Messi, Robben, Ronaldo, Sterling, Iniesta – these players, and many others, all have something in common. Not how much they’re paid, their on-field creativity, or their level of fame – it’s a key physical attribute of their game. Small steps. Running and movement expert, John Marsh examines natural running and what makes this so devastating on the football pitch.

Over recent years there has been a large movement in endurance running circles called ‘natural running’ or ‘barefoot running’. It’s unclear from where this sudden trend emerged, but books such as Christopher McDougal’s Born To Run, as well as sporadic (and sometimes information-sparse) articles in leading running magazines, certainly helped. Arguably, the awareness of barefoot running has grown in concert with the now reasonably widespread whole food movement – it seems many are looking to return to a more natural way of life, from their food choices through to their running shoes.

But what are the potential benefits of barefoot running, and how can aspects of this be used for both general training and aerobic conditioning, or on the football field? We’ll try to answer these questions, and then take a brief look at how applying some of the same principles to your football training could potentially affect everything from your resilience against injury to your ball skills.

Mechanics of running and the benefits of going natural

When we consider the act of running, our main goal is to get from point A to point B, some distance away, in less time than we could if we were to walk. This sounds trivial, but the implications of this are quite important. The main goal, then, is forward motion. If we take this a step further, and look at either long distance running or the amount of running that takes place over the course of a football match, we not only want to get to point B quickly, but we want to get there efficiently.

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John Marsh
John Marsh
John is a strength and conditioning coach and has also worked extensively with endurance athletes. He works both as a coach of our group classes, as well as a one-on-one trainer. He has experience in corrective exercise training as well as athletic performance coaching. John has competed at an elite level in distance running, adventure racing and triathlon. His results include a top-ten category finish at the Hawaiian Ironman triathlon World Championships in 2009. Since then, his focus has been on a holistic approach to strength and conditioning, health and wellness. John's passion is helping clients become strong, balanced and centered in their being to then be able to live their life fully and with passion.

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