Minimalistic running also known as barefoot or natural running is simply running without shoes or with very thin soled shoes. Some cultures like the Tarahumara of Mexico consider minimalistic running as a natural way to run, and are still practicing it to date.
Minimalist shoes have flooded the scene over the past few years and a significant number of people have been consumed by the “less is more” slogan. The debate about minimalistic running is growing larger and larger by the day, and the question most people are asking is whether minimalistic running is good for them. The only way to answer this question is to establish if there is any science behind the design of these shoes.
Proponents of minimalistic running believe that it is wrong to assume that athletes must have the best heel cushioning to run comfortably and injury free. As a matter of fact, minimalists opine that the thick, dense cushioning on the heel is what is causing problems to athletes. With the elimination of padded heels, these advocates say that an athlete will naturally land on the forefoot. They also hold the view that heel striking is the major cause of accidents in running and that forefoot runners are less likely to experience injury compared to heel strikers. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. In fact, physiological and neurological studies have given very neutral results.
A recent study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology established that both heel striking and forefoot running have more or less the same efficiency, and none of them is less or more likely to cause injury.
Apart from the fact that minimalist shoes make you feel lighter, there is very little that makes them much safer or comfortable to run on. Studies have not been able to prove for instance that minimalist running protects the runner against injuries like Runner’s Knee, IT Band Syndrome, shin splints and other common running injuries. Again, the exact way in which such shoes strengthen your legs is not known.
There may be nothing wrong with these shoes, but they are certainly overrated. Running is about technique, and knowing the right technique may be much more helpful than just knowing what to wear. Again, your legs need protection from the elements and a less structured and cushioned shoes may exposure you more to injuries. Professional athletes may be in a much better position to cope with these shoes, but I will not recommend a blanket treatment.
When it comes to footwear and running form, there is no single prescription that is right for all runners. Again, there is no “one size fits all shoe” you can try them to see if they can suit you, but don’t be carried away by the hype! They will certainly work for some but not everybody. For best results with minimalist running, consult your therapist for advice. Consultations are always free, please call us to set one up. We’re always happy to answer your questions.