Minimalist vs. Barefoot Running

15 Jul

Choices, choices, choices

Running season is in full force here in New York City.  It’s not unusual to see throngs of people running everywhere (in the morning on my way to the train, during my break lunch break, whilst doing errands, etc.) in a variety of colored kicks.

What appears to be the new trend (and by new, I mean as of 2004) is minimalist or barefoot running. At races I’d see tons of people in their Vibrams 5 Fingers or some variant of minimalist shoe.  When I first started racing, the first thing I made sure to purchase over anything else was the proper running shoe.

I went to the ASICS store in Midtown and had my running gait analyzed. I had special clips placed on my feet and video recorder was set-up behind the treadmill, which recorded me running (my gait cycle). This was then relayed to a laptop where slow motion and freeze frames were used to carefully assess my running style.  I learned that I slightly overpronate on the left but my right foot is neutral (weird, I know). Most people don’t know their running gait and may be training in improper shoes. Improper shoes can lead to injuries.   Since I was “new” to running at the time and worried about the impact on my knees, I ended up purchasing a pair of more cushiony sneakers which absorb a lot of the shock from my foot hitting the ground.

Of course, one does not need to have to go through super fancy technology to learn their gait style. Simply pick up a pair of shoes and turn them over and look at the wear pattern. Under pronators will have a wear pattern that is more on the outside of shoe (opposite the arch).  Over pronators will have a wear pattern that is more towards the inside of the shoe (towards the arch). It’s estimated that 70% of people over pronate.

As I began to run more, I have focused more on my time and wondered if the weight of my shoes were slowing me down. Since now I spend more time at Lady Foot Locker than Victoria’s Secret, I began to check out minimalist sneakers. Going completely barefoot terrifies me to no end (in my house, yes – running…and running through NYC/LI, no thank you. Also = ew for me). Plus doctors recommend taking it slow – running minimally is a different experience. It also has its own disadvantages as I learned while watching my local news. According to some doctors some runners come in with plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture, but it’s hard to make the ultimate connection. Nonetheless, as I stated earlier, doctors/experts recommend taking it slow.

I like slow. I wondered if minimalist sneakers were for me. I was a little nervous. Minimalist to me means no support whatsoever.  After doing some research, I learned that Nike has a numbering system which indicates the cushioning of the shoe and follows a scale ranging from 0 (barefoot) to 10 (normal running shoe). Thus the Free 3.0 is the least cushioned and Free 7.0 being the most cushioned model.  Plus Nike released their new Run Frees +3 in a variety of candy colors, which I love.

I decided that Nike Frees might be the shoe for me. To kind of break middle ground, I purchased the Nike Run Frees +3 in 5.0. I got the Hot Punch (a neon pink color to which my husband made a o.O face at, haha). After running (even doing a kick boxing class in them because I left my other training sneakers at home) in them, I was hooked. They were so lightweight and I did not experience any kind of pain whatsoever. I actually felt “free” while running in them. They’re that awesome. I even purchased another pair in a different color (and I anxiously await their arrival).

So, I ask you, my awesome readers to weigh in on barefoot/minimalist running. Are you all for it? Or maybe it’s not your cup of tea? Let me know… and if you have any tips/recommendations, feel free to share!

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11 Responses to “Minimalist vs. Barefoot Running”

  1. Clara Baldwin July 30, 2012 at 2:45 AM #

    Okay I never really realized that I’ve been running with the minimalist shoes until I found your blog. I just fell in love with the nike free +2 and (not to mention that the plus program HELPS me stay motivated with running, it’s addicting.) and ran in them- loved it. I just had a understanding that it gives you a experience like running in barefoot and is light. But little did I knew that it’s a minimal shoe? No! Now it’s less scary to run in minimalist shoes after actually running without knowing. I’d def recommend anyone to this, try them on (it took me 45 minutes to actually decide on which shoes I wanted.) it’s really comfy. And it DOES work up your core muscles- my lower back is sore from the run I just went on!

  2. Gina Elizabeth July 21, 2012 at 3:36 PM #

    i love the idea of minimalist running, but i am too nervous to try! i have high arches and get bad pain in my feet so i’m always looking for very supportive shoes. I just picked up my asics today so i’m excited for that! Maybe down the line when I’m a more experienced runner i’ll give it a shot 😉

    • runninglongislandnyc July 22, 2012 at 6:25 PM #

      I am not an experienced runner at all, so don’t let that stop you from trying! Asics are awesome and still are my ol’ faithful. Enjoy and happy running!

  3. Mindy @ Road Runner Girl July 16, 2012 at 7:04 PM #

    I love the idea of minimalist running but haven’t tried it yet. One day I will!

  4. 13goingoncrazy July 16, 2012 at 2:27 PM #

    I love the idea of minimal running shoes, I have yet to find a pair that is supportive enough for my long runs!

  5. asp00n July 16, 2012 at 1:23 PM #

    My Nike Free Run 2.0’s are basically the reason why I took up running, I have gone through many pairs including Nike Lunar and Saucony that claim to be lightweight while at the same time giving you support, yet I always revert back to my Free Runs (I am literally on my 4th pair). Don’t be worried about upgrading to the lesser cushion, I suggest changing the insole, like the athletic ones with the gel cushion. I promise you’ll be addicted, and gain strong sexy ankles!

    I’ve also read a ton about barefoot running and a lot of the studies discount that many of us run/walk on cement and not grassy soil, which definitely brings a toll on the body and knees. Just be careful!

  6. kindergartencrush17 July 15, 2012 at 10:07 PM #

    I sometimes run in trail shoes which are lighter weight. I love that feeling of free-footedness 🙂 I wonder about the impact on knees….

    • runninglongislandnyc July 16, 2012 at 7:32 AM #

      I would’ve never thought trail shoes were lighter! I would’ve figured they’d be heavier! Interesting; I learned something new!

      • kindergartencrush17 July 25, 2012 at 7:36 PM #

        My thoughts exactly! My hubs and I went snowshoeing this winter and stopped into a sporting goods store. Tried them on, fell in love. I’m not sure why they’re called “trail shoes” because it’s not like a hiking shoe, maybe that’s where its confusing. Mine are Salomon Speedcross 3…

  7. Casey July 15, 2012 at 10:06 PM #

    Minimalist, every time. Now when I put on a pair of regular running shoes, they feel SO heavy! It took me about 6 months to transition over completely, but I am madly in love with my New Balance Minimus and Merrell Pace Gloves. I wouldn’t run in anything else. 🙂

    • runninglongislandnyc July 16, 2012 at 7:31 AM #

      Re: heaviness of regular shoe – I know right??? So weird! I love my Asics but now I’m kind of ruined because of my Frees, haha.

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