How do I transition to Barefoot/Minimalistic Running?

Hello Everyone, in case you missed my seminar last night at Berkeley Running Company I wanted to provide you with some of the highlights I covered.  I can’t cover everything here, I know you are busy, but wanted to mention some of the key take aways.  First I want to thank Merrell Running for sponsoring the seminar and providing some great door prizes including a free pair of the Trail Glove, Merrell’s minimalist trail running shoe you see pictured here.  It was the first time I tried on the shoe, it has a 0 deg drop, so there is no lift in the heel.  Since my foot is so use to a slight heel lift, it actually felt like my heels were lower than my toes, goes to show you how accustomed my foot is to the traditional running shoe.  Now let’s get to the meat.

What is Barefoot/Minimalistic Running?

Running in a shoe that provides minimal support and cushion which allows for free movement of the muscles, tendons, and bones of the foot.

Why run Barefoot/Minimalistic?

  • Less Energy Expenditure
    • Running barefoot has been shown to use about 5% less energy than shod running (Divert et al., 2005; Squadrone and Gallozzi, 2009)
    • Promotes a shorter Stride = more efficiency for long distance events
    • Lower Center of Mass
    • Mechanical Advantage – Significant
  • Impact at foot strike is more gradual
  • It strengthens the muscles in your foot
    • Strong Foot = Healthy Foot
    • Minimizes Pronation
  • Provides more feedback to your nervous system
    • Helps with increased muscle activation
    • Increase in proprioception
  • Many people that transition to forefoot running find they naturally run a little faster
  • More Research is needed
    • No study has shown that heel striking contributes more to injury than forefoot striking

Some things to consider when you are transitioning over to barefoot/minimalistic running:

  • Patience
    • Length of time in traditional running shoes relates to time needed to transition to minimalistic
    • Consider more time as an act of caution
  • Foot Musculature needed is probably very weak
    • Arch
    • Calves
    • Achilles

  • Current Body Mechanics
    • Spine Stability
    • Hip Mobility
    • Knee Stability
    • Ankle Mobility
    • Body Weight

Transitioning Recommendations

  • Walk around barefoot frequently
  • Week 1 – 1/4-1 Mile every other day in minimal shoe
  • No more than 10% increases each week – if soreness is not going away-do not increase, take additional day off
  • Recognize the difference between soreness and pain – if pain sets in rest and take time off
  • Start introducing forefoot striking in current training shoes – use same guidelines above – 10% increase per week
  • Surface Progression: Sand, Bark, Grass, Turf, track , asphalt, concrete
  • BE PATIENT – It will take month to transition – remember when you started running – it took time for it to start to feel good.
Additional Resources

  • Born to Run Christopher McDougall
  • J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1905:s2-3:105-136
For those of you that may be considering transitioning over to barefoot/minimalistic running, I hope these highlights were beneficial for you.  Just remember there is no one way for everyone, you have to take the information and input it into your training in a way that is best for you.  Coaches, doctors, personal trainers, chiropractors are all good sources of information, but you know your body best and need to listen to it.  More and more studies are coming out that support the minimalistic movement, the key is figuring out for yourself how to make the transition with as little turbulence as possible.  Enjoy the journey!

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