Posted by: Ingrid | May 19, 2011

Bare feet, cadence, and public humiliation galore

For someone who has been running for 13 years (counting, of course, the 7 years I just ran because it burned more calories than walking, never thought I would run faster than a 10 minute pace, and didn’t run any events or know how to train) you would think I’d have made it to some training session or clinic or… something running related.  Somehow that’s just never made the to-do list until this past week.

Some friends of mine told me about a Good Form Running clinic that New Balance puts on at an utterly fantastic running store near Lansing.  I’d never been there before, but it is the kind of store where you could blow all sorts of money on all things running related.  Since Tuesdays are husband’s long days and it’s just me and Isaac (who is always game to go ANYWHERE) I figured it would make for a fun evening outing.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, since it was free, but it ended up being very interesting and helpful.

The Good Form Running tips came down to four things: posture, mid-foot strike, cadence, and lean.  Our first task was to go outside and run in a line, making two passes in front of a camera.  The first time we wore shoes and the second time we ran barefoot.  Afterwards we went back inside to isolate the four pieces of form that they talk about and do drills.

I think what interested me the most was cadence and striking with the mid-foot.  I’ve seen for years the articles that say to keep the cadence of your running at 180 footfalls (or a bit higher) per minute.  It’s a great counting exercise when you’re bored on the treadmill, and for the most part, when I’m running faster than a 9 minute pace, that’s where I tend to be.  What I had never given thought to, however, was the fact that you should still have a cadence of 180 BPM whether you’re cranking out a 6.5 minute mile on the track or running a 10 minute mile.  It was an interesting realization to note that the slower I run the less I pay attention to form and the sloppier my feet get.

The mid-foot strike got me as well.  Not so much the concept of it, I don’t think any of us runners particularly want to land jarringly on our heels or the balls of our feet.  No, what really got me was when we watched the video footage of all of us running and saw that all of us, without exception, reached out to strike with our heels.  I had no idea that I ran like that!  What was even more fascinating to me was that when we ran barefoot our knees suddenly were softer and although we would reach out our leg as if we were going to strike with the heal we would right at the end land more in the middle of our foot.  I guess I’ve never thought through how running barefoot can cause a person to run with better form simply because padded shoes aren’t there to compensate for stiff knees and a poor foot strike.  It was just so interesting to me to see how all of us, even before we knew what was going on, adapted to running in a way that was better for our bodies overall.

In a way, I’m glad I didn’t get this information until I was pregnant and running slow because of an injury.  I feel like this is the perfect time to put some of the new information into practice: upping the cadence of my running and paying more attention to where my foot is striking.  If I were training or running at a normal pace I think it would be harder and more frustrating to slow down and change things, but right now, I have nothing to lose!  Even the video taping and watching, which I thought would be horrifyingly painful (I was the kid who would stalk out of the room whenever a video camera appeared) was a little embarrassing, but mostly informative.  I might even try doing it a home once in a while to see if my form is improving.  I’m also tempted to try to find someplace I can run barefoot, just to try and capture a more natural stride.

Since I haven’t been training, just trying to run without pain, running has felt a little boring.  I like the fact that I can make it more mindful and hopefully less prone to injury, by paying attention to certain things.  I would highly recommend the Good Form Running session if you are anywhere near a store that puts it on.

So I guess now I’ll be the slow pregnant lady running with a metronome set to 180. 🙂



  1. Great post. I have often found myself on a long run being overtaken by people who seem to have shorter strides…only to realise how slow my cadence is…so I then spend as long as they are in sight trying to keep up with their cadence….huge difference, but it takes a lot of conscious thought!!

  2. Interesting post! I have seem some videos from Good Form Running and all this talk about form, barefoot running, etc. has me wondering whether I need to start paying attention to my form. It seems like a lot of effort though to try and consciously change your form and cadence though. There was an interesting article about this in Runner’s World about altering your form and whether it causes more harm than good?

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