Another Take On Minimalist Running

minimalist runningMinimalist running has become a popular discussion as it relates to treating and preventing injuries. Although some opinions can seem extreme, as the conversations continue, so does our understanding of how our feet, and the rest of our body, adapt as we depend less on artificial support from the shoes we wear.

Nike was the first shoe company to add gas-filled membranes to the heels of their running shoes. It seemed revolutionary at the time. The thought was, if runners can strike with their heel out in front of their body this will allow for a longer stride thus giving them a competitive edge. Leading up to that a runner’s shoes were light weight and simple. Books like Born To Run and shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers, prompted more discussion and of course further research. Have we come full circle over thirty years later?

There are two sides to the shoe debate, traditionalist versus minimalist. The traditional side will argue more arch support and cushion is needed to give someone the proper platform. On the other hand the minimalist will say that spending time in your bare feet and wearing low profile light weight shoes will assist in the natural form and function of your feet. As a whole I agree with the minimalist approach. The three arches in our feet are ultimately controlled by the locking and unlocking of several joints and the strength and stability of the muscles. If use and motion is lost, so is strength and function. This is created by heavily depending on shoes with too much artificial support.

Still the subject is not black and white. Injuries can result to those who switch to a “minimalist” type of shoe. The problem is the transition. If the change is too drastic, problems may arise. Just like the loss of strength and function took several years to develop, it will take a long time to get it back. This may entail spending time without your prescribed orthotic, or in your bare feet, or strengthening exercises may be needed, but the change will occur slowly. It may be months or even a year before the foot can transition fully into a shoe without a lot of artificial support. In some cases, if someone is dealing with a foot injury this may be the time to recommend extra support through the use of an orthotic or specific shoes. Following recovery, gaining that strength back using the same methods just described would be the best solution. However, the approach may need to be even slower.

With all the advances in running shoes in the past 40 years, the rate of running related injuries are still astronomically high. Even though simply sliding into a pair of minimalist shoes isn’t the answer for everyone, the conversations have got us thinking a lot differently.

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