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Transitions: Stability to Minimalist running shoes

You’ve heard all the claims. You’ve read the articles and seen the commercials. You’ve talked to your friends who promise an instant BQ if you just ditch the heavy clunky shoes and go minimal or even fully barefoot.

 http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/HEALTH/02/12/barefoot.running/t1larg.barefoot.run.gi.jpg

So now you think maybe it’s time to try out this new thing called “minimalist” running. Before you strap on your running sandals and head out for a 7 miler, please consider a few suggestions.

1) There should be a transition period. Why? If a heel striker who has years of stability or motion control shoes in the closet puts on a pair of 0-4mm drop shoes, their strike is naturally going to transition. That sounds great, right? NO!!!! Instant injury is waiting around the corner in the form of Achilles issues, pulled calves, and PF from tight calves. Once PF sets in, you’re in a world of minimalist hurt.

2) Don’t throw away the stability trainers. When you first open your box of new sleek natural or minimalist shoes, of course you want to wear them everywhere. Do that. Wear them to the store. Wear them around the house. Wear them to Starbucks. Just DO NOT RUN in them yet. The reasoning behind this is to strengthen those muscles that will soon be taking on more load. The lower calves have been enjoying a blissful ride up until now. They are going to fight you every step of the way.

3) The 10% rule is back in action. Start out wearing your minimal shoes for a very short distance, such as 400-800m the first week, especially if you do not already walk around barefoot at home. Run the rest of your distance in your regular trainers. This will mean carrying around 2 pairs of shoes and changing mid-run. Each week, increase the minimalist shoe mileage by no more than 10%. It may seem silly to take all this precaution, but remember the ounce of prevention saying? It’s true.

4) The treadmill is about to be your best friend. If you do not have access to a treadmill, find a flat patch of road to start your transition. You do not want to venture off road while working new muscles with new shoes.

5) Train the feet: Remember those conditioning drills we all did in high school sports? It’s time to revisit the importance of the drill. For increasing foot and lower leg strength, do some drills with golf balls. Keep your heel on the ground and use your toes to pick up the ball. It’s harder than it sounds! Also try towel crunching. With your feet on a towel, crunch your toes under your feet. Release and crunch again. Then go eat some granola like the true crunchy people. Work on balancing muscles by squatting while on your forefoot. Again, harder than it sounds. For more ideas, try a Google search for “foot drills for minimalist running”. I found a LOT of new ideas for working the feet and lower leg/shin/calf muscles.

Don’t miss my review of the Saucony Virrata zero-drop shoe from their Natural line!

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Kyle Kranz

Friday 22nd of March 2013

Really great advice, especially about avoiding trails early on in the transition! Here's something from our blog :) http://skorarunning.com/blog/transitioning