Barefoot/minimalist (here-on referred to as minimalist) running is not a new concept, in fact it has been around as long as humans have had feet. Somewhere along the way it became widely accepted that very specific shoes were required for running, and in fact without those specific shoes, runners would make themselves susceptible to injury. Despite runners' best efforts to buy the right shoes, one of the biggest issues that plagues runners today is injury. Depending on the source, injury rates for running are said to be anywhere between 60% and 85% in a given year. While shoe manufacturers have attempted to reduce injury by designing a variety of technologies to support, cushion, stabilize, and alter the gait of the runner, the overall picture has gotten worse. Runners are paying more money for shoes, retiring them more frequently, and yet rates of injury have increased. The minimalist perspective is that modern footwear is to blame for these high rates of injury, and that by making shoes more structured, things get worse.
The notion that structured footwear can hinder more than it helps (an idea most recently popularized in Christopher McDougall's excellent book Born to Run), is not new, but has been relegated to the fringe for quite some time. New research being conducted by various groups (including the military, MIT, and others) is finding that the fringe may in fact be right. If I were to try to summarize all of the theory and research in a nutshell it would be this: one of the biggest causes of running injury is poor form, and one of the biggest contributors to poor form is footwear. Elevated heels promote a heel strike. Thick cushioning dampens sensory feedback, creates instability, and increases shock. Rigid soles are unstable. Rigidity reduces flexibility in the joints, hinders the body's natural shock absorption, increases stresses in other joints, and weakens foot muscles. Arch supports undermine natural stability, hinder the body's shock absorption mechanisms, and weaken foot muscles.
- Barefoot/Minimalist Running
- Minimalist Footwear for Ultralight Backpacking
- Minimalist Footwear
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