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‘Minimalistic’ running shoes may help marathoners run ‘free’ of injury

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

running in minimalistic shoes

Are you among the 45,000 runners in the final stretch of training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon October 8? Have you been wearing the right shoe?

Many runners choose to train and run in “minimalistic” style running shoes, says Jessica Knight, D.P.M., AACFAS, Podiatrist/Podiatric Surgeon with Northwest Community Healthcare Medical Group.

“‘Free,’” or minimalistic, running is the use of limited-control running shoes, which provide protection for the foot while running, yet mimic the effects of barefoot running,” explains Dr. Knight. “This type of shoe is intended to help the foot function in its optimal anatomic position, thereby decreasing stress placed on other areas of the body, such as the ankles, knees, hips and back, during running.”

Dr. Knight says many patients she treats who run in minimalistic shoes say they have less chronic pain. However, she emphasizes, minimalistic shoes can create excessive forces across the foot, creating the potential for stress injuries, including stress fractures of the foot. Dr. Knight says the key to properly running in minimalistic shoes is to follow these tips:

  1. Purchase the shoes at a reputable running shoe store. Going through a thorough fitting process for the shoes is important in lowering risk of potential injury and ensuring a specific model of shoe is correct for your foot type. If the store offers a training class on how to use minimalistic shoes, take it and learn as much as possible.
  2. Change to a forefoot striker style (a running style in which you run off the balls of your feet). Many runners strike the heel first, which is not recommended for running in minimalistic shoes. To learn the different running style, attend a class or work with a coach who can train you to modify your running pattern.
  3. Break in the shoes. The break-in process can take weeks, but Dr. Knight says this is critical. She advises first walking, before running, in the shoes. Walk in the shoes during your normal, daily activities. The break-in process allows your feet to adapt to the shoes and the forces they create across the feet. Eventually, you can make the transition to using the shoes during workout classes and training runs.

These recommendations are intended to help runners achieve the full benefits of minimalistic shoe gear, while decreasing their risk for a foot injury.

Physicians
  • Jessica Knight

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