Transition to Minimalism

I’m often asked to advise on how to get in less shoe….well here are some guidelines:

How to Transition to More Minimal Shoes….What’s Right for You?

Mark Cucuzzella MD, Two Rivers Treads, www.trtreads.org

A  great question and one we get frequently.  There is certainly no one answer and there is a big difference between a Newton Shoe transition and a barefoot/5 Finger/EVO transition. Newton Shoes have more protection than your bare feet and can be safely adapted into quicker that a pure minimalist shoe.

The most important question is whether someone is prepared to run barefoot or flat rather than the amount per week.  A young runner needs to transition into traditional running shoes in my opinion….sounds off beat but imagine the kid playing soccer in Sambas or the Kenyan runner being given a pair of running shoes.  Do we suggest….take it slow in these or you may get hurt.  We should though and maybe this is part of why so many HS runners get hurt now as we read stories of runners of years gone by  and wonder how they ran without injury.

 In our store we have a protocol to help folks.  If a runner is  strong in single leg stance, have anatomically correct foot, nice flexible heel cords, a good gait already….they are ready to roll pretty quick and do not need much transition.  They feel great immediately.  The opposite is true for someone who fails all these parameters.  They need lots of supplemental work and to get in a flat shoe ALL DAY.

 Walking barefoot and in thin and flat street shoes is very helpful for the running transition.

 A transition over a week or two is possible if one is already strong in the foot, committed to form training and structural issues, and will ease in with slow running and body sensing.  The only way to really learn good form is chuck the traditional shoes and do some of your running and drills in your barefeet. 

There are lots of common sense gradual progressions but no clear science.   A few methods out there:

  • Add a mile every day or two in the flatter shoes until you are doing all running in level shoe
  • Add 5 minutes every day or two in the flatter shoe
  • Add 10% a week in flatter shoe

Dial in really good form early and in 3 weeks you have a neuromuscular change that is hard wired.  Work on getting cadence closer to 180. Similar to fixing a swim stroke or golf swing…fix it immediately. Listen to your body, do the supporting core and mobility work to support barefoot technique, and progress gradually. Pick up Chi Running , Pose Running, or Evolution Running for good self instruction.  All offer great tips. Remember, you are trying to rewire a mechanical movement to a new “natural”.  It takes time and commitment.

 If you have a specific pain you need to listen and ask “why” and figure it out. 

Our store’s 12 Steps is a nice reference on getting ready to run in more minimal shoes

12 Steps to Healthier Running (http://trtreads.org/uploads/12_Steps.pdf)

Running Times Article on Transition  (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=19217)

Come to one of our clinics http://trtreads.org/Clinics.html  for a hands on assessment to tailor a program that is safe for you.  Here’s to healthier running.  No pain…..thank you!

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2 Responses to Transition to Minimalism

  1. billso says:

    Any recommendations for a good flat shoe? I run in VFF Bikilas, but I’d like to transition into flat men’s shoes at the office. I’ve got a pair of wool VFF classic mocs.

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