Minimalist running is a trend that’s gained a lot of momentum and attention recently. I actually did a presentation about it for a health class I took last fall. I decided, after tons of research and consideration, to give it a shot.
My decision to go part-time minimal stemmed from some pain I was having. My right hip would hurt after runs. Stretching and going to the chiropractor really helped. As it turns out, I’m slightly out of alignment. I already knew that – years of swimming revealed it to me. When swimming was really intense, one side of my lower back would swell up – the result of my body trying to be straight. When I learned about heel-strike versus mid- to fore-foot strike, I thought I might be able to battle the problem on my own. See, when you strike on your heel, it causes a quick, strong impact that your shoe and body must absorb. When you mid- or fore-foot strike, your body absorbs that impact on its own. It can reduce the peak force of that impact. I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers and tried it out. The lack of padding in the heel forces me to not land on my heel.
When I get fatigued, I resort to heel striking again, and I do NOT want to be in the VFFs when this happened. I picked up a pair of New Balance Minimus Trail running shoes, and those have been great. They have a very slight heel, so when I do start heel striking, I’m not in trouble. The sole on them is also made by Vibram, so they’re thin, light and durable. The VFFs are also KILLER on my calves. I use them for less than 10% of my mileage, and rarely for runs over 2 miles. It is helping. I haven’t had hip pain in a long time. I’m willing to take a little calve muscle soreness in lieu of hip joint pain.
When I was sidelined for IT band problems, I was able to rebuild my running form as I started running again. (Side note: My IT Band Syndrome is most likely the result of a torn meniscus. I tore it in college, and the Physical Therapist believes that my muscles on the outside of my right leg are weaker. My right knee drops a bit inside when I run – my left knee doesn’t. This is the likely source of my problems, and I’m still strengthening, foam rolling, and working towards pain-free running – no shoes out there will fix that problem!)
I’m not trying to be a full-time minimalist runner. I train mostly in my Nike Pegasus and Brooks Ghost. The VFFs and NB Minimus generally make appearances for hashing or on rainy days. I like how lightweight they are, and I feel like I can play in the puddles instead of avoiding them, and that just makes running more fun!
Now, that said, this is one of the BEST articles on the subject that I’ve read recently: http://www.runblogger.com/2011/08/why-majority-of-runners-even-among.html It’s called “Why a majority of runners, even among international elites, are heel strikers” and it’s written by Blaise Dubois. Below are a few excerpts.
“3. The majority of these good level athletes, however, have what we call a “prorioceptive heel strike” (the foot flattens smoothly as soon as it hits the ground). We believe this way the foot grounds is no more harmful and no less effective than midfoot or forefoot striking because it doesn’t involve a strong braking phase or brutal impact force.”
“6. The heel strike is not the only thing to look at. A heel strike may be acceptable if the shinbone is vertical the knee is bent, and the impact loads just in front of the center of gravity. A biomechanical analysis must therefore be global.”
Check out the rest of the article on the website – it’s very informative.
The bottom line is the best way to run is the way that works for you. If you’re injury-free, stick with your current shoes. If you’re having issues, then maybe it’s time to explore what is causing the issues and how you can fix it.
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