What are the Benefits of a Minimalist Shoes?
With approximately 85%-90% of the running shoe market dominated by thick cushioned and high drop shoes many believe that the trend towards a minimalist shoe is ending (Thanks Runner’s World!). But, there is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that a less cushioned and lower drop shoe may be right for many runners. In fact, the new American College of Sports Medicine recommendations are for a more minimalist shoe.
Minimalist shoes may improve performance. In general, as shoe cushioning increases the weight of the shoe increases as well. For each additional 100 grams (0.22 lbs) carried on the foot, increases oxygen consumption by 1%. The difference between the average running shoe and a most minimalist style shoes is about 200 – 250 grams. Over the course of an average marathon pace (4:20:00), if the energy saved was directly converted to running faster, the average runner could shave 15-20 minutes off his or her official marathon time.
Minimalist shoes can help aid runners in decreasing the force with which your foot hits the ground by promoting a higher cadence, decrease step and stride length, and decrease energy wasted in vertical displacement. Why is that important? Because currently our best evidence suggests that the speed, or loading rate, of the force the foot hits the ground with may be an important component in running injuries. With decreased rate or speed of loading some types of injuries may be prevented. As stated in a previous post, the transition to less shoe should be made slowly.
The transition to a minimalist shoes can be made in one of two ways:
- Beginning with your current running shoe, with each new shoe purchase incrementally decrease heel drop and stack until you reach your desired level of minimalism.
- Select the shoe you would like to transition to and at the beginning of the run start with your new shoes. Initially, start with one minute and switch back to your old pair of shoes. Each run add one additional minute of wear time in your new shoes until the entire run is eventually in your newly selected shoe.
If you have a lot of running experience (i.e. mileage) in a heavily cushioned shoe the transition may need to be more gradual. Often, this transition can take a year or more.
So what constitutes a minimalist shoe?
- Minimal Stack: The bottom of the shoe is enough to protect the foot from the environment but contains very little cushioning
- Low Ramp: Sometimes known as drop, the difference in thickness at the heel and toe is very small, usually < 4-5 mm, or sometimes there is no drop at all
- Lightweight: The shoe itself is very light
- Flexible: The shoe should allow for the foot to move naturally, and contains no anti-pronation technology or rigidity in the sole that would limit movement
For more information about shoes you can head over to The Running Clinic™ website. Running shoes with a TRC rating greater than 70-75 are generally accepted as more of a minimalist style, the higher the rating the greater degree of minimalism.
Agree? Disagree? Post a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.