Barefoot Running

Sheila Rose
(22 Posts)

So when someone said to use barefoot running, we immediately thought “what?”. So immediately at Body Aid solutions ltd we were interested! So we took to Interviewing barefoot runner aka UKLunatic Sheila Rose of  Happy Owl Fitness.  (PT, Run Coach, Sports Massage Therapist & Sandal Wearing Ultra Runner)


How long have you been running?

I have been running in my opinion effectively since January 2013 – I did run before, and actually did my first ever 5k parkrun in October 2011, however as I pushed up in distance to beyond 10k in March 2012 I suffered a bad hip injury.

Why did you want to break away from traditional running footwear?

As I said in March 2012 I suffered a bad hip injury, which made running uncomfortable and painful, I had sports massage and various other treatments to try to resolve the problem, but nothing really helped – I’d be ok, start running again and again suffer the same problem – it was just a cycle. I discovered barefoot running through my husband – he had read a great deal on the subject and had invested the time in seeing a running coach. We were both heel strikers at the time and the more you read on the subject regarding impact you were subjecting the body too, the more sense it made to endeavour to learn to run again in better technique.

How did you discover barefoot running?

My first barefoot running experience was a real eye opener, it sounds silly, but just taking shoes & socks off and running on grass – felt totally different, as you find yourself running very naturally and sticking on the fore/mid foot – the sense of feel in your feet seem to feedback to the brain instantly allowing better controlled impact and balance.

What are the fundamental principles of barefoot running?

I guess it’s all about the feel, when I’m coaching my clients I try to explain by using the hands as an example – your hands have sensors which protect you, for instance if something is too hot, the sensors in the hands will communicate to the brain to pull away otherwise the skin will burn, if you were to encase the hands in very thick cushioned gloves, you would lost all sense of hot or cold – likewise your feet have sensors which judge the lay of the land as it were, is the ground soft or hard, smooth or uneven – the natural sensors communicate with the brain to determine the force/pressure the foot needs to plant, again take away that sensory power by encasing in cushioned shoes and your foot will most likely slap into the ground with unnecessary force each time, bearing in mind that the foot comes into contact 80-100 times per minute that’s a mighty heavy force through the body, add into the mix heel striking – and if you observe images of a runner heel striking generally the leg is very straight hitting the ground, that is a hell of a vibration force into the hips. By running barefoot and regaining the feel, you find that you run naturally on mid foot, and the foot strike is appropriate to the pressure required for the terrain.

What are the benefits?

Well once you have learned the principle of posture, cadence & relaxation – the benefits are basically relaxed running – injury free, it’s also a lot more fun.

Can anybody do it if they apply themselves?

Of course, however you need to be prepared to take a step back and work on building foot/ankle strength, in addition to increasing all over body strength. If you are a heel striker its difficult at first as you are concentrating so much on working on mid foot strike that you tend to run on the balls of the feet without dropping the heel – this can cause massive tightness into the calf muscle, this is normal and the more you build and practice the easier it becomes.

What steps would you advise to someone making the transition?

I think it’s important to find a good run coach who understands the principles of barefoot/minimalist running – someone who can help you develop your technique and strength. If that is not possible then there are lots of resources on the internet, it’s really important that you take the time to do the strength work on feet and ankles and start wearing minimalist shoes for very short runs only – it is a gradual process. The key factors of posture, rhythm and relaxation are very important to understand and it helps develop foot strength if you can be barefoot around the house etc. It’s not a quick process and it’s not for everyone, but in my opinion, if you suffer the same injuries time and time again, then technique is the key to resolving your problems and the time spent transitioning will be a valuable investment.

Favourite race to date?

My very first marathon in May 2013 Milton Keynes Marathon – it was a massive achievement and something a few years ago being a 20 a day smoker I never thought I’d be able to do – it will be my third year this year running MK and should take me to my 20th Marathon distance, its magic running in your home town – especially when you know a lot of the marshals from local running clubs no slacking allowed J


Whats your Favourite distance?

This year is all about Ultra running for me – I really enjoy the atmosphere at ultra-races it’s not really about times, it’s all about endurance. I’m not sure I have found my ideal distance as yet – I know for sure it’s NOT 5k, they always nearly kill me ! I still enjoy marathon distance and still have hopes of hitting the 100 Marathon Club one day. But distance is a funny thing as whatever distance you have in your mind is the distance you will complete, and when you stop you think you will never move again, however on another day if the distance is more – then that’s what you do, it’s all really what you are mentally prepared for.

Philosophy for injury free running?

Technique, technique & technique – and enjoy we were born to run

 Best achievement?

I guess The Green Man Ultra which was the 7th March this year, billed as 44 miles – my watch stopped at 46.37, my longest run to date. The race takes place on a circular route around Bristol, its 80% off road and entirely self-navigation – very tough terrain with a 12 hour cut off time. I ran with my husband Russ, we made it in 11.52 hours, both wearing Luna Sandals. And if I’m allowed a second one it would be running back to back marathons last July for my 50th Birthday J

Ambitions for the future?

I would love to do a 100 miler at some point in 2016/17, I think to have the sheer mental determination to be on your feet for that period of time and of course the physical strength would be amazing. I would also like to complete 100 marathons!



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