Had the chance to meet with “Barefoot Ted” (featured in the book Born to Run) for a fun clinic on natural running and a quick tour of his Luna Sandal factory. I’ve met Ted a few times in the past year and he is a great guy. I learned a lot in just an hour of listening to him, asking questions and going through some drills. I’ll distill down a few of the main things I learned, but highly recommend doing your own clinic if you are ever in the Seattle area.
We met in the Luna Sandal “factory”, which is really just small room where he is making very traditional sandals, akin to the kind of footwear worn by native people for centuries in many locales. He gave a brief talk on his perspective on natural running, the problems we face in a society so fixated on measurement, tracking and “times” and totally out of touch with the natural rhythms of our bodies and the sheer joy of movement. I have no doubt that Ted could talk for days about running technique and history, he really does know a ton.
We then headed out to a nearby park for some drills. I was with a few friends: Sean, Oliver and Rashida. They all wore Vibram , but I just opted to go barefoot for the full effect! It was quite cold out and raining. We did drills for a short while to focus on three main things that Ted things focused on.
- Soft landing. We went back and forth along a flat and wide sidewalk, first walking and then slowly jogging; all the while careful to move without making a sound. This is tough to do! Ted’s feet were barely audible as he was landing so softly. Even in my bare feet I could hear a little thud with every landing. The focus was to land on the forefoot and then allow the mid-foot and then heel to lightly land.
- Quick turnover. Taking shorter and quicker steps was key. The goal was to have the feet land directly under the body, as opposed to reaching the foot forward beyond the hips and landing towards the heel of foot. Extending the foot too far forward causes a breaking action and excess stress in the knees and hips. It also eliminates the potential for efficient energy transfer from stride to stride. We did some drills of moving quickly with much shorter strides at faster cadence, all the while maintaining more of a fore to mid-foot landing.
- Balanced movement. Ted stressed that head position and core stability were super important. The most efficient method of running is to keep the head (which is heavy, at 10-12 pounds) stacked over the shoulders and the shoulders stacked over the hips. Running in this way it is easier to balance, and the feet have a role to play in this as well, with the big toe helping the body to balance. We did some drills walking along a curb and keeping our core slightly tense and moving forward using our core, with head stacked tall (not dropping forward!). Ted says that if you run properly and keep your core active, running will help you build a very strong core.
Next, we practiced jumping.
Humans were built to move in all kinds of ways, and jump and bound for all kinds of purposes. However, adults nowadays hardly ever jump! We practiced simply jumping up steps, focusing on landing without making a sound and with soft knees. The soft knees allow the body to absorb the movement vs jarring to the body that happens with overly stiff knees and hips. Ted made the point that with proper and natural technique, running and jumping can actually make the body stronger (joints too!). The old thinking of running wearing down the body are only true if you have poor movement patterns.
Finally, we did an exercise where we ran softly up a circular staircase inside a watch-tower in the park. The tower was an echo chamber, making it easy to know if you were pounding the stairs in any way. Ted moved without making a single sound! I pounded more than I though (I had my shoes on for this exercise – Brooks Green Silence).
All in all, it was great fun to do this clinic. Ted is a fantastic guy and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the neighborhood. I also got measured for some Luna Sandals 🙂 . Will be picking them up in a few weeks.
I’m finally recovered from The North Face 50K. Did a ~22 mile run yesterday (I ran to and from the Barefoot Ted clinic with Sean! ~11 miles each way). Legs feel good, though knees and ankles are a little sore. A few more short to medium distance runs on tap for this week and then I’m going to take at least 2 weeks off.