ChiRunning Part II – Grounding your Feet


According to the Tai Chi Classics, “the root is in the feet; issued through the legs; controlled by the waist; and expressed through the fingers. From the feet through the legs to the waist forms one harmonious chi.”

This week I would like to talk about your feet. The feet are so important in ChiRunning. I cannot stress this enough. The reason why the feet are so important is because they are the only point of contact you have with the ground.

That’s it. Your hands don’t touch the ground. Your arms don’t touch the ground, just your feet. So in ways ChiRunning instruction must begin with a discussion of your feet.

1. New shoes

But any discussion about your feet I need to ask this question…

Have you bought some new running shoes yet?

Because if you haven’t you need to. As a general rule you should buy a new pair of running shoes with every season: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Which means about 4 times a year if you are running marathons. I know that can be expensive but let me tell you, the new cushion on a pair of new running shoes is essential for taking the impact of the rest of your body.

Steve and I are both big fans of RoadRunner Sports for buying shoes. They will analyze for foot strike and put you in the right shoe.

2. Foot Position

On page 65 of the ChiRunning book, Danny Dreyer demonstrates proper foot position.
Feet should be pointed forward. Even when standing. If your feet are pointed out when standing, lift up your whole leg and rotate it in in the hip socket to align it forward.

Danny himself said he battled years of knee pain because his feet turned out when he was running which over stresses the knee joint. He corrected with lots of focus on pointing his feet forward in running and everyday life.

Okay. So you’re standing with your feet pointed forward now? When you are running keep focused on making sure your feet are pointed forward. Take a quick peek every now and then. Even better is to ask a running partner to observe you especially from behind.

Run with Steve or I and we can give you tips for adjusting your feet forward when you are running. It can be tricky.

3. Loose Laces

Next thing to do is to loosen your shoe laces so that you can take your shoe on and off easily like a slipper. You must create SPACE in your shoes for your metatarsal bones to pancake out and take the impact of your foot landing thousands of times each run.

Wearing tight shoes is a major cause of foot, shin, and knee injuries in my opinion. Plus who wants to be all tight, constricted, and inflexible? Does not go along with the principles of Chi.

Loosen up those laces. Do it! I say this over and over again as a coach yet I see many runners just looking at me. My brother, amazing runner and athlete, claims years of lower leg issues just disappeared after running with loose floppy shoes.

4. Pancake Relaxed Feet

Next, relax your feet and feel them spread out in your shoes. This is the sensation you want when you are running. Relaxed. Feeling the ground, rocks, grass, dirt, sand, whatever you run on. It helps to make sure you walk around barefoot a little every day either in your house, park, or the beach to not only massage but give more sensation to your feet.

Make sure you are not gripping with your toes. Very typical for runners.

Now turn your attention to where you are balanced on your feet. Are you on your heels, toes, arch? Just observe it.

To begin make sure your weight is evenly distributed on your feet. Imagine the feet are being pancaked down on the ground allowing all your metatarsal bones to spread. If you are a beginning ChiRunner, I recommend that you focus on landing evenly on your foot every time it hits the ground.

5. Midfoot focus

As you master some of the basics of ChiRunning you can eventually turn your focus onto landing on the midfoot.

Now adjust so that you are on your mid-foot. That is the area right behind the ball of your foot. This is the center of your foot. Not your arch. A martial art teacher would direct you to the same focus.

Got all that? Feet pointed forward, loose shoes, relaxed pancake feet, or centered on your mid-foot?

Good, now stand there for a few minutes. Just feeling your feet.

Practice this as many times as you can today.

And then take that focus with you on your next run.

Until next time,


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