A Word to a New Barefoot Runner About Technique
I've been thinking about what you said about lack of absorption of shock when your ankles are compressed.
I noticed how my feet react to my bent knees that last time I was out running, and I noticed some things:
My old paradigm for running was basically: "Propel the body into the air and wait for it to come crashing down on my fully extended leg so it is all caught by my one foot. Then do it again with the other foot." Hence the perceived need for padded heels in shoes, etc. (Boy, was I proud of my knotted, tight calves, that were used for the launching, springing part!)
My NEW paradigm for running is more like this: "Lean body forward beyond its balance point, swing rear leg forward with knee bent, start to bring fore leg down towards ground before body weight is committed, touch down with forefoot as body passes over, whole foot then engages ground as body weight transfers to down leg and rear leg starts its swing forward, repeat."
Its hard to put in words what is going on, because so much of it is done simultaneously. I actually 'feel' as if my legs are doing a circular peddling motion, as Ken describes, and that my foot and ankles are doing a front to rear, or forefoot to heel, transfer of weight - like they are working in the opposite direction from what my body is moving.
Its like this: In my old running ways, my body was moving forward while at the same time, my weight was caught by my heels and transferred forward to the front of my feet, which then propelled the weight forward again. It was all forward, forward, forward.
But now, even though my body is moving forward, my weight is 'caught' (actually only a portion of it is caught at first!) by the front of my foot, and the weight is transferred in the opposite direction -- from the front of the foot towards the rear. So its: body forward, weight transfer backward! This cannot be done with the leg fully extended, the knees must be bent. The weight transfer is not a one-time crashing down all at once moment, but it is partially caught as the forefoot touches down, then increases across the whole foot -- so it is spread out a little bit. The heel may touch down, but not so much in a load catching way. Its more of a 'set the spring' mechanism within the Achilles tendon, so when you are ready to lift and swing the leg forward, the natural spring effect helps lift the leg. I guess there is a Yin/Yang effect going on: body forward, feet backward (overly simplified).
I don't know if any of this is making sense. I'm trying to describe how it feels for me to run barefoot. Someone else noticed that running barefoot requires "running from the core." To me this means your feet are not the focus of your running; that is, we don't think about 'landing' on the forefoot, etc. We think of moving the core of the body forward, and the arms, legs, feet, hips, shoulders, etc. all engage in satellite activities towards that end.
Enough postulating for now -- I hope this helps!