Are minimalist running shoes better than traditional running shoes? There are multiple answers to this question depending on various factors, such as the runner’s profile, the type of stride, habits, and exercises.
Unfortunately, buying the best kick is not a piece of cake since the market offers many brands and models with advertising opinions that sometimes contradict each other. This article will shed light on the benefits of minimalist running shoes.
What are Minimalist Running Shoes?
A minimalist shoe has a thin heel, remarkable flexibility, a lightweight, a low drop, and less stability and motion control technologies than other types of shoes. As a result, it barely interferes with the foot’s natural movements.
These shoes offer very little safety from risks and no support for the heels. A racing flat might be the best option for those seeking more protection, better traction, or cushion.
Top 8 Benefits of Minimalist Running shoes?
Generally, Running shoes have many benefits. However, Each running sneaker has its own pros. Here are 8 advantages and benefits of minimalist running shoes.
Protect the Feet
The key importance of minimalist running shoes is that it spares your foot the effort of attenuating shocks. Yet, it doesn’t minimize the foot’s faculties. If a shoe over-protects the foot, it can ultimately weaken your foot and body as the foot becomes lazy over time. That is to say, if the shoe provides excessive cushioning, your foot won’t make any effort and, thus, lose its strength.
Many people think that the more cushioning they get, the better they run. However, it has been proven that injuries don’t decrease with shoes that offer increased cushioning.
Strengthens feet, Calves, and Achilles
When people wear a traditional running shoe with a lot of cushioning, support, and a high heel-to-toe drop, the foot struggles to move as normally as when barefoot, which may cause atrophy of particular muscle groups. Minimalism running shoes support a midfoot strike which helps to help strengthen feet, Calves, and Achilles tendon. Overall flexibility among the forefoot and rearfoot also increases.
Support your Natural Stride
A minimalist shoe will influence how we run as little as possible and let us keep our natural stride. The most minimalist way to run would be to run without a shoe, and all the foot capacities would be used. Some ultra-minimalist shoes, more like plastic socks, protect the skin.
On the one hand, if we run without shoes, we will find that we naturally tend to put the foot at the mid-level and avoid the heel pose. On the other hand, with maximalist shoes, we tend to depend on the heel position, limiting our foot’s agility and stressing our knee joints. Minimalist shoes have proved to reduce tension on the back, hip, and knee.
Minimalist shoes are composed of natural shock absorbers that attenuate shocks without causing any impact on your gait or posture. For children, minimalist shoes are recommended, for they don’t interfere much with the development of their feet, joints, etc.
Improve Uphill Running
Minimalist running shoes naturally set the body to lean slightly forward and help runners land on their toes to boost hill running overall performance. Also, minimalist sneakers can help strengthen the muscles needed for effective hill running, which provides stability, power and improve movement.
Many runners who go for minimalist shoes have experienced injuries with maximalist shoes. For this reason, they are looking for a different running style. When runners improve their posture and weak areas such as Achilles, calf muscles, and feet, they theoretically reduce the risk of injury.
Minimalist running footwear has a lower heel-to-toe drop when compared to typical running sneakers so they are more natural than a traditional sneaker with a higher drop as it mimics how humans stand, walk and run when barefoot. Regular running shoes usually have a higher heel-to-toe drop, which can cause issues with hip alignment or lower back.
Provide Natural Support
Proponents of minimalist shoes also argue that cushioning is a modern invention and unnatural. They indicate that the position of the body when we run and the support of our foot would be altered with these cushions. Therefore, it would cause a great deal of inconvenience.
Expend less energy
Minimalist running shoes promote a more natural footstrike as they weigh less, resulting in better efficiency due to the reduced expenditure of unneeded energy.
What are the Characteristics of Minimalist Running Shoes?
Minimalist running sneakers are designed to allow runners to run naturally or have a barefoot-like experience. The following features characterize them:
The weight of the shoe: Minimalist running footwear generally has a light construction as the shoe weighs between 200 and 250 grams (for a standard size of 42), which allows you to choose from various models in the market. You can even find a huge number of shoes that are less than 200g.
The Heel drop: It is the height difference between the shoe’s front and heel. Minimalist sneakers have a very low heel-to-drop, generally less than an 8-millimeter drop. Some minimal shoes have zero drops.
The thickness of the sole: Minimal running shoes usually have a reduced sole thickness to maintain a good grip on the ground and protect the foot from rough terrains that impose a risk of injury.
The shoe’s flexibility: Minimal shoes are distinguished by their considerable flexibility, allowing the foot to move easily without constraints.
Type of Feet: Minimal shoes are suitable for running with pronation and supination and a neutral running style. Minimal shoes for pronators or supinators incorporate a correction technique intended to improve their strides. In case of doubt, it may be worthwhile to consult a medical specialist for postural and biomechanics assessment.
Read more: how to stop your running shoes from rubbing your back of the ankle.
In Which Cases Should you Choose a Minimalist Shoe?
Here are several cases where it is recommended to switch to minimalist shoes:
- If you have recurring knee injuries or pain (medical advice is desirable).
- If you are looking to run as naturally as possible, promoting sensations.
- If you are seeking a fast performance.
In Which Case Should I Avoid Minimalist Sneakers?
If you have pain in your calves or Achilles tendons, you will probably need to avoid switching to minimalist footwear. Besides, if your traditional shoes are suitable for you, meaning that you don’t witness injuries and pain. In this case, the risk of the change may outweigh the benefits.
How to Switch to a Minimalist Shoe?
In any case, the transition from one type of shoe to another needs to be gradual and will depend on your stride. You can opt for the exercises that manipulate the calves and ankles to promote adaptation (These exercises include Skips, hopping, jumping rope, stairs, .etc.) However, be careful if the change is sudden because it might cause many injuries.
The adaptation time depends on different factors:
- The way you run.
- The habit of having run with a shoe with different characteristics.
- The features of the new shoe.
- A beginner runner will be able to get used to it more efficiently and will be able to orient more easily towards a minimalist type of footwear.
In this article, we tackled the benefits of minimalist running shoes and why many runners prefer wearing them more than traditional sneakers.