Minimalist Running part 1

Yesterday I started rocking these bitches, the Merrell Trail Glove

Since I read Born To Run last year I’ve wanted to try running in a minimalist shoe.  For you pagans who don’t know what that means, allow me to badly explain.  As ‘minimalist’ suggests, it’s a shoe with little support, giving an experience roughly similar to running barefoot.  Why not run barefoot, one may say.  Cos it’s embarrassing and I might stand in broken glass, I would answer.  And, you know, my feet would be freezing.  I want to get close to nature, but not that close.  Running in minimals is like running barefoot if your soles were harder and with more grip.  Like Nightcrawler from X-Men.

The minimalist theory is that modern running shoes have a negative effect on your body, mainly because of their heel cushioning.  These shoes train your feet to become over-reliant on this padding, and you start to put weight on your heels, throwing your alignment out-of-whack and putting unnecessary stress on your body.  Heel padding in trainers is seen as little more than a marketing gimmick.  Supposedly there’s no evidence to suggest that either way is better.  Critics of minimalist running say that there’s no evidence that it reduces injuries.  But supporters respond that there’s no evidence of cushioned shoes preventing injuries or improving performance.  So, like a brave explorer into a foreign and mysterious land, I ventured into minimalist running.  Briefly.  How did it go, I hear you not ask?

The shoes are incredibly, just ridiculously light.  There’s something cool, though ultimately pointless, about being able to bend a shoe so that the toe touches the heel.  Putting them on was strange, as the heel is so soft it’s hard to tell when they’re on.  I kept fidgeting with it, thinking the back had folded in, before I realised that it was on fine.  The back of shoe is by far the lowest of any trainer I’ve ever worn.  Trail Gloves are designed to be worn without socks (perhaps that’s why they’re called Gloves).  I opted for socks, given that it was my first time with them.  With the winter approaching, I think it may be the popular choice.

And the actual running?  Different, very different.  On my first few strides I noticed the lack of heel support.  The toe of the shoe felt higher than the heel, which is a bizarre feeling.  I then seemed to overcompensate for this, keeping my heels what felt like inches from the ground.  I felt like I was prancing, and/or like a ballet dancer.  The sole was a bit harder than I expected.  Reviews had mentioned that it should soften up after a few weeks, and it did loosen off after just a few minutes of walking around the house.  My calves and Achilles tendons felt tired after literally three or four minutes of slow running.  But once I settled in they seemed to ease off again.  I gradually dropped my heels down to a more normal height, cautiously letting them touch the ground again.  Grazing the ground with them was fine, but too much impact could rattle your teeth.  I noticed just how quiet the sound of my foot hitting the ground had become, which must be a good sign.  Wary of the problems and next-day pain from doing too much too soon, I did a mere 12 minute round the block and home again.  Hours later I felt some tightness in my calves.  Not discomfort, just a feeling that they had been worked, which I generally didn’t get from my other trainers.  My tendons felt like they’d been irritated by the shoe rubbing against them, which was impossible as the shoe wasn’t that high.  Must have just been from the tendon stretching out.  This morning, as I type this, there’s a slight heavy feeling to my calves, nothing in the tendons.  The arch of one foot feels fatigued, yet the other is fine.

More updates to come when I’ve done some more.  I know you don’t care and I’m sorry.

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One thought on “Minimalist Running part 1

  1. The Trail Gloves are too tight for my midfoot.

    I’m glad to hear that you learned you don’t have to keep your heel off the ground! That misconception has caused a lot of sore calves and Achilles for people.

    I spend all my time — running and non-running — in huaraches sandals from http://www.InvisibleShoe.com.

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