Form Correction - Pushing off

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by Kyrrinstoch, Jun 16, 2014.

  1. Kyrrinstoch Barefooters

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    Ok, so I've moved off the treadmill, out the door and kicked off my VFF's about 2 weeks ago (right about the time I signed on here). Since then, I've done about 20 miles barefoot and LOVE the way it feels - both on my feet and just the "being outside" part.

    BUT...

    I'm finding that I am getting the tell-tale blisters on the balls of my feet behind my 2nd toe, presumably from pushing off. It doesn't seem to matter what foot strike I use and I've tried adjusting my cadence. Even today I was consciously trying *not* to push off, but still ended up with the blisters anyways.

    As simple and obvious as the "just lift your foot, don't push off" advice is, what I'm doing/trying so far doesn't seem to be working. From what I can tell while running (at least what I know to pay attention to), I'm already doing that.

    With that in mind, anyone have any suggestions as to how I can start to break the habit of pushing off - things to pay attention to, etc? I'm all ears.
    I-Did-It (Steve) likes this.
  2. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    I was doing that with my left foot and had a bear of a time correcting it...what finally fixed it for me was a combination of things...

    1. I noticed that I was landing truly fore-footed, meaning on the front half of the forefoot pad area...so I shifted to trying to consciously land on the back half of the forefoot pad, which meant that my foot is now landing in a reduced overall angel to the ground.

    2. I run with a metronome, and I switched from 'landing' on each beat to 'lifting' on each beat.

    3. This is probably the biggest thing...I had to REALLY concentrate on not flexing the ankle when I lifted off...i.e. Keeping the foot and ankle angel nearly static...I had to redefine the right balance between having a loose ankle and rigid ankle as the foot landed and lifted off. A TOO rigid foot and ankle tires the top of the foot to rapidly, and too loose ankle and foot creates some push off...find the balance in between.

    4. With the ankle more rigid throughout the landing and lift-off (but not totally rigid), I had to concentrate on lifting the foot faster than I had before, meaning with less 'lingering' time on the ground, without necessarily increasing cadence...from a 'feel' perspective, this meant keeping the ankle more rigid, while focusing the 'beat' of the cadence on the liftoff versus the landing, and trying to keep the heel of the lifting foot rising along the line of my other leg...straight up along my other leg.


    5. This helped a lot too...run in place with the knees bent a little more than what you normally do, then lean forward without changing the 'running in place' leg movement...the lean creates the forward momentum not the legs...and when running, I keep visualizing that I am running in place and trying to keep that movement while leaning to move forward.


    A good drill is to run in place with your hands stretched out above your head, and then without changing you leg movement, lower the arms forward while keeping them strait...the weight of the arms moving forward will cause you to go forward....do this over and over without changing the running in place motion of your legs...



    There is no push off when running in place, so practice that and leaning forward to move forward.

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  3. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    Get good at running in place and leaning, or falling to initiate forward progress.

    I would do drills like these over and over:




    Haha, with no shame in my game, I ran a about a mile one day just doing that arm thing over and over lol

    Also, be patient enough to interrupt the run over and over trying different little variations until it just clicks into place that you are not pushing off.

    What I've found is that its sometimes like solving a simple but frustrating puzzle...if you be patient and relaxed and keep working at it, suddenly it will just 'click' into place and you will feel like "duh, that was easy" dunno why I didn't get that before...lol

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  4. Kyrrinstoch Barefooters

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    Steve, thanks for this - it's precisely the kind of input/ideas/suggestion I'm after.

    I think my issue may be the same as what you were experiencing - my ankles are too loose when I'm lifting my foot, causing the inadvertent pushing off. I'll give your idea of keeping my ankles more rigid during lift off a try on my next run or two and see how that goes.

    I do already run with a metronome, as it helps me ensure I keep my cadence. Though I found for some reason (force of habit from 35+ years as a drummer?) that lifting on the click doesn't seem to want to work for me.

    I think part of the issue for me is that because I transitioned over to minimalist running first (treadmill in VFF's), certain aspects of proper barefoot form never got fully picked up and I'm being forced to learn those now.
  5. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    Yeah I started on the treadmill too when I started running again, and picked up some of the same 'bad' habits...even after running outside for over a month, when I went back to the treadmill for one day I started pushing off again and had to correct it.


    From what you wrote, it sounds like spending some time shifting attention from the landing to the lift-off might be a productive use of energy for you though too.

    I actually try to time my metronome coordination in such a way that I am lifting with the beat just the tiniest fraction of a sec BEFORE the foot even hits the ground...its tricky to get the rhythm of it, but helps make a softer shorter footfall.

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  6. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    Also, with a slightly more rigid ankle and foot position, the cushioning of the landing will need to come more from bent knees, which is a good thing for me so far.

    More knee bend, and less ankle flexion, and getting the feet off the deck faster may help you, best of luck!


    :)
    :)
    :)

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  7. kozz Barefooters

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    It is not possible to run without pushing off the trailing foot. By definition, running involves having both feet off the ground at the same time. If you don't push with the trailing foot, it won't leave the ground.

    I anticipate devotees of a certain fringe "running method" claiming that it will somehow pick itself up by reflex without any pushing at all. If it weren't pushing at all, you'd fall down - it has to counteract gravity - and if it didn't push significantly more than that, your center of mass would start falling immediately in mid-air. An object starting from rest falls farther (and faster) in a given time than an object that starts with a positive vertical velocity, so this results in either greater stress on the lead leg at footstrike, or chopping your stride to reduce the air time.

    Of course, premature footstrike generally leads to slow running, which can reduce stress and overuse injuries, convincing people that it somehow works. But it barely qualifies as running at all. There are claims that elites run with the same form, but they are false - fast runners take long strides and push off with force to achieve them.

    Since many people believe that the Kenyans have an archetypal "natural" barefoot running form, here's some Kenyans running, both warm-up and racing. Note the bounciness.

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  8. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    Hmmm...I don't see anyone in that video 'reaching' to get a longer stride....also Kozz, when we talk about 'pushing off' we are not talking about the upward push-off of the stride as it rebounds from the eccentric contraction of the landing, we are talking about a tendency to push forward as the foot leaves the ground.

    But yes, the more push-off, or upward leap affect of the stride, the faster one goes, assuming there is a forward lean....therein lays the fundamental difference between sprinting and jogging...in sprinting the 'jump' (push-off) is higher and more powerful than in jogging...cadence remains constant in both jogging and sprinting, but the forward lean and the 'jump', or push-off from the ground is greater, causing more airtime, which lengthens the distances between footfalls...


    However...while it might be better to not use the words 'push-off' to describe a forward pushing movement that many amateur distance runners develop, its the common language of the territory.

    Kyrinnstoch is not talking about 'push-off' with regard to the 'jumping' effect of running, kyrin is talking about the blister causing pushing-forward with the foot as it leaves the ground...as an aside, that pushing-forward motion creates less airtime and more ground time for the foot, and faster running is always associated with the opposite, meaning less time with the foot on the ground, and more time with everything flying through the air...this holds true for every land animal, not just humans.

    More air time/less ground time = more speed

    Longer duration of feet on the ground/less airtime = Less Speed

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  9. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    OK, just my two cents: Like Kozz, I find a lot of standard form cues to be nonsense, and unfortunately a lot of them have seeped into the barefoot community. I also think it's silly to run with a high cadence unless you're running fast. It's really hard to overstride while barefoot, so for the most part, don't worry about it. That's the beauty of barefoot running; a lot stuff that shoddies have to think about comes mindlessly to us. The main thing is adopt an erect, yet relaxed posture. Of course you won't be completely erect--you'll be leaning forward a bit--but I feel that if you can get the posture right, and don't have any footwear on, most other things will sort themselves out by themselves.

    For me, I think running 20 miles within the first two weeks of going barefoot is probably what has produced Kyrrinstoch's blisters. If I were to rake leaves without gloves for more than 10-20 minutes I'd probably get blisters on my palms, because I'm not used to raking leaves. It wouldn't be because I'm holding the rake incorrectly. Sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

    The blisters could also be from faulty form, but over time, this should be largely self-correcting. Just give your blisters time to heal, then allow your plantar calluses to develop more slowly. Maybe try walking as well as running while the calluses are forming. As they form, your soles' proprioception should seek out the least abrasive manner to land and push off. "Lifting the feet" may be an effective coaching cue for some, but it makes no sense from a biomechanical perspective. Running is basically forward hopping, to hop you must push, and when you land, you must brake your fall a bit. Both pushing and braking involve some abrading, no way to get around it. The funny thing is, the plantar callus ends up being a lot smoother and supple than most people would think, given the initial propensity to blister after just a bit of skin-to-ground contact.

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  10. johan131 Chapter Presidents
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    Does it hurt? Try to make it comfortable and avoid any pain. For me this is the game I play every day and it keeps me improving my form (I think;))
  11. Barefoot Gentile Barefooters

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    Lift the foot before it hits the ground. Think of stepping over a log when running. The best lesson is a steep hill -Run barefoot up a steep hill, that's exactly how you want to be running on a flat surface as well.

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  12. happysongbird Chapter Presidents
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    It does help me to think about keeping my cadence going to keep me lighter on my feet, but I am also aiming for a cadence that feels comfortable overall.

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  13. Barefoot Gentile Barefooters

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    Bottom line some key words " 2 weeks" You have very fresh plantar skin, 20 miles is a lot. Blisters will happen, it did with me at the beginning. But the places where you get the blisters the most, in time, those areas will become the strongest. You are just adapting. You can do all the drills until blue in the face, but the skin is what needs the adapting at this point. Be consistent with barefoot running outdoors, you see a fast adapting change.

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  14. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    The benefits of a faster cadence, i.e. 180 bpm +, is not only its effect on stride, more important is tendon loading and springy-ness...there is a fraction of a second where the 'spring' of your legs stays loaded, if you do not impact the ground with the spring still loaded, then more muscle exertion is required in the land and 'hop' in running...running at 180 bpm cadence means the spring is still loaded each time the foot lands.

    Its been estimated that muscles have to work up to 50% harder when running below around a 180 bpm cadence.

    I use a metronome app when I run, but really don't need it anymore...I can tell by how fatigued my leg muscles are getting if my cadence is getting to slow...when my cadence gets below 180 bpm...lactic acid starts forming at the same mm pace that no lactic acid accumulates at the same mm pace with a cadence above 180 bpm.


    The key thing is, when comparing apples to apples with overall mm pace, muscles get fatigued faster at a slower cadence, and fatigued slower with a faster (180 bpm +) cadence.


    My lower calves are on fire after 2 miles if I run below 180 bpm, not so if I run at a faster cadence...and this holds true whether I am running 13:30 mm pace or 10:00 per mile pace, or 8 mm speed interval pacing.

    And certainly, almost all world class distance and middle distance runners run at a cadence at or above 180 bpm :)

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  15. Kyrrinstoch Barefooters

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    All, thanks for the suggestions and the caution about doing too much too soon. The blisters I get aren't huge, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 the size of a dime, but they are pronounced and noticeable enough to tell me something's not right. Unfortunately, I don't seem to feel them forming until towards the very end of my run...

    I already know I have a very strong tendency to push off when walking and when running in my VFF's (wore out the toes in 2 pair while the rest of the soles still look almost new...), which, when combined with the location of the blisters I'm getting, leads me to believe this is something I'm continuing to do when running barefoot and should look into addressing sooner rather than later or to just assume that it will "correct on it's own".

    I'll be trying out some of the ideas that have been presented so far (walking barefoot, lifting on the click of the metronome, reducing foot to ground contact time, stepping over a log technique, etc) as one, some, or none of them may help. Regardless of what suggestions do or don't work, trying them will help me become more consciously aware of what and how I'm doing, which will help me figure out what I should (and shouldn't) be doing to get to the point where I can run comfortably and injury free, which is my goal.
    I-Did-It (Steve) likes this.
  16. I-Did-It (Steve) Barefooters

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    I decided in the beginning of this new running adventure that I would not settle for any blistering or feeling of abrasion on the concrete, so I resolved to run in a way that does not abrade or blister, which has been its own journey into re-learning how to run.

    I have a goal of running Marathons and Ultra Marathons Skin to Ground one day, so at those distances, I think no amount of callusing will help if you are rubbing off skin in some way on the pavement.

    I'm still 'finding' my most efficient and pain free stride, its a work in progress, and every time I think 'I'm there' I my body teaches me something new and better..I suspect that will keep happening as I lose more and more extra weight, and run at faster average paces.

    But right now, I have figured out how to run with no abrasion whatsoever unless I get lazy and have a form break...which is always self corrected after a stride or two.

    Being alert to the body and subtle sensations is the best teacher.

    There are three big no no's that I am living by right now:

    No over striding ahead of my center of gravity (bad knees)

    No amount of skin abrasion is acceptable.

    No sense of 'jarring' in my skeleton when my feet hit the ground.

    I listen to my body and try to find ways to run faster for longer while not breaking any of those three rules for myself.




    An Ultra Marathon of 100 miles has to be around 180,000 steps, if one is running in a way that rely's on calluses, meaning that they are abrading the ground with every stride, Its unlikely that any callous can stand up to being 'rubbed' on the ground 180,000 times in one day...however, one can probably set their feet down and pick it up 180,000 thousand times in one day without injury.

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  17. jldeleon Chapter Presidents
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    Thank goodness I accidentally ran across this! Don't worry - I will save you all from yourselves! :D

    Get yourself a clip on metronome (they come with ear-bud types too), set the cadence to 180 - your leg must come up with each beat and you will find that you are hardly able to push off. Practice running on pavement with that, until it's a habit. Then go to the trails and try to do it, and fail miserably. Practice some more, until it's habit. Then practice periodically - ESPECIALLY IF YOU FEEL YOUR CALVES/CALFS? GETTING SORE. It's it still too difficult, then add some quad/hip flexor exercises - like marching, and you're done. You're welcome. ;)

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  18. kozz Barefooters

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    They don't need to. They achieve it by launching themselves forward faster, not by excessive stride angle.

    There is no difference. The trailing leg leaves the ground at an angle, at which point the force it applies is a diagonal vector with nonzero horizontal and vertical components. The only way it can have a zero horizontal component is if it is zero overall.

    That is to say, just picking a random angle for the sake of illustration, if your trailing leg leaves the ground at a 45 degree angle with a force of 300 pounds, that force has a vertical component of 300/sqrt(2) pounds and a horizontal component of 300/sqrt(2) pounds. Unless you're running in place, it's impossible to not push forward.

    running cadence tends to 180 steps/minute but good sprinters approach 240+.


    There are no experts at barefoot running, and the "common language" is shot through with lunatic-fringe bunk. The only correct consensus is to avoid TMTS. Take everything else you read with several grains of salt.

    Whoever said pushing forward increases ground time might as well have claimed that throwing a ball faster keeps it in your hand longer. Pushing forward increases the horizontal force component, which accelerates the body forward. Some acceleration must occur with each stride to counteract the braking that occurs at footstrike. The mass of the body is constant in any case, so the more horizontal force is applied, the more acceleration will occur (F=ma) allowing you to maintain a constant velocity (delta v = at) with less ground time, not more.
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  19. DNEchris Chapter Presidents
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    I believe the whole "don't push off" mantra is aimed at beginners to encourage them to be light on their feet and to do all that they can to avoid abrading them - not as a statement of engineering principles.

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  20. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    If your plantar skin is becoming callused, that is, is thickening, then it is responding to pressure or abrading or both. There's nothing wrong with a little abrading, but I think you're right to avoid it in excess.
    And they're going twice as fast as us! :rolleyes:

    Both stride rate and length increase with speed.

    Stride rate = muscle activation.
    Stride length = force application.

    Both require energy, and if you increase one, you lessen the other, so there's no overall benefit to consciously manipulating one or the other in terms of fatigue. Your CNS's subconscious adjustments are much better than an abstract number pulled out of someone's a$$ for determining the correct ratio of rate to length.

    That said, I do recognize that many BRS members have reported benefiting from an artificially high cadence at slower paces, for injury prevention or whatever else they think is happening. If that's you, more power to you.

    One trick that works for me is to increase my cadence when I'm feeling really fatigued (although I rarely run fatigued--I prefer to walk or stop and stretch), which transfers some of the energy spent on force application over to muscle activation. Otherwise, my body does a good job regulating cadence and stride length over varying surfaces and velocities.

    Anyway, didn't mean to get all caught up in one of these threads. All the best!

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