and lean from the hips or bow only the head. On the other hand, if the runner finds it more natural to run a little inclined (as long as it is from the ankles and not from the hips), it is not very important that he change his degree of inclination to run straighter, since otherwise he will run more forced way. 

–  relaxation

The concept of relaxation and its importance when learning to run in the minimalist style were introduced to the world of this sport by the hand of Ken Bob, one of the most iconic barefoot runners of all time.

It seems that the focus of relaxation as the main point is closely linked especially to the movement of running barefoot. While other methods that seek to run faster and further take this aspect less into account.

Therefore, although not all minimalist methods agree on the relationship between relaxation and running more efficiently, they do agree that running too tense is not recommended.

Initially, in the learning phase, it is very normal to run with some tension, since we are learning a new technique that we do not master and we run thinking and checking many things at the same time (cadence, tread, posture, etc.) . Over time you learn to relax and run more automatically thanks to the fact that the whole style is integrated and put into practice in a more natural way, but it is always advisable to pay attention a little to how tense you are doing the workouts to avoid having an overload. -tension during the race.

–  Legs: momentum and elevation

All minimalist styles focus on running in a lighter way, with minimal contact between the feet and the ground, and on promoting the use of the elastic components available to our body, but there are some differences in how they are recommended to perform. the strides.

In some methods the approach only talks about lifting the legs back when you have already touched the ground, and the rest of the movement comes naturally by dropping the leg. Others recommend a more active movement, in which in addition to lifting your foot off the ground, you must also actively move it forward to achieve greater speed. There are also recommendations on the advantage of actively pulling the leg back when it hits the ground to minimize friction with the ground.

The impulse is another of the issues that differentiates the different minimalist methods. All of them state that the runner should not actively force his leg in the landing phase before hitting the ground. But, while some recommend simply lifting the leg, others recommend gaining some momentum thanks to the support on the ground and taking advantage of the spring effect that is produced to achieve greater speed.

Other methods do not mention either lifting the legs or pushing, they simply see in this movement something more natural and automatic that is done correctly once the other points of the minimalist style are learned and performed. Without a doubt, this may be the best posture – especially for beginners – so as not to complicate the learning process even more, as many new runners try to implement all of these tips and end up running, literally kicking themselves in the butt.

For a novice runner to focus on propelling at the right moment in the race, on putting his leg forward and withdrawing his leg when touching the ground can be too advanced if we consider that he must be aware of many other factors. But it does make sense to experiment with these tips later if you want to run faster, after you’ve learned some of the main points of the style. 

–  Use of arms

For some minimalist methods, the use of the arms is simply a way of maintaining balance, while for others the movement of the arms is more decisive and useful, such as to set the rhythm at which we run. Among the methods that give importance to the arms, there are some differences in the recommendations on how to position them – most recommend keeping them at 90 ° or less – and in whether to wear tight fists or open palms. What they all agree on is that you do not have to push yourself with your hands or move your arms excessively, without ever crossing the median of the body.

In short, the important thing is not to use your arms to propel yourself or to move them excessively, without worrying too much about whether you bring them to 90 ° or 45 °. It is also not very important whether or not your fists are tight, it is best to run with your arms as comfortable as you are and try to simplify things a bit, at least at first. 

–  Vertical movement

Rather than look at what each of the minimalist methods teaches or recommends, we should look at what they do not mention because only one of the main minimalist methods gives importance to vertical movement. Although most of the minimalist methods do not mention it, if we run doing too much vertical movement, the efficiency is reduced and the energy consumption is increased.

In principle, vertical movement is not a very important point to take into account when switching to the minimalist style, it is only necessary to pay attention to it if you want to run faster or further.

How To Start Running Minimalist Style

As has been made clear above, there are some basic points that all minimalist methods agree on, but there are also many others where the recommendations vary from one method to another.

These differences can be quite confusing for a beginner who wants to learn to run in a more natural way. So which method should you heed? How should it continue?

Our recommendation is to start with the fundamental changes that are most important in the minimalist style. Fortunately, all the minimalist methods agree on these essentials, and they are:

  • Maintain a straight posture (with or without inclination, depending a little on how you feel more comfortable when running, but always without bending from the hip).
  • High cadence of 170-190 (depending a bit on your current cadence).
  • Step just below your body (the key here is to avoid landing with the front leg of the body and not to put the heel of the foot first).
  • Foot tread (it is advisable to land with the front of the foot or with the foot flatter, the important thing is not to run on the heel or on your toes).

Once you have learned these steps well -which can become a real radical change for the more traditional runners- it is time to start experimenting with the more specific recommendations that each of the different minimalist methods advise (for more information see the next section where you can find more content about the different minimalist methods ).

On the other hand, we also recommend our Newsletter  to receive more information via email on how to run more efficiently and with fewer injuries including:

  • Helpful tips and advice
  • How to avoid injury
  • Exercise Plans
    • Training Plans
    • Minimalist sneaker guide with special offers
    • You will also receive our free PDF eBook on how to learn minimalist style

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