There seems to be an undecided controversy within the running world. It’s over minimalist running. Running done in shoes of lightweight construction intended to mimic the gait and foot strike one would perform if barefoot. the,. With all the scientific information out there I am surprised that there is yet to be a general consensus on the topic. There are two parties when it comes to minimalist running, both diametrically opposed. There are those, including my buddy Pete, who firmly believes that less is more; running in shoes with less support enables a runner to use proper form, thus avoiding injury and inefficacy. Then there are those who are under the belief that support, in the form of more cushioning, is key when it comes to avoiding injury, and that less support is the root of injury. It would seem the thing that started this whole debate is the book by Chistopher McDougall’s titled Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, SuperAthletes and the greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
The Book chronicles McDougall’s journey to the Mexican Copper Canyons were a stone age culture, known as the Tarahumara, are culturally pedisposed to running great distances. As recreation, tribes members sometime partake in 30, 50 even 100 mile races. The only difference between these tribal runners and ultra-marathoners living in the modern world is that the Trarhumara spend their entire lives running unshod or in thin sandals, and often remain healthy and uninjured. In the book, McDougal challenges the preconceived notion that expensive shoes protect our feet, pointing out numerous statistics and studies that suggest a correlation between the inception of the modern running shoe in the seventies and the rate and type of injury among runners. A great slew of runners, me included have joined in on the minimalist-running craze, buying minimalistic shoes that are thought to allow more natural movement while running.
Despite the book’s cult success, many experts and runners are unconvinced. When I asked about how healthy minimalist running really was, Dr. Pamela Gekas,a podiatrist located in Glassboro, NJ, claims it can be a quick way to cause running related injuries such as stress fractures and muscle tears.
“There just not enough support with these thin soled shoes,” says Gekas referencing a 2012 class action law suit against Vibram USA that was filed against the shoe company that claimed its minimalist shoes reduced running related injuries.
So it would appear that the jury still out on the subject. Personally I’ve been running in a pair of Merrell Vapor glove 2, an extremely lightweight shoe without a sole one would find on more traditional running shoes. As a result I have been completely without any shin-splits, an injury that I have dealt with in the past. Nor do I feel much soreness after rigorous or long miles, or at least to the extent that I had before running in minimalist shoes. In short, I feel completely fine. Well, except for the mild pain that has been dwelling in my left foot for months now.
“Stress fracture,” Gekas warns me.
And as I leave her office with a subscription for an X-ray, I wonder if it’s the shoes themselves or perhaps maybe my form. Who knows? Maybe it’s just the number of miles I’ve done this autumn. However, I am not sold on the subject either way. The way I see it, when statistics show that over 70 percent of runners get hurt, minimalist shoes or no, I’m bound to get hurt eventually But Pete is sold. And although he is not an expert, he does a good job in summing up some of the popular beliefs that predominate the trend toward minimalist running.