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Minimalist Running: If You've Switched Your Shoes, Have You Also Switched Your Form?

Does changing to minimalist running  footwear minimize wear and tear on a runner's body? Only, according to a recent study, if a runner also changes his or her running style.

 As explained in this New York Times article, the nonprofit American Council on Exercise recently sponsored a small study that asked female recreational runners to switch to either barefoot running or the use of minimalist footwear.

VFFThe outcome? Participants who changed to barefoot running or minimalist shoes but failed to make a recommended change in their foot strikes after each stride—going from a heel-striking pattern to a forefoot-strike—experienced impact forces on their bodies that were almost double to those encountered when wearing conventional running shoes.

Meanwhile, those who did alter their stride were expected to attain the benefits ascribed to forefoot striking as advocated by proponents of the barefoot/minimalist running style such as Harvard professor Dan Lieberman, who has written at length about the biomechanics of foot strikes.

The article quotes Cedric Bryant, the council's chief science officer: "The key thing our study seems to suggest is that it's really important you take some time to really adjust your running form or running style."

Have you had this experience after making the switch in footwear? As explained in the article, ACE researchers recommend that runners make a "slow and steady" transition when adapting to minimalist footwear. Start with brisk walking, for example, before attempting a run.

All you minimalist converts out there (and that group includes people like actor Jake Gyllenhaal): What additional advice would you offer to runners who are making the switch from conventional running shows to minimalist footwear? What has worked for you?


Posted on at 1:34 PM

Tagged: barefoot running, minimalist, minimalist footwear and natural motion running

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Take it slow. If your feet start to hurt rest a few days. Taking a few days off is way better than being out for weeks because of an injury. Running should be fun, if it isn't then you are doing it wrong.

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Take it SLOW. I learned this the hard way when I started transitioning two years ago.

It takes about 9 months. Now I can run with back pain or plantar fasciitis.

Many resource available now on how to transition.


* without * back pain or ...


I agree with Jeff... start SLOW and listen to your body.

The ACE study highlights that it's form not footwear that makes the difference. The idea behind barefoot running is that being barefoot gives you the feedback that inspires a change to the correct form (and that VFFs eliminate a lot of that feedback).

Personally, I wear running sandals from (and I wear them for EVERYTHING, so I'm basically barefoot all the time).


I found that forefoot striking came pretty easy, as that is what I remember and liked best from running barefoot through the grass on the farm growing up. What I do have to remind myself is to flex and use my toes. I recently ran the Slickrock Trail in Moab, Utah with my Vibram 5 fingers. You can literally run straight up the slickrock slopes! Awesome fun!!!!


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