What is YOUR experience of minimalist running?

- your honest view req'd

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19/08/2013 at 14:22

I'm looking for some feedback from other runners who have ran in minimalist footwear - testimonials etc. 

My wife and I are writing a webpage about minimalist running which will be published next week (we author www.myrunningtips.com ) 

We have about 2 years experience - my wife runs exclusively in minimalist footwear while I do most of my running barefoot nowadays and VFF at other times

The research papers and anecdotal evidence circling the web are mostly about runners who got injured (metatarsel fractures, for example) and we have little said about runners who have had a positive experience when going minimalist (maybe you have?)

As we understand it the underlining issue with the runners who injured themselves was that they failed to transition slowly enough for the bones and muscles to recover - in fact many of the runners we read about continued to run their normal weekly mileage (30-40 miles) when transitioning to minimalist footwear... oh my..!

I'm sure there are runners on here who have had good and bad experiences from running in minimalist footwear and with this in mind I wondered if you would share these experiences with us...

[Our own experience of running in minimalist footwear has been good. I have personally overcome an old knee problem by running both barefoot and minimalist vs conventional shoes. My wife Julie has had less ankle troubles - she used to have support bandages on her ankles constantly when she ran in padded shoes, now she has been bandage free for many months] 

- BUT rather than giving our readers the benefit of only our own experiences, we also need some feedback from folks like you to give us a more complete picture

So feel free to tell us your experiences (good or bad) and be sure to include as much detail as you wish. 

Thanks in advance for your replies 

PS. I will link my page to this page when the posts appear, I won't just use your posts on my site.

Andy and Julie
from
www.myrunningtips.com

19/08/2013 at 15:27

I am pretty new to the minimalist arena and I have had some mixed results, although will add that I am still guilty of doing too much too soon.

Basically my minimalist journey began at the end of last year.

I had been running since the beginning of 2011 and had consistently been suffering with shin splints. I didn't run all summer because of them and it wasn't until my race pack for Run to the Beat turned up in October that I decided to pick it up again.

I was running in Asics GT 2160 trainers (supported but not into guidance yet) and finished the half marathon in 1.55.56. I was very pleased but boy did I hurt. I started looking at whether my footwear could be the problem.

My initial response was to go for the even heavier support of the Asics gel Kayano 18. This shoe had won awards and surely was the answer to all my issues especially as everyone had always told me how flat my feet were.

They were instantly worse. Soft and cushioned I could bounce along, but my lower legs were devestated after every run. I quickly sold them on to a friend.

I then started doing some research about shin splints and how supported shoes stopped the foot and ankle from performing their natural movements while running and as such could lead to problems such as shin splints.

I found that several pairs of trainers could work for me for a short amount of time. The Brooks Pure Cadence and the Newton Gravity were a particular success and on and off I tried to transfer to a more forefoot strike rather than my heavy heel strike.

The problem came when I began to train for my first marathon. I would get tired and be back on my heels hard and once again the shin splints came back and this time much much worse. I was in Nice for a 10 mile race and could barely walk. I managed to run the race dosed up to the eyeballs on Ibuprofen and with anti-inflammatory gel on the problem area.

I went to see a physio who recommended sports orthotics. I came away thinking I was just better off heel striking and running with the orthotics.

For a while this was great. I trained hard and ran my first marathon in 3.55.43 under my 4 hour time target, but I limped away with what would be 3 and a half months of thigh and hip pain.

I saw another physio and after some work on my rock tight muscles I was left with this nagging pain that would come back every time I ran. I was not getting better.

I had by this point read born to run and 'Barefoot' Ken Bob Saxton's book about barefoot running and was obviously intrigued. So many miracle stories had occured, that I was curious to find out if I could be one of them.

So I tried it out. I ran barefoot on grass for a while. Half a mile at a time. My hip didn't hurt, but boy were my calves tight. I bought some Vibram Five Finger Bikilas to run on road and I got blisters on a 1 mile run. After a couple of weeks I was starting to think this wasn't working. It hurt too much, I couldn't relax as a I ran. The idea of running with bent knees all the time had me tense and was making me tired and was hurting me.

Then last Monday after a few weeks without a run I had another physio appointment with a running rehab specialist. She started pointing out a few problems with weak calf muscles and feet not being strong enough and I had flash backs to those books I had read. I realised that maybe barefoot was the way foreward again.

That afternoon I decided to leave my shoes indoors and run on the grass of the park again, but this time not follow any rules, just run barefoot. I ran 2 miles without a single bit of pain. On the way home I experimented with the concrete path a bit and began to realise what the writers were talking about, it felt good to be on concrete unshod.

The next day I ran 4 miles barefoot and on the road, I walked a further 3.5 miles, I felt great. The only pain was the blisters on my feet from the smooth park asphalt.

I then decided to try a pair of Luna sandals, because despite my joy at how barefoot-ing felt there are still areas of pavement and road that I found were totally unsuitable for my bare feet. I ran 5km in them and other than where my blisters had already been from 2 days before still I had no pain.

Finally comes my day of over doing it. I had a 10km race for the British Heart Foundation on Saturday morning. I desperately wanted to run it. I decided to try and run in my Vibrams and for the most part was astounded by how good I felt. I breezed past lots of runners and managed to stay strong going up 2 big hills. I finished in a time comparable to those I had been running before my injuries and my hip pain was and is non existent.

On the flip side, I have pain in my right hip and my achilles on my right leg has been tight as hell for two days. I guess that's the too much too soon part.

I'm going to see how it goes in the next few days, but if I can recover well then I think the barefoot/minimalist run has been a success if not then I may have to re-evaluate that conclusion.

 

Sorry if that is too much of an essay, but I figured you could take or leave whatever you need.

Andy

Edited: 19/08/2013 at 15:29
19/08/2013 at 16:31

I started running last year in January after never running before and started out with running shoes from SportsShoes where the measured by gait and my pronation and gave me shoes to assist with this.

I started to find that after a few months when my mileage increased to around 6 miles that my ACL joint in my knee ached and also I woud regularly roll my ankle etc.  

The shoes always felt like they were weighing be down to especially in wet weather and they would also rub me and give me blisters. (might I add I only have small feet size 4 and the shoes completely seemed to engulf my feet) I took them to the shop and was advised that i wasnt tying them properly, therefore I tried again with this in mind but with no improvement.  I had run a 10k in them (my first and had a time of 57 minutes)

I decided after reading a few reviews to try barefoot running shoes and brought some merrell shoes.  I'd only had them for short time and found they were so much lighter and I felt more nimble in them.  Also no rubbing and it felt like my feet were able to breath.  I ran the same 10k in them as the year before and ended up with the 51 minute time.  

My feet and calf did ache at first but now I have no knee pain and the ankle roles are few and far between.  

I noticed with running up hills etc where I want to run on the balls of my feet that this was easier to do and more of the powere then came from calfs as my feet were able to bend inside the shoe instead of being fixed.  

I do feel faster in my barefoots than I ever did in my other ones that I had.  It just feels lighter and easier to lift and move my feet along.  I am definitely a fan of them and wont be changing back any time soon. I'm training for GNR and then VLM if I get in and am hopeful that the barefoots will see me through as they keep my feet cooler.  Nothing worse than hot and sweaty feet on a long run.  You can also get them wet and they dont feel heavy so when my feet are warming up I run through a puddle for that instance coolness - like a new burst of life it is!

 

Thanks

 

Louise 

19/08/2013 at 18:48

I've dabbled with it.

I started running in Asics Cumuls Gels. Nice, well padded. WhenI started rinning trails I needed some grip, so I went for Asics Fuji Gel, hey had a lower heel and less padding. I found I liked the feel of the ground that they gave me, I felt I had more control. when they started wearing, I went for Asics (see a pattern here ?) Fuji gel racers, holes in the soles and terrible grip on wet rock or tarmac, in the end I kept them for track use (rubber track, so not much wear).

I read some advice that running my warm down without shoes woudl be a way to enhance form, so I tried it, half a lap at first. A little strange, the soles of my feet were al ittle sore next day and I felt it in my calves. I kept it up until I was doing four laps barefoot as a warm down and didn't feel bad afterwards.

The hot weather arrived and I wanted some sandals. The walking sandals in the local shops looked like either some kind of surgical recovery things with loads of straps or hiking boots with the toes cut off. I'd heard about Luna sandals from the Runner's world forums, so I looked onlie. Mailing costs from the US were high, so after toying with the idea of making my own, I decided to risk twenty qud on a pair of Xeroshoes, 4mm thick sole and a piece of string.

I tried walking at first, just down to the shops and back. then I looked for advice on how to stop the slappity, slappity, slap noise. Relax and amble along with small steps.

I tried a couple of walks in the country and finally got the point, it feels good. I could brush past heather, sink a little in mud, grip rocks with my toes. so long as I was careful where I stepped, I could go up routes that had seemed harsh and risky.

I tried running, I overdid it. A little 3.6 mile run, not much gradient, I'd done it before at 8'40 per mile. My lower calves ached next day and I had some pain where I'd landed the balls of my feet on one inch rocks. Lesson learned, in shoes, your toes don't have to do much, with  fully flexible sole, toes can take part in gripping and balancing, so previously underused muscles work much harder.

I cut back the distance and was far more careful about my footing and running style. I try to land as gently as possible and never mind the pace.

I've repeated the 3.6 at a 9'13" pace, so I'm improving.

Xeroshoes are slippery when wet. the sole grip is fine, but the grip between me and the sole becomes poor. Sometimes I take them off and just do without until they dry.

A positive experience, but salutory. Barefoot/minimalist running is a lot of fun, but it took me back to square one as a runner.

20/08/2013 at 00:04

I had tried to get into running a few times after I finished playing football at 21 but couldn't sustain anything as my knees would always hurt if I tried to do more than two runs a week (always had bad knees anyway). My friend advised me to try vivobarefoot trainers, so I did. Having checked online I started slowly and short distance (less than a mile) and gradually built up.  This was may last year. I did my first half in October in just under two hours having run 3-4 times a week with no injury for 12 weeks. I the did a 10k in march and another 10k last month. I'm doing a half marathon again in 4 weeks (aiming for 1:45). I now run 5-6 times a week, still totally injury free. I tried one run in normal running trainers just to see what it was like but had to stop after 3 miles as my knee was tightening up. I absolutely love running and am confident that without going minimalist I couldn't have done what I've done injury free. I have now signed up to the London Marathon which is a lifetime ambition of mine!

20/08/2013 at 02:06

I started running on Newton gravities just over two years ago having never run much at all previously.  I found I automatically ran with a forefoot strike even in ordinary trainers so thought that getting a trainer specifically designed for forefoot running would be a good idea.  

over the last two years I have had the occasional ache and pain, at first in my Achilles and calvbut linked with increasing mile but these eventually subsided as my legveg grew used to running.

What has really killed my running however is shin splints.  I got them in April just before my second marathon and they seem to be incurable.  I put the shinsplints down to Newtons change in sizing, their 2013 shoes are narrower than their previous versions and the pain started just after I bought a replacement pair of 2013 gravities.  I don't think the shinsplints were down to forefoot running as I had been running for two years without them including the previous years marathon campaign.

20/08/2013 at 05:38

Minimal and likely to remain so. www.oldmarathonrunner.co.uk

20/08/2013 at 08:54

Thank you all for your posts (such a rapid response!)

We are likely to publish the page this week

In the meantime if you want to add more please do!

 

Thanks again

Andy and Julie from

www.myrunningtips.com

20/08/2013 at 12:37

There is one more thing that I'd like to add to my experience of going barefoot.

I have found that despite reading a number of different books and looking at a number of different sites online it is clear to me that the community of 'teachers' on the subject is very small and they have all clearly spent a load of time together because all the information is basically the same.

No one seems to have developed plans in the same way as companies such as Asics have done for marathons/half marathons to transition to barefoot minimalist running. Vibram did a half arsed effort but I think someone needs to give some proper scientific guidance rather than relying on the advice of long time barefooters.

20/08/2013 at 14:29

I run in Sandals Does that count as minimalist. If interested I have just written a bit for magazine. PM me with your email address and I can send it across

20/08/2013 at 14:54

Am I alone in appreciating the irony of such huge long-winded posts about minimalist running?

22/08/2013 at 12:45

No

17/09/2013 at 16:47

We have written 2 pages about minimalist running since I posted last but the page I want to link this thread with has been put on the "back burner" for a month. We just need to polish up on some research before we finalise the page and these things can take time

In the meantime we have published 2 pages regarding minimalist running - one which explains the best way to make the transition to a minimalist shoe and another which is a guide to buying them:

http://www.myrunningtips.com/minimalist-running.html

http://www.myrunningtips.com/minimalist-running-shoes.html

Feel free to have a look!

I'll pop back when we publish the "minimalist running debate" page

 

18/09/2013 at 11:29

Have never needed a transition program when buying a new pair of trainers before so the fact you do with these tells me something. The whole puritanical undertones to minimalist advocates kinda puts me off.

I read somewhere that the evolutionary process that turned us into 15stone hulks that invented concrete and tarmac also evolved the running shoe. That kinda makes sense to me. However I look forward to being educated otherwise. 

18/09/2013 at 11:38
Muttley wrote (see)

Am I alone in appreciating the irony of such huge long-winded posts about minimalist running?

To be fair, running itself is a pretty pure activity, but look how much guff we manage to write about it on here!

18/09/2013 at 13:40

won't a running tips website be biased towards minimalist shoes if the writers are strong advocates of that type of footwear?

fwiw I run in asics and have done for 20+ years without significany injury. Without a control 'twin' to run with in minimalist shoes I wouldn't know if I would be better or worse of in lighter shoes.
That said I sometimes do easy runs barefoot, especially on holiday, although that is never more than 2-3 miles, as opposed to the 40-50 mpw in running shoes.

What I don't get either is why a pair of Vibram finger shoes are £80+ which seems a lot for what you actually get, It beggars belief further that those Luna sandals are about 70quid.

seren nos    pirate
18/09/2013 at 15:34

i believe if we trace our routes back we used to run on all fours...but no one is advocating it here are they......

 

I do object to the big money they want for minimalist.......if you want minimalist then go barefoot or buy a pair of £3 black daps............otherwise its just another marketting con by a different company.......which is probably the same owners just covering all basis...

18/09/2013 at 15:39

To be fair flob I am not sure the big compainies make profits in weakening our feet they are just competing with a product that there is a lot of demand for. 

Only time will tell if it is a failed fad or not. The noise around it makes me very skeptical. I was never taught how to run my body knew how to do it from an early age. When I started being a "runner" I just pulled on the trainers and did it, there are always aches and gripes but I feel this is the body adapting to more exercise not something inherent in the way I run.

When people tell me that I need to learn how to run with minimalist shoes I ask why? Surely something that to use you have to change the mechanics of an almost in built function must be wrong.. 

18/09/2013 at 16:44

I bought my first pair of minimalist shoes last year. I mixed it up with my normal shoes , which only have a 6 mm drop anyway, for a few months and I was experiencing strained calves, as expected. Didn't run in them again for ages. About 6 months. Then decided to try them again a few weeks ago. I've been running with them no problem over significant distances and my old faithfuls feel like concrete boots now! 

I am faster in my minimalist shoes, that's for sure. Much of that is down to a conscious effort to increase cadence and adjust my posture. It doesn't yet feel completely natural but it's getting there. I 

I'm sure there's a good case for a more traditional approach. But I do see the logic in the argument for minimalist shoes so I'm willing to put in some effort. I'll listen to my body, and if it tells me there's something wrong then that's a bridge I'll cross when I come to it.

As for the worries about cost, well it's simple supply and demand theory coupled with economies of scale and every company has to make back it's R&D costs and give a healthy dividend to it's shareholders, otherwise 'what's the point?'.You don't have to buy the very latest - you can buy last season's tech at less than half the cost, so you absolutely have a choice about how much to spend.

18/09/2013 at 23:41

Snap, snap I bought a pair of VFF Bikilas earlier in the year and have run 4.5 miles in them - I decided as I had just started training for my first ever Marathon to leave them in the cupboard. 

M day is 29th September and was thinking about a week or 2 off running and then start easy running and get back into the Bikilas. My calves are pretty strong but, would I be able to train up to marathon distance in 12 months? I also have a pair of xeroshoes huaraches but was drunk when I cut them out lol

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