There are a variety of reasons people do not wear minimalist shoes. One may be the person is simply not sure if they can comfortably do so. Often, people feel the cushioning of thicker footwear may be protective and beneficial. While the best advice is to do what feels most comfortable to you, we wanted to share some stories of moving from traditional shoes to minimalist options. We posed this question to a few of our athletes. They were asked about their experience with lightweight footwear.
skorarunning.com: How has the use of lightweight, zero drop, low profile, and flexible shoes has benefited your health, fitness, and body?
Thinking back to when I ran in traditional thick soled shoes, it was no wonder I was injured so often. Shoes do not automatically prevent or cure injury, however poor running form more certainly does. Wearing shoes that are lightweight, thin, and flexible has allowed me to become more aware of my movements when running, lifting weights, and even walking. From very early on in my running “career”, I have a very distinct memory of running on the track and hearing how loudly my feet were hitting the ground. I feel the thick and cushioned shoes caused me to actually land with more force. Now that I am in minimal shoes, I can easily recognize what feels better for my body. Landing with bent knees, close to under my center of mass, and landing with an almost flat foot, I found the old cushioning was very unnecessary.
I was an out of shape, washed up high school athlete who decided that this is not how I want to live the rest of my life. I looked up at a banner hanging in the field house and I instantly called my family and said that I was going to run the Earth Day Half Marathon. From there I have grown a ton in my passion for running. I started that half marathon in a posted, stability shoe and managed to qualify for Boston but I knew that it didn’t feel right for me. I started doing more and more running in racing flats because I simply loved the feel, I am normally a mid-foot strike and so the turnover always felt better but still not right. I was still searching and testing out different shoes, the cost was definitely adding up from all the different options. Finally I came across SKORA and once I got my foot into the shoe I instantly knew that it was a fit. I am a passionate trail runner and the Base was so nice for off road running because it always keeps me honest on the trail. I mean that in the downhill the secure glove-like fit let my foot freely move where it needed to without having issues. On the uphill the shoe flows with my stride, there is no hitch or dragging weight.
The question that I get most often at my races relates to the cushioning, or lack thereof. When I am heading into a rocky and nasty trail I will always take my SKORA shoes. This relates to the honest, real, running that I was referring to earlier. I can only go as fast as my body and more importantly my feet want me to go. There is always a smooth surface or a route that wont kill the feet but you have to evolve as a runner and find it. I have run more miles and races this year than I have in my entire life, I even raced a 100K and a 50 mile back to back weekends and finished respectable in both events and I relate that and the lack of injury to the fact that I have done the work and strengthened my lower legs. If I had to pick one shoe to run in the rest of my life it would be a minimalist shoe simply because that is the way the body is meant to run, natural and real.
How has using minimalist running shoes helped me recover from Rheumatoid Arthritis? One of the things that I love about using minimal running shoes is that my feet get to use every muscle in the foot from the large muscles to the small muscles that you never knew existed. This has really helped me with my drive to get stronger from a really bad Rheumatoid Arthritis attack that I had a couple of years ago. A friend actually recommended I try minimal shoes because they had a tendency to make the users feet stronger. I thought that was what all shoes did but apparently not. The typical running shoes provides so much support that you never get to use or strengthen the smallest muscles in your feet.
In my experience, I have found that the minimal shoes worked best for what I was trying to accomplish. At first it hurt to wear it because you are now using muscles that you have never used the way they were supposed to be used before. When I made my first minimal purchase I was told not to wear it all day. Only wear it for an hour for the first week. This was to give the small muscles time to get adapted to being used, which in turn would cause me to not be as sore. Well I was so excited that I did the opposite and spent the whole day in them. Boy did I pay the price! My feet were really sore and I almost gave up on the idea but then again I was warned about this and just did not listen. Once the soreness went away I tried again but did it the correct way. I also spent some time stretching before and after long walks or runs. As all the muscles in my feet got stronger and stronger I was hooked. I was in heaven and there was no going back to conventional running shoes for me.
In college I was often injured and missed my fair share of races and workouts. I trained in heavier, traditional trainers with high heel-to-toe drop and plastic arch plates disguised at “technology”. After graduating and beginning my post-collegiate running career, I gradually reduced my daily training footwear at the suggestion and with the guidance of my coach. I transitioned to the Brooks Green Silence and the Puma Faas 300, and now I am running often in SKORA shoes which are the most minimal I have worn. Besides an Achilles injury due to an extreme uphill mountain race (muscular overload), I have been healthy for two full years and have PR’d across the board. After building into comfortable training in minimal footwear, I now use shoes like the SKORA Form to build strength in my feet and lower legs which increases injury resistance.
I never knew I loved running until I discovered barefoot-style shoes. From my own two feet to Vibrams to Luna Sandals and now SKORA, my search for finding “just enough” shoe has ended. This decision wasn’t because I wanted to save money, nor was I looking to rebel against what’s popular; I simply wanted to run as much as possible without being injured.
Injuries are key here, with over 70% of regular runners reporting injuries (likely from overuse or poor form) every year, I’ve found that less cushioning allows my body to better adjust how, when, and where I step in order to prevent injuries before they happen. In thicker shoes, my body couldn’t feel every step, so I had no idea what I was doing was wrong. By the time I hurt the next day, it was too late to make proper adjustments. I stretched and weight lifted as much as I could, but no cure could prevent my pain.
Running is no longer a chore for this 5’11”, 200 lb body, it’s my meditation. As with any proper meditation, the less barriers, filters, and cushion we have to separate ourselves from the world, the better we can proactively and reactively adjust our actions to best live in it.
Throughout my high school career, I would get injured almost every season, which stemmed from a variety of issues. My sophomore and junior year I would run in thick, heavy, chunky trail shoes. I was new to running and those were what I was told were “proper running shoes”. Then while rehabbing after yet another injury at the beginning of my senior year, I noticed one of my elite marathon friends only ran in racing flats. She liked them because it strengthened her calf muscles and were so light it allowed for faster running. I was intrigued, and as I was basically starting back from the ground up, I purchased a pair of minimalist shoes. To ease into minimalist running, I wore the minimalist shoes only on some days and a chunkier, thicker shoe on the others. It usually followed a pattern: speed work or shorter days I wore the minimalist shoes, while longer and more challenging days I wore the chunky shoes (thinking they “protected my feet from the trail”). I came back from my injury very strong and fit. Wearing the minimalist shoes made me not only a better, stronger runner, but a happier one. I enjoyed nimbly dancing around roots and rocks and flying up the hills. It was like a choreographed dance or a game, which made running a joy for me instead of a daily chore. I got back to how running should be. Now a year and a half later, I only wear minimalist shoes and am still getting stronger and faster. Whether its a long run or a track workout, I will wear my SKORA shoes!
Who can wear minimalist shoes? Just about anyone!