Minimalist Running Shoes May Give Maximum Benefit

I realize that I just had a post about minimalist/barefoot running, but there appears to be a sudden increase in the number of studies that have examined this issue. A new offers further support to the theory that overly supportive running shoes might not be the best thing for runners.

According to the Harvard study (partially funded by a minimalist shoe company), runners from Africa who grew up running barefoot land predominately on the front or middle of their feet, while runners who grew up running in supportive shoes land heel first. According to the authors, the human body experiences much less impact force if runners land on the front of their feet. It is theorized that the heel striking caused by running shoes has led to the large number of heel injuries (plantar fasciitis, etc.) that many runners suffer through.

This research is fascinating because it helps to understand how our prehistoric ancestors ran vast distances to capture prey without any modern running shoe technology. It appears that our bodies evolved to handle this running, and that ultra-cushioning and supportive running may not be needed. This topic is explored in the excellent book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Regardless of this interesting academic area, I still don’t think that these kinds of studies should have much of a practical effect on the running community. As I said in my previous post, I do not think that runners should suddenly dump their stability shoes. The authors themselves caution that switching to minimalist shoes too quickly will cause injuries. My view is that if you are running fine without many injuries, stay with your current shoes. If you are consistently having injury issues, then maybe consider testing a minimalist shoe, but make sure that you ease into it.

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