Minimalist Running: Fashion or Function?

Posted: February 24, 2013 in Articles, Golf, Tip of the Week

Have you heard of minimalist or barefoot running? Have those “toe shoes” caught your eyes? Over the past few years, there has been new exercise trend which calls for humans to revert back to our natural form of locomotion by taking a barefoot approach to our footwear. Often times this is referred to as minimalist exercise. Often times minimalists get reactions along these lines: “Has that person lost their mind?” “But, they are not wearing any shoes?” or, “Those shoes are hideous!”
Minimalist foot wear is revolutionary, shocking and socially deviant in part because the designs of shoes have changed little over the past few houndred years. Also our culture teaches that to exercise we need shoes with tight laces, toe protection, ankle support a thick sole and an elevated heel. While many might hope that minimalist footwear will soon fade like an exercise craze or a bad teen fashion statement, many top fitness professionals think it is here to stay.
Minimalist foot wear is not a fashion statement. In my opinion minimalist footwear is quite ugly. One man in his early eighties commented that my shoes were “very attractive.” I think he was just trying to be nice. True barefoot runners develop calluses and scars. However, feet are supposed to be ugly and the minimalist idea behind this “trendy” movement is to keep the orthopedics of our bodies healthy.
Minimalists feel that the human body was not born to wear the typical 20th century shoe. The general theory is that the typical shoe prevents the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones of the lower leg from functioning properly. It is the minimalist belief that the shoe acts as a cast similar to the one which gets placed on a broken arm. After six or eight weeks in a cast, the hand and wrist loses flexibility and strength. Studies have shown that when a shoe is placed on the foot of an individual from a culture that does not wear restrictive shoes for six to eight weeks, their feet lose a great deal of their dynamic abilities. Furthermore, minimalists feel that when you add in a heel to a shoe, it disrupts proper body alignment. Also, a thick sole makes the ankle more unstable in addition to the unnatural ankle support provided by the shoe preventing ankle support from being developed by the ankles muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Unfortunately, most evidence concerning minimalist movement is anecdotal, but it is noteworthy that the leading professionals in the fitness industry are wearing “bare wear” and researching the benefits of minimalist exercise. None the less, those who begin an exercise routine minimalist in nature should understand that thus far, little research has been devoted to this style of exercise. New minimalist exercisers should understand that the transition to minimalist running takes a very long time (6 months for me) and those who are senior citizens, diabetic, obese, have poor blood circulation, or have Plantar Fasciitis should avoid switching to a minimalist shoe.

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