Minimalist running shoes not only improve the efficiency of a runner’s stride, but also dramatically reduce running-related injuries. By forcing you to land on your midfoot or forefoot instead of your heel, minimalist footwear reduces the amount of pounding absorbed by your ankles, hips and knees while still protecting your feet with shoes. While they come in many different brands and models, the best minimalist running shoes (or barefoot running shoes, as they are also called) will allow the wearer to enjoy the benefits of running barefoot.
Benefits of Running Barefoot
In his popular New York Times bestseller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage) (click to check price and availability), Christopher McDougall almost single-handedly brought the concept of barefoot running into our mainstream culture. Among the popular novel’s revelations for runners were:
- The human body is designed to run barefoot
- Modern footwear causes running injuries
- Barefoot runners are able to run for hours longer than normal runners
Since the novel’s debut in 2009, several prominent scientific studies on the subject have agreed with McDougall’s claims, finding that barefoot runners are indeed less likely to suffer from common running injuries than are those who use traditional footwear. The reason for this phenomenon seems to be that standard running shoes force runners to strike their heel which, consequently, puts an abnormal amount of stress on the joints. Furthermore, landing on the heel causes many runners to over-stride which, in turn, leads to a variety of additional muscular injuries.
None of these problems occur when a person runs barefoot. Because running without shoes is neither practical nor comfortable for many of us, however, interest in barefoot running gave birth to so-called barefoot, or minimalist, running shoes.
Characteristics of Minimalist Running Shoes
Regardless of what type of runner you are, wearing shoes that simulate barefoot running will help you avoid the shin splints, plantar fasciitis and stress injuries that so many of us suffer from. The characteristics of minimalist running shoes that make this possible are:
- Lightweight Materials
By combining these three qualities, the minimalist shoe allows your foot to move in the natural motion for which it was designed. Of course, the best minimalist footwear is also highly comfortable and durable.
Because there are just as many different types of minimalist shoes as there are runners, deciding which one is right for you depends on your personal tastes and where you like to run. There are specific models available for people who run on either roads or trails, as well as for those who would like the flexibility to wear their shoes on either. There are also FiveFingers, or glove-style shoes, and minimalist shoes that resemble traditional footwear.
In the end, regardless of the brand or model of minimalist running shoes that you decide on, it is important thing to make sure that it fits the type of environment where it will be used (road, trail or both) and is in a style you will be comfortable running in.