Question: For distance running, I like the minimalist shoes, but they’re kind of out of fashion now. What do you think? -Erin
Answer: Some of the arguments about minimalist shoes make sense. The problem comes in the way that people actually use them.
Small-bodied and lightly framed runners with excellent foot mechanics and running technique might do a lot better with minimalist shoes than large-bodied runners with heavy frames, or runners with inefficient foot mechanics or running technique. It’s a case-by-case situation.
Before one even considers running in minimalist shoes they should start to integrate them into their lives by wearing them while walking and in their day-to-day lives. It is probably best to start with a small amount of minimalism and increase the use of the shoes over an extended time-frame. After an extended period of adaptation and familiarization wherein you pay attention to how you feel then, if everything is going well with the shoes, it might be appropriate to slowly and methodically start running with them.
Be thoughtful about the types of surfaces you choose to run on. Seek professional guidance if you have pre-existing issues with your feet or lower body mechanics or if the experiment doesn’t feel good.
As with all things, a measured and thoughtful approach is best. Does that sound boring? You’re probably right. Sometimes boring is better.
Question: What are your thoughts on foot strike in running? -Susan
Answer: Keeping it simple, sprinters tend to run on the balls of their feet and this is most efficient for very short efforts. Efficient distance runners tend to strike midfoot. This allows for a quick turnover of the legs, which is desired. It allows allows shock attenuation upon impact with the ground, also important. Most recreational distance runners heel strike. A heel strike suggests over-striding, and thus a reduced rate of turnover for the legs. Heel striking is thought put on “the brakes” with each stride which not only slows the runner down but also sends more shock than necessary through the body with each landing.
Recreational distance runners would do well to pattern their foot strike towards the midfoot. The first easy method that I would recommend is to learn to listen to your feet. A heavy heel strike is louder than a lighter midfoot strike. Strive to run quietly. The follow-up method is to work on your turnover. Many moderate strides will make for more efficient running than fewer long clamorous strides. Focus on driving your arms quickly and frequently and your legs will reciprocate. A fast turnover will favour a moderate stride length and you will find it easier to land midfoot with your foot more or less directly under your body at the time of impact.