minimalist running: ur doing it wrong
December 21, 2011 7:50 AM   Subscribe

How can I determine if I'm using proper form transitioning to minimalist running shoes?

( I read this earlier question)

Last month I bought a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes and started running. I knew that switching from traditional running shoes would require time as my lower legs adjusted, so I've dialed the mileage back to about three-ish miles per run a few times a week.

How can I determine if I've got the right mid-foot strike, and how long until my lower legs adjust? I know you're supposed to hit 180 steps/minute , but my calves, knees and entire lower legs are definitely feeling it, and I don't want to inadvertently injure myself.
posted by canine epigram to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a running store or a running PT who can look at you on a treadmill?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:03 AM on December 21, 2011

There is a good running store nearby that I'll go to, but I was hoping the green might obviate that need.
posted by canine epigram at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2011

I am also trying to get used to a new pair of Minimuses. Although I was in a pretty lightweight shoe before and I've been minimal in my non-running shoes for months, it's still an adjustment.

Over the summer I switched from traditional hiking boots to minimal trail shoes, and I just did it by slowly increasing my mileage. My feet were *tired* a lot of the time at first, but by the end of the summer I was doing 10-15 mile day hikes and feeling great.

I think you've just got to take it slow. It's almost like starting a completely new activity - like when you ski for the first time and you start to recognize muscles that you didn't know about before. So you're going to be tired-sore, but it shouldn't be painful. But if you're really worried about your form, you probably need to get someone to take a look at what you're doing. Or maybe you'd like the ChiRunning books and videos?
posted by mskyle at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2011

Maybe set up a phone to record video or have someone take a video for you? If you look at midfoot vs. heel strike videos online, you should be able to see the difference in a video of yourself. I would say that you shouldn't be feeling it in your knees - you are probably heel striking some of the time. You should feel the transition primarily in your calves and ankles, particularly the achilles tendon. Even one heel strike sends a big shock up your leg into the knee. Significant calf pain after the first few weeks probably means you are up on your toes too much.

Also, consider a less minimal transition shoe with less heel than a traditional running shoe, but more cushioning than the Minimus. Inov-8 makes a running shoe (Road-X 255 or 238) that is specifically intended for road running including pavement and for people who are transitioning. New Balance MT-101s also have a bit of cushion but are still very minimalist and are currently pretty easy to find on sale. Either of those will strongly encourage a good midfoot strike, but won't punish you so severely if you do start heel striking when tired, which is the biggest issue in my experience with the transition.
posted by pekala at 9:27 AM on December 21, 2011

Ooh, or another thing you could do is put some kind of color on the bottoms of the shoes (crayon?) and see where it wears off - you wouldn't want/expect to see much wear on the heels.
posted by mskyle at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I started minimalist running at the end of summer. My biggest piece of advice: make sure you're not landing too hard on the ball of your foot. I believe I have developed a bit of metatarsalgia from being too prancy and hitting too hard on the ball.

Another piece of advice given to me: don't be so concerned about form that you overthink it. Just run and see what happens. Most of what I learned about my own form, I learned from a running buddy who just watched me go on a trail for awhile. It was the biggest help of anything I've done yet, so I highly recommend having someone look at you. Also, pay attention to other runners, watch videos.

Oh! And try the 100-Up. The video in that article is really helpful. If you google 100-up, you'll find a lot more about it.
posted by itsacover at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Run on a hard surface for a short distance. Nothing trains you better than a screaming heel.

Land soft. If you run with a headphone on, take it off for a bit and listen how loud you land.

Consciously take smaller steps. It's rather hard to land other than your midfoot if your legs are directly under your center of gravity when you land.

Run on sand (or as mskyle mentioned - coloring on bottom of your shoes) and see what the landing profile is like. Midfoot strike will leave a rather even impression on sand.

And be aware of your body and what it is telling you. This advice is applicable no matter what shoes you wear. Muscle pain, especially calf during transitioning is normal. Joint pains might be a different story.
posted by 7life at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2011

I have been doing the first half of the exercise described here lately, and it seems to have helped quite a bit.

My one bit of advice would be to do the exercise with less than or equal cushioning to what you will be running with. I have made the mistake of doing it on a carpeted floor, and found myself striking the ground too hard on the ball of the foot, causing some apparent connective tissue injury.
posted by billjings at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2011

If you're not sure about what good form actually is, then I have some book recommendations:

My favorite book when I was starting minimalist/barefoot running was "Barefoot Running Step by Step" by Barefoot Ken Bob (how can you not love a barefoot guru named Ken Bob?), followed closely by "Natural Running" by Danny Abshire

Both of these books have a lot of drills that are helpful in *thinking* about what you're doing when you run. In Ken Bob's book he talks about how much he bends his knees, and how that extra springiness helps while running. When I started to just squat a little more while running I noticed that I was jostled less and was able to run farther without feeling fatigues. It was awesome.

If you already know what good form is, then yeah, get someone to videotape your stride... but you're not really going to be able to analyze it like a professional, and I don't know whether you could successfully translate mis-stride on a video to actually improving YOUR stride.

My recommendation would be to participate in an all day workshop for minimalist running if you can find one - pose running, Chi running, and so on. There will be experts there who can watch you, find common mistakes in your form, and suggest drills to improve. Improvement is a constant and gradual process in minimalist running - you need to practice a lot to change your form.
posted by permiechickie at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2011

If a particular part of your foot is bruised or sore after a run, you're landing too hard there.

When I describe proper mid-foot form for normal feet, I say you should feel like an old man shuffling along. But faster. At least that's what I imagine myself to look like when I'm concentrating on form.
posted by cmoj at 11:24 AM on December 21, 2011

Stop thinking about it. If it hurts when you run (or if you hurt yourself running) you are either doing it wrong or are transitioning too fast. When I started running in Five Fingers I went too fast too soon, and ended up with a stress injury. Now I have been wearing them over the last two summers, and have realized that I no longer run the first half mile or so gingerly - I have gotten used to it and don't have to mentally coach myself not to worry and just to run.

So try that. It worked for me, anyway - try not to think about what you are doing and try to just enjoy the run. Your body will do the rest - it evolved to do things the right way.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:05 PM on December 21, 2011

Echoing what everyone else mentioned. Your body will totally make the adjustment for you, just be mindful and don't try to power through if you're feeling uncomfortable. I found that thinking about leaning forward less helped me a great deal. Also, a running shop is really the way to go. They'll be able to watch you for 60 seconds and tell you more than all of us here. And in my experience, they're happy to help even if you didn't buy that particular pair of shoes at the shop.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:28 PM on December 21, 2011

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