You may have seen them around campus or maybe you saw the featured article at the Yahoo.com home page while checking your email. Those funky looking toe shoes are not just totally cool looking, but part of the biggest thing to happen to running since Nike was founded in 1964.
In the last decade or so there has been an increasing trend among runners to ditch the clunky conventional running shoe and move to more natural form of running in minimalist shoes. Examples of these are those toe shoes Vibram Fivefingers, Terra Plana Evo, and the New Balance MT100. The main difference between these examples and the big clunky shoes are there is much less or zero “cushion” and the heel and forefoot are nearly the same or the same distance from the ground.
Allowing your feet to be closer to the earth does many things. Ultra marathoner Anton Krupicka said, “Wearing a minimalist shoe does not automatically make you a better runner, it forces you to become a better runner.”
With less shoe you have much more sensory information coming from you feet, so you strike the ground much lighter and smoother and have superior ground feel. This leads to more control of your running and less injury. Also, without the padding under your heel, the runner will begin landing on the ball of their foot. The human body is a distance running machine, so why not run like we were meant to?
I myself was plagued by running injuries and so decided to make the transition to a more natural running form. I was forced to take a summer off from running due to plantar fasciitis and began running in the Vibram Fivefingers to hopefully strengthen my feet and fix my stride. Since then the pain has disappeared and I have put nearly 2,000 miles including one run of 70 miles at one time in two pairs of the Vibrams.
The most common question I get asked is “Don’t your feet hurt?!?” But people do not realize that being closer to the ground makes you more aware, and you have a much more fluid and smooth stride. I also hear the comments about never thinking it was possible to run in them. I used to be 70 pounds overweight and never thought it was possible for me to run period. Please do not limit yourself like that.
I am not here to say you should throw away your shoes and go get a pair of the flattest ones you can find, just to inform you on a more natural alternative, and what the heck those silly looking shoes were! If you are interested in moving to a more minimalist shoe there should be a period of transition where you strengthen your feet to the new running form. From birth, basically we have all been in these “supportive” shoes and our feet have become weakened and hindered. As with all things in athletics, make changes slowly and listen to your body.
Kyle Kranz is a senior nutrition major at SDSU. Contact him at [email protected]
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