» 7 Tips to Ease into Minimalist Running

7 Tips to Ease into Minimalist Running

May 12, 2012 | Steven McElwee

Do you want to run in minimalist shoes? Some people call this barefoot running. It is becoming more and more popular. Here are a few reasons you might want to try minimalist shoes:

  • To improve your foot placement – Minimalist shoes reinforce proper foot placement. Striking the ground with your heel will always make you more injury prone. With minimalist shoes, it will downright hurt. Minimalist shoes encourage you to find the proper mid-foot strike.
  • To reduce risk of injury – By using proper posture and foot placement, minimalist shoes encourage you to run the way your body wants to run. By allowing your feet to connect more directly with the ground, you become more intentional and are less prone to injure yourself by overdoing it. Some people say that this proper placement can also help prevent shin splints.
  • To strengthen your calves – Because you run more with the front of your foot, minimalist shoes and barefoot running will cause you to use your calves more. As a result, you will develop more calf strength.
  • To go natural – You may want to try barefoot running with minimalist shoes just to run the way God designed your feet and legs to run. You might think this will give you an edge or simply allow your body to function better.
  • To look cool – You might not be interested in any of the above reasons, but you simply want to look cool and trendy. Showing up at a race with Vibram Five-Finger shoes will certainly draw some looks. Even minimalist shoes that don’t have the toes cut out are sleek and interesting to look at.

Before you jump in with both feet, you should know that the transition to minimalist sneakers is neither quick nor easy. If you think you can just switch from your normal or stability sneaks to minimalist, you will quickly find that none of the benefits above apply. You may injure your feet or legs, you may burn out your calves, and you may interrupt your training schedule for several days or weeks to recover.

Here are seven tips for making the transition to minimalist running sneakers:

1. Start Slowly – Very Slowly

It takes a measure of humility to move to minimalist running if you are already an experienced runner. You must slow down your pace, distance, and duration considerably. You need to tell yourself that you are starting over.

2. Introduce Minimalist Running as Cross-Training

Use your minimalist shoes on your rest days. This will allow you to maintain your normal running training in your regular cusioned running shoes. Try three days of regular running with a day of minimalist running in between each.

3. Run on Soft Surfaces to Start

Find soft surfaces for getting started. Avoid sidewalks and streets if you can, and run on pressed gravel or dirt trails or on grass. This will help cushion your feet until you get more used to the direct contact with the ground.

4. Use a Couch to 5K Program

To ramp up slowly and systematically, find a couch to 5K program that you like. You can find some on-line, such as the plan provided by Cool Running. You can also find a small group that is going through a couch to 5K program and join them. Make sure that as you walk and jog, you are using a very slow pace to start. Doing it with a group may help keep you from overdoing it.

5. Focus on Posture and Foot Placement – Not Speed

Instead of focusing on your pace and distance, focus on following a slow paced schedule and working on your posture and foot placement. You will find that your minimalist training will positively affect your regular running with cushioned sneakers. This may slow down your regular running a little at first, because you will need to build up some strength in muscles you didn’t previously challenge.

6. Use Minimalist Shoes only for Running

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can wear minimalist shoes just for walking around and performing your daily routine. Use them only for your focused minimalist training days. Wearing them around the house or to work may cause knee or foot pain.

7. Monitor Foot, Leg, and Knee Pain

If you feel pain in your feet or knees while training with your minimalist sneaks, slow down. Try to walk through these pains if you can. Make sure you are using a mid-foot strike, and bend your knees a little to cushion the impact on your knees. If it still hurts while walking at a slow pace, you may need to stop using minimalist shoes and possibly see a doctor.

Give these tips a try. I have used them myself and have found that they work great. If you are using minimalist shoes, please let me know your tips by leaving a comment below.

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