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My take on the Minimalist Movement

There is a revolution in the running shoe world and you’d have to be living under a rock to have not at least heard of the barefoot/minimalist movement.  Some runners are avid believers in the science behind barefoot running while others choose to stick to their traditional shoes. Honestly, if you’ve been running for years in your thicker cushioned shoes and have very few problems with injuries, then why mess with a good thing? But if that isn’t you, then consider this scenario I found on The Running Clinic:

Modern running shoes and cholesterol

If profit-making companies were to introduce a category of pill to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and the pill became extremely popular, being sold to all hypercholesterolemic patients…
And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the pill ineffective in reducing blood cholesterol, but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as muscle pain and digestive problems…
What would you do? Pull the pill from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, …and, above all, no longer prescribe it to newly diagnosed hypercholesterolemic patients.

If profit-making companies (1) were to introduce a category of running shoe to reduce skeletal stress (and therefore injuries) (2), and the shoe became extremely popular and was sold to all runners (3) …
And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the shoe ineffective in reducing skeletal stress (4) (and therefore injuries)(5), but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as increased strike force (6) and weakened feet (7) …
What would you do? Pull the shoe from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as pain in the Achilles tendon (8), … and, above all, no longer prescribe it to new runners (9)!!!

Here is a picture of 2 years worth of running shoes:

There are three pairs of Brooks Adrenaline, two pairs of Newton Lady Issac, one pair of Newton Gravity, one pair of Asics Kinsei, and two pairs of New Balance Minimus.  Missing from this photo are the many pairs of shoes that came in my earlier years of running.  These include the Asics Kayano,  Asics Nimbus, Mizuno Nirvana, and Brooks Glycerin. Holy cow that’s a lot of shoes!  And in case these names mean nothing to you, just know these shoes range from the most expensive motion control shoe to the much cheaper and lighter minimalist shoe.  One shoe has all the support and cushion you could imagine while the other has nothing but a thin barrier between you and the road.  Now I wonder why I may get injured from time to time?

After 10 years of running, a stress fracture in my hip, swollen ankles, calf strains, and a few occurrences of runner’s knee, my New Balance Minimus are the light at the end of the tunnel.  Finally, I feel like I discovered the way running should be.  Easy, effortless, and pain free.  Now don’t think I just bought some shoes one day and had my running world change the next.  As with anything, there was a transition period and a few aches and pains along the way.  I had to learn to use some new muscles and adjust my running form, but it was all worth it.  There are still things I am learning and in January I will attend a Chi Running workshop (so excited!).  But I am happy and proud to say that I am a minimalist shoe convert.  It has saved my running.

My advice to anyone considering the transition – if you’ve been able to run injury free in your traditional shoes, then keep at it! Obviously that’s what works for you.  However, if running feels hard, uncomfortable, and you suffer from injuries a little too often, then you need to reevaluate two things: 1) your running form and 2) your running shoes.  Running shouldn’t be hard.  It’s an amazing sport and it should always be enjoyed.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie

(If you’re interested in learning more about running form,, check out Good Form Running)

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Think I may need to look into some new shoes myself. Thanks for this post.

    December 23, 2011
    • You’re welcome Chuck. Most of the local stores carry several brands of the minimalist shoe (The Athlete’s Foot, Fleet Feet), so definitely worth looking into. They really are amazing!

      Merry Christmas to you and Brook and hope to see y’all in the New Year!
      Tracie

      December 23, 2011
  2. I love your article and advice, Tracie. I look forward to reading about your experience with the Chi Running workshop!

    December 23, 2011
    • Thanks Kirk! I couldn’t be a happier runner =) And I’ll definitely let you know how the Chi Running goes.
      Tracie

      December 23, 2011
  3. There are a lot of us on the same journey, we are finding that the high heel shoes just are not working for us. Personally I am moving back to where I was almost 30 years ago, low heeled, flexible shoes with some padding. Just doing it in stages. Like Kirk I will be looking forward to your writing about the Chi Running workshop, the book is one of my Christmas gifts that I picked out this year 🙂

    Good luck and glad you are enjoyed your running again.

    H.

    December 23, 2011
    • Hi Harold – Good luck with your transition. It takes time but I’m sure your Chi Running book will have lots of good advice. I’ll be sure to share what I learn from my workshop and maybe you’ll have some pointers from your book you can share =)

      Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
      Tracie

      December 23, 2011
  4. Great post and great advice. Happy running in the New Year!

    December 23, 2011
    • Thanks! I’m looking forward to many new running adventures in 2012. Happy running to you as well =)
      Tracie

      December 23, 2011
  5. Great post! I’ll share with a friend who recently made this transition.

    December 23, 2011
    • Thanks LC!! I’m going to a workshop on chi running January 7th if you or your friend are interested, let me know =) I hope your IT band is feeling better and talk to you this weekend!! Xoxo

      December 23, 2011
  6. I am so glad that the Newton’s stayed on your list. My PT has suggested I incease the number of strides I run each minute. That small modification changes my stride slightly – I without much think became a fore front runner. I started with the Newtons because it made it much easier for me to stay on my front of my foot and it helped me as I tried to modify my stride count.

    December 25, 2011
    • I started out in the Newtons with trying to learn how to be more of a midfoot striker and they definitely helped make the transition to the Minimus a lot easier. They say your stride should be about 180 strikes per minute. I just count 20 seconds and multiply. Have you tried out any of the minimalist shoes?

      December 25, 2011

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