First of all what is a Minimalist Running Shoe?
A minimalist running shoe is all about less. Basically empowering the foot to decided how to run vs the shoe telling the foot how to run. This changes everything. It hurts to run on your heel that’s why we don’t when we run barefoot. Running on the heel is an unnatural forward motion. It’s a braking motion, a stopping motion. When you have a shoe with a lot of cushion in the heel we can’t feel anything. Our foot is blind. However the jarring / jamming of the knees, hip, spine still happen. So just throw more cushion in the shoes right? Wrong. Take the cushion away and let your body figure out what’s best. It’s smarter than you think. Traditionally running shoes have had a 10mm to 12mm drop from the heel to the toe (a.k.a the extra cushion) Minimalist Running Shoes have a 4mm to 8mm drop from heel to toe and are also more light weight (10 oz or less), also less structure and material in the upper part letting the foot to be more free. From there it goes all the way down to 0mm drop or flat and the barefoot craze of vibram fivefingers.
There has been a huge movement in running towards minimalist running shoes that is hard to ignore if you are a runner. This past week I was speaking at Revolutionary Natural running clinic and was of course asked about the shoe I wore running across america and what I am wearing now. I’ll say right off the bat that I am a fan of the minimalist approach but believe there are a few major mistakes that people make when making the switch. During my 2010 run across america I averaged 154 miles a week for 4.5 months. Every step of the way was in multiple pairs of acics cumulus running shoes. Nearly every mile was on pavement or packed gravel and I did not get injured. In fact I have never had a serious running injury. (knock on wood) On the flip side of that the same year a guy by the name of Tellman attempted to make the cost to cost crossing BAREFOOT! He made it 650 miles before giving it up due to blood blisters and deep tissue contusions in both heels. Now that is an extreme but it’s basically my point. Find the happy medium people! Why are we so extreme? Vibrum Five Fingers look stupid! Am I the only person to say that out loud? People rush into wearing Minimalist foot ware and you can’t, you will get injured. You can not simply buy a 0mm drop shoe and expect it to fix all your running issues. Change takes time. Below are the main training shoes that I have worn over that last 10 years of my running. Notice the mm drop and the gradual progression down to my current and favorite shoe thus far the La Sportiva Crosslite’s . By reading the chart you can see that I was in a 12 mm drop shoe for a long time. I never had problems with it and so why change? The big reason was that I got into trail running a lot more. I running on the toes on technical trail is a big plus. Minimalist shoes help strengthen and allow your foot to do that. I find it funny that every one is trying to get into “natural” running shoes yet
they still run on pavement or side walks (a very unnatural surface) The fact of the matter is the foot does need to be protected (Thats why we made shoe’s in the first place) There are so many types of feet and shoes out there that it can be hard to find what works for you. All that being said I think everyone should be moving towards minimalist shoes but just think how long we were not in minimalist shoes. You can’t expect your muscles and tendons to change over night. That’s when people get injured and frustrated that there new shoe did not magically make them stronger, faster and rid them of all their nagging injuries. The most important concept of running is consistency. Your body is amazing it will adapt to almost anything but you need to be patient and consistent with it. Find where you are currently at and slowly start dropping the mm heel. Another way to make the transition is to do a % of your training in a minimalist shoe. Find one you like and do 20% of your easy miles in them. Or just your speed workouts. Keep track of your mileage you log in each shoe and make the transition slowly. Below are a couple of minimalist shoe’s you can check out trail and road. I have only trained in the one’s I listed above and am very happy with the La Sportiva Crosslites. My brother is on his second pair of New Balance MT101 and really likes them. Revolutions Natural Running has over 60 lines of minimalist shoes and a very knowledgeable staff that can answer any questions you might have. So check out there site or click-through some options I put together off amazon. And remember all good things take time!