Monday, August 24, 2009

Usain Bolt

My workouts consist of both distance running and wind sprints. When I made the conversion to barefoot running, I noticed how I had no choice but to run in a more vertical position.

In high school I was a sprinter and always ran in that just past vertical position pushing myself forward. Now that I am more perpendicular to the ground, I find that instead of pushing my body forward I am pulling it forward. This is most apparent when I am running sprints. I cut a half second off my 100yd splits in this new position which is crazy for someone my age.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear I am not comparing myself to Usain Bolt. The only comparison I can make to him is that we both come from the same planet.

I don’t know if Usain Bolt grew up running barefoot on the streets and beaches of Jamaica but I’m going to speculate that he did his share of BF running along with all the other kids in his neighborhood. Or, at least he was taught the Pose method running form. It’s not because he lands on the front part of his foot when he runs, all sprinters do that, there is more to my theory.

Sprinting shoes generally have little to no padding in the heel because sprinters run on the forward part of their foot.

If Usain is accustomed to BF running, I’m not saying that is the only reason he runs so fast. I believe that if you tie two bowling balls to his feet he would break two world records. One: a new record in the 100m, Two: a new world record for 100m with bowling balls tied to your feet.

What I do find interesting, when you watch him run, is that he comes out of the blocks as fast as all the other runners. He doesn’t turn on the afterburners until all the competitors become upright. Usain goes vertical and the other sprinters go just past vertical and push themselves forward.

Why would Usain go vertical and the other runners go past vertical if they are all top class sprinters? Not all their workouts are sprinting, they also do distance. The majority of sprinters put on their distance shoes and run mile after mile landing on their heel. Since sprint shoes do not last long, they will also do a good number of sprint workouts in distance shoes. To sprint on the front part of your foot when wearing distance shoes, you need to lean forward just past vertical.

So let’s recap: All sprinters sprint on the front part of their feet. When they run at slower speeds, BF runners still land on the front of their foot and shod runners will heel strike.

Take a look at this picture where they just finished a race and are slowing down. You can see the finish line behind them. Usain and the runner from Trinidad & Tobago (in the red) are in the exact same place in their leg stroke. Usain is still landing on the front of his foot and the other runner is landing on his heel.

Remember when I speculated that Usain would run around barefoot with all the other kids in his neighborhood? Well the person who held the world record in the 100m prior to Usain Bolt was Asafa Powell from Jamaica.

Asafa grew up, literally, down the street from Usain. While jogging, and running at less than sprint speed, Asafa also lands on the front of his foot.


  1. I agree totally, I am a high school decathlete, and I switched to forefoot striking with Vibrams; I can conclude the upright position is much much better! I even run forefoot in cross country.