March 23, 2011

What is Minimalist Running?

In recent years, the minimalist movement has picked up speed within the running community as more and more experienced runners have begun to transition to minimalist shoes for natural running. This style of running received a boost in mainstream popularity after the release of the New York Times bestseller Born to Run by Christopher McDougall which focused on the sandal-wearing ultramarathoners among Mexico's Tarahumer Indians.

With the recent upsurge of runners interested in incorporating this style into their routine, we’ve been receiving many questions from our customers about natural running and minimalist shoes and have created this FAQ to help you find out more about this running style:

What is Natural Running?

Natural running is running the way the human body was meant to by landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot as opposed to running on your toes or heel striking. The idea behind minimalist shoes is to duplicate this natural position and articulation of the naked foot.

Minimalist shoes can change the way we run—not only can they impact our gait and speed, but with prolonged training they can actually modify the way our body works by changing where we feel the most impact in our feet and the amount of shock absorbed in the knee.

Many runners who have made the transition report benefits including improved balance and strength along with better run performances.

How Do I Start?

The first thing we stress to those new to minimalist running is to start slowly and carefully to avoid injury. Even experienced runners can be injured if they jump in and do too much too soon. It is important to readjust your running style and the body needs time to learn how to do so. We recommend wearing your new minimalist footwear while walking around for a few days before easing into running. Start slowly, running just a mile or two at a time. As you grow accustomed to this style of training and as your body relearns how to run, you will be able to add more and longer distances to your regimen.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to listen to your body – if you run a mile and your feet hurt, don’t push forward as this can cause injuries. By easing into it slowly, you will dramatically reduce your chances of injury while strengthening your feet, arches, and lower legs. Listen to your body and research proper running techniques. Check out the Shop By Brand section at Runner's Edge NY to find informative videos regarding the theory behind minimalist running.

What’s Different About the Shoes?

The goal of minimalist shoes is to be able to feel the ground beneath us and learn how to respond to it thereby strengthening our foot and lower leg muscles which in turn helps to reduce the risk of injury. To this end, the shoes designed for this style of running have none of thecushy foam and structured stability found in traditional running shoes.

Minimalist shoes also have a much smaller heel than regular running shoes – usually less than a centimeter.

What About Foot Protection?

Our culture is not accustomed to barefoot running the way Kenyan tribes are, and with the variety of terrain we run on (pavement, gravel, soft grass, etc) it is necessary to provide protection for our feet against the elements. Minimalist shoes are crafted to provide the necessary protection without deterring from the goal of the shoe which is to maximize ground contact and to have better feel for the ground.

What to Wear:

As with any running shoe, selecting your minimalist sneakers is a matter of personal preference and trying them on. Some of our favorites include the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara, the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove, and the Zoot Ultra TT 4.0. We also recommend the Newton Distance S Racer and the Newton Motion Stability Trainer.