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How to start minimalist running


Posted by Cags R under Running on 27 August 2012 at 11:00 PM

Minimalist running - which is now being firmly distinguished as separate from barefoot running ('barefoot shoes' never really made much sense!) - is becoming more and more mainstream in the sporting world. Minimalist shoes are now found in high street sports shops rather than niche corners of the internet!

Personally I made the change in stages before I even knew there was a diffrent type of shoe. Never having any kind of brand loyalty I have switched form one shoe to another all my life. When the Rebok Realflex came out i fell in love, and thus began my transition.

I loved how light and flexible they were. I had no idea however that they had less of a heal drop or less "structure", I just knew they were comfortable and I liked them. Alex D

There are many barefoot and minimalist runners here on Tribesports, you can find them in the Natural Running and Barefoot Runners Tribes. If you want to make the transition into minimalist running then here's some advice on how to do it from Tribesports users:

I'd been meaning to try minimalist running shoes for ages - as a keen trail runner I wanted to see the difference that the pose running style would have on my off road running. Your foot placement on rougher terrain is obviously different to when you run along pavements and many trail running accidents are caused because shoes are unforgiving to uneven surfaces. Barefoot or minimalist shoes utilise your foot's natural flexibility and thus you can avoid awkward injuries.

Check out Jack's excellent Minimalist Running Intro Guide which is full of advice he learned at a minimalist shoe workshop, from how your stance will differ to 'traditional' running to advice on how to adapt to the new style.

Eoin O and Jeff G who have both been using minimalist shoes and have told us what they like about it along with how they found it to adapt to the new running style:

Jeff: I would say that minimalist running greatly improves balance, proprioception, and certainly foot strength.  Also, the reduce impact greatly reduces knee and joint strain. It didn't take too long to adjust as I made the switch within two months of taking up running. I would say it was 2-4 weeks in the new style until I was comfortable. Very sore to begin with, but I expected it and built up very very gradually.

I did have to force myself to run very short distances initially. I wanted to go further because it felt so good, but the delayed onset soreness came quickly... a lot of new muscles were getting used.

Eoin: I started off doing only my warm ups in the VFFs and then changing back into normal runners for the main part of the run. I increased the distance of my warmups and eventually started doing 6-8k easy runs on their own. 

I had already done a POSE running and barefoot running workshop and a Chi Running course, so adjusting didn't take long. So far my longest distance in them has been 15k (I have a 16k and a HM planned in them in the next 3 weeks).

Exercises and tips to make the transition to pose running:

  • Eoin recommends Calf raises and Wall squat calf raises 
  • Jumping on the spot from mid-soles also builds strength in the disused muscles in the feet of 'traditional' runners
  • Jeff says 'I had switched to a standing desk about 4 months before hand'' take the Challenge to Stand at your desk 

  •  'I would pick up and set down a golf ball (bare feet), with each foot progressively holding longer as my feet strengthened.' You can also take the Pickup Artist Challenge to pick up many different size balls with your feet!

  • The key to an injury-free transition to minimalist running is to start gradually and allow your body time to adapt to the new style. 

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I have been trying minimalistic running for a while now, got a 3mm drop on my current shoe, but I think every time I am running that I am getting it wrong. Every time I mean to pull out a video camera and film myself because for all the guidelines I read I don't think that I am putting into practice (accurately) what I read about every other day. That you get a coach :)

    encouraged this.


    I've been running in Vivo Barefoots for about 6 months now. Building up the distance slowly, comfortable with 5km in them now. Longer runs I use more 'traditional' running shoes still. I haven't had any injury issues or strains but I can certainly feel the muscles have worked more after a minimalist-shoe run.

    Jeff G and Brenda D encouraged this.


    I don't want to hurt myself.. I am happy with my conventional running.

    Calvin B encouraged this.


    I have a pair of vibram shoes, used them a couple of times a week since June and now up to 12km. Don't think I will be taking it further in them though - 12 km is good enough. They do work, I feel stronger in my feet, calves, knees and hips. It did take a while to get used to them as they do change your running etyle - you have to run on your toes. I would recommend them, just take it nice and slow and build up gradually.

    Brenda D encouraged this.


    I think a common mistake is to think you should be way up on your toes running, or the balls of your feet. This will tire your calves out quickly and contribute to extreme soreness or injury... the key is to strike closest to mid-foot, with the heel compressing all the way to the ground immediately afterward... that way you get the full use of the compression (spring) designed in your leg... Here is an excellent exercise to get that strike down... it's called the 100-up and I often do these right before running, or during a run to reset my form... best done barefoot, and then translate that movement to a zero drop shoe...

    encouraged this.


    I recently switched to Nike Free Running shoes. Used them for short runs of 2-3 miles with some discomfort at first. I started extending runs to 3-4 miles and have now gotten my first ever bout with Plantar Fasciitis - incredible pain. I will, personally, go back to my regular shoes once I feel some pain relief.

    Brenda D encouraged this.


    Ive just got some Vibram 5 fingers. I have a few races coming up so Im just jog/ walking the dog in them. I can feel it i. My calfs but I feel my running form is improving

    Jeff G and Brenda D encouraged this.


    Good idea to build up slowly... a lot of people take on too much too soon and pay for it with pain or injury... you really are working muscles that weren't getting worked before... you have to go really short distances, and add very gradually to avoid injury... but it's worth it!

    Brenda D and Helena C encouraged this.


    I started minimalist running on trails. I actually started out just wearing my VFF around like to work and such. For as long a periods as my feet could handle. I treated it like a workout, I would go three days on then take one to two days off just walking to my office and back. Then as I could I built up to wearing them everyday. From there I started hiking in them. Gradually then I started trail running in them. I gotta say I love them! As a rock climber all my life I enjoyed having the freedom of depth of feeling in my feet while running.They have massively improved my form! I actually started loving trail running ! I think if you treat them like a weight the first few times you use them your feet will acclimate and then work up to them. Get used to sometimes landing on a stone the wrong way and it does hurt but your feet will build up a tolerance.

    Helena C encouraged this.


    Those five finger shoes freak me out!!!

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