Above is a video of a test run with minimalist running shoes, Vivobarefoot EVOs, I did with Lee Saxby at Outdoor Retailer. Lee cured Chris McDougall’s, who authored the book Born to Run, plantar fasciitis with his minimalist running techniques and instructions. So I jumped on the treadmill to see what Lee could teach me about minimalist running to cure my own knee injury. Since I was on a treadmill and not running a lot of miles the pain difference in my knees between the minimalist running shoes and my trail running shoes was marginal; however, I did learn how to run in minimalist running shoes. Many runners overlook the fact that you need to change your running style when making the transition to a minimalist running shoe. Before you put on your new vibram five fingers or minimalist running shoes and go for a 20 mile run you need to make sure you are running in them properly. Here are some tips on how to correctly begin running in minimalist running shoes:
Head and Chest Forward: Minimalist runners should keep their head and chest leading their body, not leaning back which is what most of us do when running. Make sure not to lean forward at your waist but rather tilt at the ankles. This will help your feet strike underneath your body instead of in front of it.
Strike Under Your Body: Minimalist runners need to strike directly underneath their body so their center of gravity is positioned directly under the foot strike. As the foot makes contact with the ground, tendons, and elastic components of certain muscles stretch beyond their natural length, thereby capturing and storing injury from the impact. If you strike directly under your body, the rest of your body absorbs the impact instead of your knees. The timed and coordinated muscle actions direct the energy back into the ground, sending your body upward and forward instead of side to side.
Arms swing Forward and Back: Minimalist runners want to make sure their arms move forward and back and have little side to side movements. This allows your body to run straight up and down without encouraging movement in the rest of your body from side to side, which leads to injury. Your elbows should never cross forward past your torso. Keep them close to your chest with a compact swing.
Land on the front of your Foot: Minimalist runners need to make sure that they land first on the front of their foot rather than their heel. Part of the debate around minimalist running shoes is that traditional running shoes have cushioning in the heel which has lead runners to begin heel striking rather than a natural front foot strike. As you can see from my video, most of us strike on the back of our heels, concentrate on landing on the balls of your feet. Remember, you don’t have to run on your toes; allow your entire foot to touch the ground, just roll from your toes all the way back to your heels.
Rhythm: Concentrate on developing a rhythm by counting 1,2,3,4 over and over as you run. This will keep your strikes balanced, mitigating emphasizing one leg over the other in your new minimalist running mechanics.
Unfortunately, Lee suggests starting on the roads to hone the technique before running on uneven surfaces like trails. I suggest you don’t have to do everything Lee tells you.