Everyone (well almost everyone) understands that a significant aspect of barefoot running is to land first on your forefoot. Getting away from the dreaded heel strike is for many runners the main reason that they junked their conventional trainers and bought a pair of barefoot shoes. But there is more to successful injury free barefoot running than simply landing on your forefoot. Unless you are able to adopt a good running form you are just as likely to get an injury.
There are many things to work on to improve your running form. So many that it is hard to keep them all in mind at the same time. But after quite a number of coaching sessions with students I am starting to think that the thing to concentrate on after forefoot striking is getting your cadence right. Why?
For most people a correct cadence is faster than they have been used to. It will inevitably involve shorter strides to achieve the optimum of 180 steps per minute. There are a load of benefits to be achieved through a cadence of 180. But the benefit for many of my students is that is quickly stops them from over striding. By this I mean making first contact with the running surface well ahead of their center of gravity. What we want is to land below our centre of gravity or ever so slightly ahead. Telling someone to make contact further back doesn’t work for many people but getting them to make shorter quicker strides does.
Once you bring the impact point back to where it should be most students instinctively settle into a more relaxed upper body and better form. It also means that a forward body starts to become effective. Forward body lean cannot work with over=striding.
I notice that Jason Robillard wrote an article on his blog Barefoot Running
Stride Length: Is This the Most Important Element of Good Form? that comes to a similar conclusion.