Many avid and recreational runners alike have shifted their preferred footwear from standard running shoes to minimalist shoes. Although minimalist shoes can provide benefits, without the proper transition, they can lead to injury rather than a more efficient running form.
The belief that a running shoe should not dictate how your foot contacts the ground is what sparked the minimalist revolution. However, footwear alone does not make a good runner, and not everyone is prepared to trade the padding of traditional shoes for the thin sole of minimalist shoes. Running barefoot or with minimalist shoes can be problematic if you are not properly prepared. Every runner should observe the following steps before making the transition.
Choosing Minimalist Shoes
Assess Your Running Form
The importance of proper biomechanics is accepted in sports such as baseball and golf, but has been significantly neglected in running. To ensure that you run with proper form and are ready to make the minimalist transition, have your running form analyzed by a trained professional. Many professional gait analyses come with a video breakdown, with cues to reduce ground contact time and improve efficiency. With the proper coaching, runners can boost their efficiency and reduce their risk of injury. Learn four quick fixes you can make to your running form.
Strengthen Your Feet
Due to the predominance of heavy heel contact among runners, shoe manufacturers have designed their running shoes to protect runners with additional cushioning in the heel. Companies have also added extra support to help control and prevent pronation (inward rolling of the foot, which distributes the force of impact between the foot and the ground). Unfortunately, these modifications exacerbate the problem while simultaneously creating other issues. By stabilizing the foot with extra support, cushioned shoes transfer excessive stress to other, unprotected regions of the body. The foot can actually become weaker because of all the stability provided by the shoe.
Those making the shift to a minimalist shoe must first strengthen their feet. Simply walking around barefoot can help. Runners can also ease the transition by performing strength training in their bare feet. Wearing minimalist footwear, or going barefoot whenever possible throughout the day, can help to retrain the foot to move properly rather than relying on cushioned running shoes.
When transitioning to a minimalist running shoe, it’s important to make the change slowly. Doing too much too soon can create problems and lead to injuries. For some, the switch can take up to a year.
To make the transition as easy as possible, work in stages. Rather than dropping from a traditional running shoe with a 12mm raised heel all the way down to a zero drop shoe, find a mid-ground model to experiment with first. Switching to a 4-6mm heel will give you a chance to adapt to the minimalist environment without placing unnecessary stress on your body. Wear minimalist shoes while walking to strengthen your feet before going for your first run.
Minimalist running shoes can be beneficial. By providing less support, they can help improve your running form and strengthen your feet. But the transition to minimalist shoes should never be abrupt. To reduce the risk of injury, follow the above steps.