The topics of minimalist shoes and the natural running movement have been piquing the interest of runners, including those of us at Bob Ronckers Running Spot, the last couple of years. Weve thoroughly studied the subjects so we can fulfill our responsibility and give you, our customers, sound advice.
As a specialty retailer, and we hope we are special, we want to share accurate information regarding advantages or disadvantages based upon your running form, current shoes, and overall goals. This helps you make more prudent decisions.
We view the minimalist shoe category as primarily a supplemental piece to other classifications of footwear. Of course there will be exceptions, but most of you will probably use these shoes to complement what you already have. These shoes can be different. You need to recognize that wearing them probably requires a gradual adaptation period.
We define minimalist footwear as those shoes having a heel to toe offset of no more than 5 mm. Most current training shoes lift your heel about 12 mm higher than the forefoot. We are committed to the category. We have shoes by Newton, Vibram, Nike and Hoka. In spring 2011 we plan on adding minimalist styles from Saucony, New Balance,
You might ask, Why should I consider minimalist type footwear? Advocates of barefoot, or near-barefoot style running, comment on how the body, because its constantly receiving feedback (or feetback) from nearly 200,000 sensors in our feet, naturally assumes a more protective and proper position upon landing. We could not agree with this more. In fact, many of the barefoot style tenets are suggested in our Smooth Running classes. However, the shoe still plays the role of protector.
Folks from the Newton Company contend that their shoes promote natural running on unnatural surfaces while Five Fingers encourage natural running on natural surfaces. Saucony refers to their minimalist shoe, the Kinvara, as a responsible minimalist shoe.
Although many people may choose to run or race on pavement with the Vibram Five Finger shoes, we at Bob Ronckers Running Spot believe that the human body has not yet evolved to the point that consistently running on surfaces like concrete and asphalt is a good thing. We have taken the position of not recommending the current Vibram shoes, the least protective of the minimalist shoes, for running, as compared to other types of activities, on pavement. Why is that?
As we run, we are momentarily airborne. We land on the ground with a greater impact - 3 or more times our body weight compared to 11&Mac218;2 times our weight than when we walk. Hard paved surfaces are a rather recent development. A lot of shock enters our legs. Many undeveloped countries, with great distance runners, do not have the advantages (???) of these firm surfaces. So, what should one think of when considering adding a minimalist style shoe to their repertoire of shoes?
Advantages of wearing minimalist footwear
The muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot and lower leg will work a little differently. More effort may be required. Gradually they may get a bit stronger and stretch a bit. Presumably this will reduce injuries.
It may be easier to run with a more natural gait and stride where the foot lands more on the mid-foot and closer under the Center of Gravity (COG).
Most people think they are pretty cool looking and primarily plan on wearing them when NOT running.
Disadvantages of wearing minimalist footwear?
The body needs time to adjust to these shoes. Patience is required. The best way to avoid many of the potential disadvantages is through Gradual Adaptation.
Injuries may be attributed to a perceived lack of cushioning or support compared to what you may be currently accustomed. Back off if your body starts talking to you.
They are not for everyone. Some people need more support and structure in the shoes.
Id like to include some comments about gait. For the past couple of years Ive taught classes advocating what we call Smooth Running. The proprioception (connection between nerves and brain) that exists when our feet are bare or with little padding causes us to naturally adjust and land differently. We tend to absorb shock more easily. Compare the effect of using a jump rope when landing on your mid-foot or on your heels. Heavily padded shoes block this stream of information. This allows us to get away from our natural tendency and run differently. We can land on our heels and strike in front of our(COG) without any immediate harm.
Natural running is a more barefoot style, not limited to strictly barefoot, of running. This form of running advocates landing under your COG. You generally will strike on the mid-foot. Over-striding and heel striking are more common when you land in front of your body mass. Shorter strides, aided by a rapid turnover cadence of 180 steps per minute and a slight forward lean at the ankles, promote landing under your COG. Smooth Running can be done with both traditional and minimalist running shoes.
We view minimalist shoes as an option for most customers. They can help supplement your training plan. If you wear minimalist shoes, your lower legs should gradually strengthen. Used judiciously, these shoes can be useful training tools to help improve form, speed, and reduce injuries.
Our job, as the experts, is to help you with this decision. The fitting process is a collaborative effort. The better we understanding your background, injury history, fitness goals, etc. the better we can help you with your choice of minimalist footwear OR whether or not this type of shoe is even appropriate for you. We look forward to helping you.