Is a Minimalist Shoe For You?

My first “real” running shoe was an Asics. By “real” I mean one I bought at a running store that was fitted to my foot and gait, not something I pulled off the shelf at Lady Foot Locker. I’m not knocking the store, but about midway through training for my first half marathon with Fleet Feet in St. Louis, I realized I needed a better shoe. I had been dealing with a “runner’s knee” injury and plantar fasciitis and it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to run.

The woman at Fleet Feet talked to me about my running goals, where I was in my training and any foot issues I had. After watching me run in the shoes I had, she suggested a stability shoe to help with my tendency to over pronate. She also gave me inserts for my plantar fasciitis.

I walked out of the store feeling 100 percent better, like I was walking on air. I loved my shoes! What a difference a well-chosen pair made in comfort.

I completed my first half marathon and decided I wanted to become a better runner. To that end, I needed to improve my speed and form.

My husband and I need no excuse to visit the bookstore. It was during one such visit in December 2012 that I perused Chi Running and Santa delivered it that Christmas. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite running books and one I recommend for a number of reasons.

I first learned of the book when I had a conversation about running form with a fellow runner. He told me about Dreyer’s metronome method of running and also suggested I become more of a mid-heel striker, rather than heel-striker. These would help me with my form, speed and runner’s knee.

Two other conversations happened around this time. I started hearing other runners talk about minimalist shoes, and I had an appointment with an Air Force doctor who worked with athletes. He also talked to me about running form and heel striking. He cautioned me that if I were going to move to a minimalist shoe in an effort to improve my foot strike, I should start out with a very low mileage (for instance, just one mile) and slowly build up. The calves, he said, need time to adjust to a lower shoe.

All of these discussions converged and I decided that my next pair of running shoes would be a transition shoe rather than a full minimalist shoe. This past May, I went back to Fleet Feet and, with the help of another knowledgeable clerk, purchased a pair of Saucony Guide6. Like my first pair, I love these shoes!

(Can you tell I’m easy to please?).

Saucony Guide6Asics

What makes a shoe minimalist or transition?

While I was being fitted for the Saucony shoes, the clerk who was helping me told me about heel-to-toe drop. According to the website, the heel-to-toe-drop is “the difference between (midsole + outsole) heel height and (midsole + outsole) forefoot height.”New Balance Shoe Anatomy

I don’t remember now what she told me my shoes were. I think the Asics were about a 12 mm midsole, while the Sauconys were about a 7. Not a big drop but significant nonetheless. I can definitely feel a difference when I run.

I know I’m hitting the pavement with my mid-foot, rather than my heel because my plantar fasciitis has kicked in a bit and the ball of my foot is feeling calloused. But because they aren’t truly minimalist, I haven’t experienced any issues with underused muscles suddenly being called to perform.

vff gray palm single

Vibram Fivefingers KSO

I have no desire to go down to absolute “barefoot” running, such as wearing something from Vibram Fivefingers.

I’m not even sure I’ll buy a shoe with an even lower heel-to-toe drop. For now, I’m happy with my new shoes. I figure from here on out, my results will be more dependent on my efforts to improve my speed, stay focused on my form and build up my endurance.

Do you wear a minimalist shoe? If so, what kind?


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