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In recent years, the running world has been captivated by  what is now called a Minimalist movement. The said movement which is taken to barefoot running in its extreme has ignited the curiosity of  many with various fitness levels. In a few words we propose to look at the concept behind minimalist running  and the footwear that support them. The word  minimalist as an adjective is defined as:Being or offering no more than what is required or essential.( Stay Tuned for an equally extensive look at Motion Control in weeks to come) .

In connection to footwear the idea is to offer the foot very little  support and stay close as possible to its natural state.The Runners Sole defines minimalist running footwear it as follows:

A shoe that protects the skin from injury, cold, and heat, does not change the runner’s gait, receives nearly all plantar mechanoreceptor feedback, has less than 3mm of coverage and zero heel rise.  Running in any shoe with more than 3mm thickness, has a positive heel to forefoot differential (no agreed differential), alters the gait (any change from landing fifth metatarsal and pronating toward the first metatarsal to another area of impact of the foot) and a significant reduction to the plantar mechanoreceptor feedback, is a form of shod running.  Some experts are defining thin sole shoes such as the typical racing flat: a cross country spike (less the metal spike), New Balance Minimalist, Saucony Type A4, Brooks Racers and Green Silence, etc. Other types are thin sole such as Saucony Kinvara, Brooks Launch and Asics DS trainer. Both of these definitions give change to the gait as well as the plantar mechanoreceptor feedback. Barefoot running is not a new phenomenon.
the adjective minialist is defined as follows:being or offering no more than what is required or essential. In connection to footwear the idea is to offer the foot very little and stay close as possible to its natural state.

What are the benefits of barefoot Running ?:

There have been many studies singing the praises of minimalist  running, however we also like Runblogger’s simple explanation of the benefits:

Running in a minimalist shoe is a means to an end. The end is improved running form that will hopefully allow you to run efficiently and injury free throughout life. Truly minimalist shoes are intended to help you develop your form by allowing your feet and legs to work the way they were intended to. In other words, the goal is to mimic how you would run if you were barefoot – shorter stride, faster cadence, midfoot/forefoot footstrike.

Curious enough to give minimalist running sneakers a  try ? Here are some key factors and recommendations from the pros at ‘Running Times’:

-GET NEW SHOES!

New Balance, Vibram Five Fingers, Merrell Trail Glove, Saucony ‘Hattori’ featured above  for axample all have styles for men and women that provide lightness and flexibility:

To get the full benefits of natural running or a barefoot style of running, look for minimalist shoes with a few key characteristics. First, the shoes should be lightweight, low to the ground and flexible, have a limited heel-to-toe drop and have a thin layer of medium-firm cushioning under the forefoot. (Some minimalist runners prefer a slightly more cushy shoe for longer runs, but even a thin layer of soft foam under the midfoot and forefoot will dampen the foot’s ability to feel the ground and respond accurately, particularly for faster-paced efforts and races.)
By nature, minimalist shoes offer little to no support and no stability control, based on the belief that the foot in an efficient gait can naturally off set much of the rolling (pronation/supination) that would occur after a heavy heel-strike gait. Essentially, minimalist shoes offer just enough protection from the pavement while letting the foot move naturally through a stride cycle.

Many traditional training shoes put the foot 22-24mm off the ground in the heel and 10-15mm off the ground in the forefoot, and the difference between the two — typically 12-14mm in traditional training shoes — creates a forward-leaning slope, designed to reduce stress on the Achilles. Minimalist shoes trend toward being much more level (a 2-10mm slope) with the assumption that the runner will land on the midfoot and use the natural cushioning of the arch, thus the built-up heel only adds weight and gets in the way of an efficient stride.

-TRANSITION SLOWLY

The shift is not one to be taken lightly as the entire leg will be engaging muscles in a different capacity than it is used to:

You’re bound to engage muscles in your feet, lower legs and core differently than you’re used to, partially because you’ll be landing less on your heel with a braking angle and more near your mid foot with a more level landing. Th at will require a period of adjustment, especially if you haven’t been doing general strength or dynamic strength exercises, says Mark Cucuzzella, M.D., a 2:24 marathoner and family practice doctor and faculty member of West Virginia University who has done running gait analysis to study running injuries.

-RUN  BAREFOOT BRIEFLY:

When it’s possible  and safe, take the opportunity to walk barefoot , exercise and finish your run on a texture like grass for example. Your speed will not be the same but as muscles get stronger stamina will build as well:

Barefoot running can be very useful in your transition to minimalist running, but it should be done safely under controlled circumstances. Physical therapist Mark Plaatjes, co-owner of Colorado’s Boulder Running Company, doesn’t condone a full-time minimalist approach for most runners, but says even if you’re not switching to minimalist shoes, consistently running barefoot strides after workouts is a good way to help build dynamic strength in the feet and lower legs. The key is to focus on good form: light foot placements that don’t entail heavy braking, a short, compact arm swing, and an upright, but slightly forward-leaning posture that allows your center of mass to be in front of your footsteps.
Consider ending your run where you can run on soft grass — a park, the edge of a public golf course or the infield of a high school track — and do a handful of buildup strides of 50 to 75m reaching 80 to 90 percent effort two-thirds of the way through. Start with a few during your first week and ease your way up to about six to eight after a few weeks, extending the length and your speed slightly but always focusing on optimally efficient running form.


Another form of barefoot strength-building can come through slow heel-toe walks on grass or through sand — either on a beach or the long jump pit of a local high school track. Start a stride by pushing your heel into the sand and then forcefully rolling through the midfoot to the ball of the foot and then extending up on the toes. The resistance from the soft surface or sand will require more muscular exertion and, if done regularly, will help build foot and ankle strength .

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