As the miles roll by in my renewed running journey I started to look at new shoes and thought, why do people choose minimalistic shoes vs other styles to run in?
From the eyes of a novice runner, it seems like the type of running you’re going to be doing (track running, street running or trail running) determines the type of shoes you wear. In reality though there are multiple factors that deal with shoe selection. In reality though there as many reasons people pick their most comfortable running shoe as there are shoes in the world. Not knowing any of the technical aspects of running at the beginning, I started with what is considered a very normal running shoe but have landed with a minimalistic running shoe. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect to be comfortable having fewer millimetres of but a style that I probably won’t ever move away from.
What is a minimalistic running shoe?
There are many versions of what can be considered minimalistic running shoes, but the most popular version went viral a few years ago for the pure fact that the shoe looked like someone had put mittens on their feet. It was a very low profile shoe that wrapped shoe material around each toe.
A relative of mine had a pair of these when they were popular and really loved them. I think it would bother my toes to be in shoes like that, but I guess you can get used to anything, right?
So what really makes a shoe like that different from other running shoes? In general a minimalistic shoe is exactly what it the title says:
“Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.”
Benefits of a minimalistic shoe
Some experts say that the purest form of running is barefoot running. Think about it. Humans didn’t start wearing shoes regularly until only a few hundred years ago. Before that we were barefoot or almost barefoot. It makes sense that running barefoot would be a natural thing.
In the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall talks about a tribe in Mexico that are known for their long distance races and the fact that they have so few injuries. In his search for an explanation of his own running aches and pains, he suggests that by running barefoot, or as close to barefoot as possible, the tribe has fewer injuries.
This idea was revolutionary in the running world to have in a printed form. It helped the idea of barefoot running go viral. In connection with that a whole new style of running shoe hit the market and took off!
When did barefoot running become popular?
While Christopher McDougall landed on a great theory of barefoot running meaning fewer injuries after studying the tribe in Mexico and publishing his book in 2009, one of the first big barefoot running movements came much much earlier.
In ancient Greece it was said that Olympic runners ran barefoot. History tells us they’d only have had access to minimal shoes or sandals to walk in so running barefoot or in those would seem reasonable.
More recently, and probably one of the most famous barefoot runners came to fame at the 1960’s Olympics. Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia came to the starting line of the Olympic Marathon barefoot. It was a revolution that a barefoot runner would win (1960) Olympic gold medal in a world-record 2:15:16.2.(https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20804469/a-brief-history-of-barefoot-running/).
That same article talks about how famous running author Hal Higdon, who I personally have followed his training schedules in the past, took to it out of necessity. His toes and feet had a fungus infection and his solution to the problem was to run barefoot in the grass when his shoes seemed to all be infected.
“It was enjoyable, and I found I could race successfully barefoot on the new 3M rubberized tracks, whereas on the old cinder tracks you needed tougher feet,” Higdon reminisced. “My most notable barefoot race was a 5,000m at a major masters meet in London, England, in 1972, a 14:59.6 American record that lasted nearly a quarter century.”
Why did I choose a minimalistic shoe to wear?
Truthfully I fell into a pair minimalistic shoes by accident. I started running in Nike shoes then switched to Saucony and then the New Balance before I was handed a pair of Skora Fits by winning them.
The Skora Running company (at the time) picked one person from their mailing list to win a pair of shoes. It might have been a sacrifice for them to hand out a free pair of shoes, but it was great advertising since like myself, the winners all seemed to “magically” post on Instagram and Facebook that they’d won shoes from the company.
I signed up and literally a week or so later got a pair of shoes. At first I wore them for cross training, but after the first few longer distance runs in them I was hooked on these minimalistic shoes so much so that I’m still running in 5 years later!
The reason why I came to love these shoes and I’m sure that others love them is the fact that they are light weight. The zero-drop heel makes for a comfortable fit and as much running as I’ve done over the last few years I’m confident that my injuries have been far and few between.
So next time you see someone wearing minimalistic shoes, maybe you’ll have a better insight as to why they are wearing them.
No matter what shoes you wear, get out and run today on Global Running Day and keep it up every day!