I recently read the book “Born to Run.” after reading it, I became intrigued and have decided to try some minimalist running shoes. However a lot of stuff that I read online says that might get injured if I run barefoot or in minimalist shoes.
As a little background, I am experienced marathon runner and have been running for decades. I have a neutral foot type and never had any serious running injuries.
Do you have any recommendations on how to safely choose minimalist running shoes so I can run with a more natural running form to convert to more of a minimalist style?
San Francisco, CA
Great question! There are a number of different types of minimal running shoes that you can choose from. But before you can make a reasonable choice on which you would be right for you you have to understand the basics of “minimalist shoes.”
I define a minimalist running shoe as one that has lightweight construction, minimal support and a decreased forefoot to rearfoot drop.
In case you’re not familiar with minimalist running shoe construction is important to point out that the “ forefoot to rearfoot drop” is the difference in height of the heel as compared to the forefoot. Standing barefoot is a 0° drop. A running shoe with a zero-degree drop is flat. Any shoe that has no more supporting material under the heel than under the forefoot will have a 0° drop.
A standard running shoe has a 12 mm drop. This means that there is 12 mm of material under the heel, lifting the heel up relative to the forefoot. Proponents of minimalist running argue that all this extra material under your heel is what forces you to land as a heel striker when you run in these type of running shoes.
Given that most people are accustomed to walking and running in shoes that have a slightly elevated heel, they can at risk of injuries like Achilles tendinitis and even potentially stress fractures if they switch to rapidly to a barefoot running style.
I think Danny has the right approach. I myself run in Newton running shoes for speed workouts and for tempo runs.
However I also incorporate a couple of different kinds of running shoes based on the workouts that I am doing. I run in Kinvaras for some moderate runs. I also run a more of a typical cushioning type of running shoe when I do long runs, or any run where I expect that I might walk. Reason for this is simple. Most people it is spent their lives in elevated heel shoes can develop a tight Achilles tendon. Walking in shoes with a 0° drop can lead to Achilles tendinitis quite rapidly. As someone who trains continually and almost always has an Ironman on the schedule I can afford to develop any issues. I consider using multiple types of running shoes as cross training for my feet. I believe it decreases the risk of injury.
If barefoot running form is a new adventure I hope you will find it to be helpful in developing a more efficient stride and ultimately a more enjoyable running experience.
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