Written by Karl Harter
I think most people should run in a shoe that feels comfortable and fits good. I think that’s true regardless of foot shape, arch, gait, speed or the size of the runner. Comfort and fit (enough toe room, ample width) trump almost all other considerations.
If people want to run barefoot, or with the absolute minimum of protection, fine, they should do so. It will certainly help strengthen the tendons and ligaments that surround the foot and provide them with a new or different running experience. If you’re a heel striker and don’t have any problems, then why change, but if you are prone to injury, tinkering with your impact area could be beneficial. However, there is no scientific evidence that shifting point of contact from the heel to the mid-foot or forefoot will reduce injury.
The whole minimalist idea/craze/fad/interest, although fascinating, is nothing new. Arhtur Lydiard was designing minimalist shoes 30 years ago, Nike has been making some variation of a minimalist shoe forever, all the way back to the Nike Elites and Air Mariahs and Air Huaraches, the Asics X-Caliber would qualify as a minimalist shoe. There has always been a segment of runners who believed that some cushion is inherently necessary but the closer you can keep your foot to the ground, the more stable you are and lower profile shoes are better, even for runners who exhibit poor form or have various foot faults or flat feet or low archs. I think the current re-discovery of less is better is a positive development, it keeps us re-evaluating and questioning what a proper and adequate running shoe is, and ultimately I think it leads us back to a fundamental realization that at its essence, running is an individual experience, all runners are unique, and while some generalizations are appropriate, each of needs to find out what works best for us.
Runners get injured. Can a minimalist shoe or a lower profile shoe help reduce injury or will the lack of adequate cushion promote injury? For many runners, a lower profile shoe has advantages. We really don’t want to run on pillows, nor do we want to run in cinderblocks, we really do want our foot to follow a natural motion (whatever that is, though I know it when I feel it, and I know it when bulky shoes prevent it) but let’s not forget a very basic thing: running is a physical activity, an athletic activity and injuries happen. Soccer players get injured, badminton players get injured, baseball players get injured, anyone who is active and moves and jumps and runs and sweats and stretches and pushes themselves gets injured, it happens, it’s a part of the game. Too often runners feel that good shoes will prevent or immunize them from injury, but let’s be real, most running injuries don’t come from inadequate footwear, most injuries come from over-training or crummy form. Running is a skill and if you want o minimize the chance of injury good shoes are imperative but some thought about the activity itself might help, most of us aren’t elite runners, most of huff and puff rather than glide, and for most of us some form of stretching or yoga or cross training or weightlifting should be a part of our exercise program.
Stay intense, stay dedicated but like the profile of our running shoes, maybe some moderation is a good thing, maybe a little less is a lot better.