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Minimalism for beginners

 

Minimalism for Beginners and Maximalism for Pros

 

There has been much confusion over minimalist running shoes on the part of running shoe retailers and the general public. While erroneous information mostly conveyed by specialized running shoe companies caused this confusion, it reflects a lack of knowledge with respect to the effect of running shoes on biomechanics and tissue stress. Below are a few of the arguments that illustrate the gap between science and current practices, which some may see as a paradox. Be that as it may, it is merely the practical integration of what science has put forth thus far.

 

Reasons why an overweight runner who is not physically fit should run with minimalist running shoes:

 

1. In order to maximize the joy of running, it is important to reduce the oxygen demand caused by external agents, such as the weight of the running shoes. The latter brings about a surprising energy cost (approximately 1% for every 100 grams added to the running shoes). Needless to say, a total of 3 to 5% may end up being a critical factor in enjoying or hating running.

 

2. As a result of being overweight, it is essential to develop adequate impact moderating behaviors. In other words, it is crucial to run light. The best way to do so consists in minimizing the interference between the foot and the ground so that the impact is felt under the foot.

 

3. Such runners are “green” in learning the ropes of biomechanics and mostly fall under the “beginner” category with very few kilometers under their belt. Consequently, it will be necessary very early on in the process to use running shoes that do not interfere with natural biomechanics.

 

4. The impact forces as well as the stress subsequently applied to the foot (the only area actually protected by maximalist running shoes) are lower at 9 km/hour (6 to 7 min/km) than they are at 17 km/hour (3:45 min/km).

 

Reasons why a top Kenyan runner could* wear maximalist running shoes while training:

 

1. His physical condition will allow that extra weight in his shoes.

 

2. His musculoskeletal development (running bare feet at a young age) in addition to the thousands of kilometers covered have led to efficient, safe and well-established running biomechanics. Therefore, interference caused by maximalist running shoes will have, for some, little influence on their biomechanics, at least on the short term.

 

3. The impact forces as well as the stress subsequently applied to the foot are greater at 17 km/hour (3:45 min/km) than they are at 9 km/hour (6 to 7 min/km).

 

4. In some instances during intense training sessions where the body is pushed to its limits, maximalist running shoes could protect a “known weak link”, only if the latter has been identified to be the foot or the calf and other posterior structures of the lower leg. *

 

(NB: My recommendation for this Kenyan runner would be to perform 100% of his training using minimalist running shoes, although I would not insist as much as in the previous case.) For further information on running shoe prescription, information posters produced on the subject can be found on our Web site. Comments, criticisms … let us know!