Barefoot Running Myths, Lies, and TRUTH: #2 – Strengthen Your Calves and Achilles Tendons

Hi, Steven Sashen from — X-E-R-O
Shoes dot com — with the second lesson about how to make the transition to barefoot or
minimalist running as fun, easy and painless — pain-free ideally — as possible. And in
the last video, we talked about whether you need to toughen up your feet or not to prevent
blisters – you don’t. That’s the short version. Today, we’re going to talk about
whether you need to strengthen your calves and Achilles, and you don’t. [Chuckles]
That’s the Reader’s Digest version. You can turn it off from here. But let me tell
you why I say that. Most people who say they need to strengthen
their calves or Achilles, it’s because they’ve gotten sore. They went out and they either
did too much, as in, they went too far. Or they just simply did too much by working too
hard and it caused soreness or pain. Calf soreness/Achilles soreness is not required.
It’s not part of the transition process. It’s a sign of what I just said: of doing too much.
And it’s going to come from — actually if you’ll watch the first video — the same problems
as before. If you overstride, if you reach out with your foot far in front of you to
land, especially if you land on your forefoot, when you do that you’re putting a lot of strain
on your calf as it lands. If you try to stay on your forefoot — not necessary, by the
way – you want to let your foot relax and the heel can come down and touch the ground
— whether you land on your forefoot and try to keep your foot up there or just slowly
decelerate, you’re just using way more energy than you need to in your calf and Achilles.
Even if you land midfoot, if you reach out in front of you to do that, you can be using
your Achilles and your calf much more than necessary. Similarly, as your foot’s coming
off the ground, if you push off the ground, you’re using your calf much more than necessary.
The key is relax. As you go out for a short distance, wonder, “What can I do to use
less effort, to relax more?” And it’s going to be the same basic things I’ll be saying
a lot in this series. You want to have your foot land close to your center of mass near
your body, not out in front of your body. You want to initiate getting your foot off
the ground by lifting, by flexing the hip, by bending the hip. In the same way like if
again you’re stepping on a bee – you don’t want to push off the bee. You want to lift
off the bee and that’s going to happen from your hips flexing. And then, oh, the second
thing — I think I might have gotten lost here but that’s okay—so you want to relax
more by not overstriding and by lifting your foot off the ground. The second way you’re
going to relax more is by using your entire lower body — your ankles, your knees, your
hips — to be soft on the ground. And the third way is just don’t too much too soon.
Start really, really short. Like 200 meters, or 200 yards, depending on where you live
— that’s like 30 seconds — and then build up slowly as you find that you’re feeling
fine the next day. So you don’t need calf pain. You don’t need Achilles pain. Soreness
is a sign that you’ve done too much and worked too hard. Find a way to relax. Wonder, “What
can I do to make this faster, easier, lighter, and more fun?” and try it that way. In our
next video, we’re going to talk about whether you need to strengthen your feet or lower
legs or any part of your body first before you need to go out and run barefoot, or what
you can do to prepare for and improve your barefoot running. But until then, feel the
freedom, feel the fun, feel the world. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe
and join us and opt in, and in any other way you can participate, do that. And there’s
more barefoot information, articles, videos, even barefoot comedy, and of course, our lightweight
performance recreation sandals at


  • Great info. Thanks

  • Awesome series, very direct and informative. And putting FUN first!

  • I can run 45 minutes barefoot on carpet, would it be okay to try 15 minutes of that on a dirt track.

  • In vertebrates, running is spinal extension amplified by limb extension. This is clear in 4-legged running vertebrates. In bipeds, the spinal movement of locomotion involves spinal rotation and tilt, as we leap from one leg to the other. Running, in other words, is jumping. To run faster we increase the speed and extent of extension, meaning that, as in a pure vertical jump, we begin with deeper flexion in the legs to arrive at a more complete extension of the whole body, from head to toe. Because this faster stride becomes longer, stride cadence need not increase during acceleration.
    Also, leg extension and recovery are linked through the action of the muscles of the spine and trunk. An extending leg works to recover its twin. As U.S. Olympic track coach, Brooks Robinson, once said “A well-extended leg recovers itself.” There is no need to work on leg recovery, as clean, strong extension will take care of it. In fact, focussing on leg recovery has the effect of truncating extension and results in a shorter stride, then cadences must be increased to attempt to run fast with short strides.
    If full hip extension is created by allowing forward inclination of the trunk such that a leg can extend to the line of the trunk (and not beyond), we have the further advantage of using efficiently the bi-articular muscle system of the legs.

  • How is building up slowly not the same thing as strengthening?

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