Not just a fad, minimalism has exploded in the running world and with good reason. Studies are currently being conducted and some have concluded that minimalist running may lead to less imact/stress on the body and thus reduce the possibility of injury.  This section is intended to provide useful information for those interested in approaching a better form of running.

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My Minimalist Experience

By Nate Reese

When I began running in 2007, I rarely struggled with any type of serious pain or injury.  I lost 45 pounds in just three months and was on top of the world.  I ran several marathons and was getting fitter and faster.  I was increasing my mileage every week and felt like there was no limit on how far I could run.  I decided to mix it up and started cross training with spin class and yoga class and before I knew it, I was injured.  I had to lay off my intensity level and mileage.  Just as I was getting back to the level I wanted, I got injured again.  This pattern of minor injuries continued until March of 2011, when I strained my IT Band during an icy 27 mile run on Bone Road.  This began my transition into minimal running.

My interest in barefoot running started after I read “Born to Run”.  I decided to give minimalist running a shot.  I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose since I would have to build up my mileage from the ground up following the injury.  I met with local elite runner and friend Jeff Shadley who has been running with a midfoot strike for quite some time.  Jeff gave me some sound advice on transitioning from heel strike to midfoot strike and I began the process.  I also found a great resource online through New Balance’s Good Form Running website.  The four main aspects of the transition that I focused on were posture, midfoot, cadence, and lean.  These are discussed in detail at the end of this article.  Jeff advised me to stick with my regular running shoes for the time being and I’m glad I followed his advice.  The most common mistake most runners make when transitioning into minimalist shoes is that they do too much too soon, which frequently leads to injuries.  My feet have had cushion for so many years that I felt it was better to ease into this process and strengthen them slowly.  I began my training on the treadmill for the first week in my regular running shoes.  The day following my very first run of two miles on the treadmill, I could barely walk.  I couldn’t believe how tight my calf muscles were!  Luckily, twelve years ago I convinced a beautiful massage therapist to become my wife.  Over the following two months, she would consistently massage my legs which definitely helped with the transition.  On my first outside run, I was surprised at how tired and out of breath I was after only a few miles.  I attribute this to the shortened stride and increased cadence of 180 steps per minute.  It only took me about three weeks of running before I wasn’t consciously trying to think about not heel striking before it became natural.  I also noticed that my back pain that I’ve had for most of my life didn’t bother me as much.  Running with my back straight seems to strengthen the back muscles and my stride seems smoother. 

Next, I tried out a pair of INOV-8 shoes, which have a 6mm drop from heel to midfoot.  I actually enjoyed running in these shoes even though the model I had was a cross training model.  As I built up my mileage, I noticed that my IT Band and other usual minor injuries weren’t as prevalent.  I felt strong and good.  Over the summer of last year I ran two full marathons and several half-marathons with PR’s.  For training I still used my regular cushioned shoes off and on and then used the INOV-8’s and Brooks Racer T5 occasionally.  I began racing in the Brooks T5’s and loved the feel of them.  Most recently, I have been running in the Brooks Pure Project Connect shoes, which have been amazing.  At Teton Running, we carry several minimalist shoes including Altra, INOV-8, Vibram Five Fingers, and more!

Running in minimal shoes has been a good experience for me, but having good form running has changed everything.  My body feels much less beat up following a good long run; my race times have been a little bit faster; and I have had fewer injuries.  I’m very glad that I made the decision to transition!