Whether you are running or walking, barefoot or in shoes, it should be your goal to take lighter steps. Lighter steps mean you are impacting the ground with less force.
Think of Orlando Bloom prancing around as Legolas the elf on top of the snow in the Lord of the Rings movie. And, the perfect example of the opposite would be John Rhys-Davies stomping around in thick boots as Gimli the dwarf.
By impacting the ground with less force, there will be less energy that has to be dissipated through your joints and bones. This is something we all should want if we want to stay injury free.
The simplest way to step lightly, is to step quietly.
Think about this for a few seconds. What are two things that cause noise to be generated when several objects touch? Impact and friction. If you go outside right now and stomp your feet or shoes on the driveway as hard as you can, I guarantee you it will make a significant amount of noise. As will scraping your feet or shoes across the ground.
By understanding the sound generating aspects of these movements you have some of the best cues available regarding the impact of your steps. After stomping and scraping as loudly as you can, now let’s do the opposite. Try to walk or jog around without making any noise at all.
Do your steps feel lighter? If you focus on reducing the sound you are making with your feet, you will find that your steps will become lighter almost automatically. Of course, running barefoot makes this even easier.
Less scraping noise means less pushing off, which is something you don’t really want to do too much of. Less slapping sound means your heel is kissing the ground instead of smacking it. And, less of a thudding sound means your forefoot is initiating first contact with the ground with less impact force.
Quicker strides, with a smoother and less pronounced vertical arc will mean that you are airborne for a shorter period of time between steps. Less air time means less time for gravity to increase the momentum of your landing back onto the ground.
Now, when the rubber meets the road (or better yet skin) it will be difficult to eliminate all sound. Little bits of gravel or dry leaves will make some amount of noise no matter how light your step is (unless you are some kind of ancient Kung Fu master). However, if the noise being made is coming from nature and not your own shoes or feet, then you are doing better.
If you want to take it to the next level, then make a game out of trying to run perfectly silent. Constantly scan the ground in front of you for noise making twigs and leaves, and try to avoid stepping on them. Running around your neighborhood, or better yet on a trail, at your fastest pace while making no sound can be very exhilarating.
There is nothing quite like surprising a walker or runner when you run past them from behind, and they never heard you coming! It will also increase your chances of seeing some nature while out on the trails.
Are you a silent runner?