Minimalist Running

Happy man jogging outdoors at the park - fitness concepts

Happy man jogging outdoors at the park – fitness concepts

Should I run barefoot? Do I require a minimalist shoe? Are minimal running shoes better?These are all questions that runners often ask when new to minimalist running. With the paleo and primal movements, barefoot running shoes are gaining even more attention. It’s smart to ask questions – and to move cautiously, as these are a whole new animal when it comes to running.

Similar to eating paleo foods, new gear can take some getting used to, so do your research first, and then try out your new shoes slowly to get used to them.


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In order to address these and various other concerns, we need to look at what minimalist running shoes are as compared to conventional running shoes as well as offer an understanding of exactly what constitutes stability or motion control in traditional running shoes.

There are 3 standard “conventional’ running shoe classifications. Cushion/neutral, stability and activity control.

All these categories supply more cushion in the heel than under your toes. This has the result of lifting your heel and leaning you forward just like a ladies’s heel on an outfit shoe. The most common ratio is roughly 22mm in the heel to 11mm in the toe.

Other tips include reducing of your calf bone muscle when you are not running (by raising your heel), supplying cushioning to assist dissipate shock on landing (whether you are a heel striker or forefoot runner) and cushioning of the nerves in your foot. This can be more comfortable, but also impacts your foot sensors and can alter how your foot interacts with the ground.

Something that has helped me is working at a treadmill desk. This gets my body in the habit of moving more often, rather than sitting long hours at a sedentary job. Instead of “starting and stopping” all the time, my body feels more ready to run.

This result can be positive in some runners however negative in others. As an example; in one runner the shoe may help them absorb shock and minimize tension on their knee (the very same way a knee brace might work). In another runner the shoe might cause them to land with a straightened knee and really increase the shock into the knee thus causing knee pain.

Happy couple jogging at the park - fitness concepts

Happy couple jogging at the park – fitness concepts

This is essentially the crux of the argument for those promoting barefoot or minimalist running. It is thought that the shoe could interfere with a runner’s natural tendency to flex their ankle, knee and hip joints upon landing thus naturally dissipating effect forces.

There are no shortage of running enthusiasts visiting chiropractors to relieve lower back pain, which can often be cause by this exact situation. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention when choosing running shoes.

By using no shoes or “less” shoe these proponents of minimalist running wish to decrease injuries. This theory presumes that running injuries are associated with impact and not extreme strain or torque or various other physiologic forces.

Conventional running shoes have likewise tried to attend to impact in addition to pressure and torque. Cushion/neutral running shoes are created to accommodate a runner who under-pronates and has a high, stiff arch. It is not that these shoes do not supply stability, they do, but they have a greater ratio of cushioning to stability.

Stability shoes are made to work with a runner who pronates normally (yes pronation is normal) and has an “average’ arc with “typical” versatility. These shoes have denser cushioning which is expected to increase support and withstand excessive pronation. Activity control shoes are intended for runners that over-pronate and have flatter more versatile feet.

It is thought that they are exceedingly versatile and for that reason require even more control. The extra control is offered by denser foam which increases support and avoids pronation.

These shoes are all created under the property that pronation is an irregular movement, can be quantified as inadequate or too much and if the runner is matched correctly to a shoe kind running injuries will be lowered.

Chris Ellis says that many minimalist shoes are multi-functional. They have soles with great grip, making them also ideal for water sports like rowing, kayaking and hiking where there might be slick surfaces.

Check out our running shoe finder.