Retraining the Barefoot Way
To run barefoot, you will need to learn to run on the midfoot or forefoot. You should begin on a flat surface such as pavement, packed sand, or a dirt trail. Because your feet are unaccustomed to running without shoes, you will naturally run with a very light footstrike on your midfoot or forefoot. Without shoes on your feet, landing on your heels will feel uncomfortable and unnatural.
Some experts endorse running on a soft surface such as grass in the beginning. Running on a soft surface has advantages and disadvantages. The less-compliant surface will force you to use more muscles in your feet and ankles to compensate for the irregularity of the ground. That's good. However, when running on a soft surface, you are less likely to land lightly on your foot, which you will need to do when you eventually transition to running on harder surfaces.
Be patient when beginning a barefoot running program and plan on it taking months for tissue adaptation to occur for muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet and ankles. The skin on the soles of your feet and the fat pad on your heel will also need to adapt to the abrasive surfaces you may encounter.
You will need adequate strength and flexibility throughout your feet and lower legs. If you are overzealous and impatient, then you risk injuries such as Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, calf muscle strain, and a host of strains, sprains, and pains in your feet.
It is very important to begin retraining the barefoot way when you are healthy and injury-free. From there, you follow a conditioning approach of progressive overload as you would for any exercise program. You begin by introducing short periods of alternating walking and running barefoot, then gradually increase the distance (or time) of the barefoot running to allow the body to adapt.
Shifting Your Load
When adopting the correct barefoot running form, it will be necessary for your foot to strike the ground below your center of mass; that is, beneath your knee, not ahead of it. Overstriding occurs when your step is too long and you land with your foot forward of your center of gravity. Overstriding is a common problem of heel-strikers.
One way to reduce overstriding is to run at a faster cadence, say 170–180 steps per minute. You can use a metronome or some upbeat music of a suitable tempo to help you to find and maintain this optimal cadence. You will find it very hard to overstride at 170–180 steps per minute.