What should I know about minimalistic running in Innov-8 F-Lite 230 shoe
June 24, 2014 1:11 AM   Subscribe

I've recently decided to go more minimalistic in my running having been inspired by some books I've read (Born to Run, for instance) as well some articles from people whose opinions I've grown to trust and respect. I switched out of my stablizing running shoes (Saucony Omni 12) and purchased Innov-8 F-Lite 230s. I need advice on how to adjust to them.

As I've started running in these shoes, I've noticed a general change in my running gait, which is part of the intention of purchasing them in the first place. I'm running on my mid-foot and slight-forefoot and there is an automatic change in my form that seems more natural, less exerting than what I felt while running more stabilizing, cushion supported shoes. So far so good. (more inside)

However, I've also noticed tension in my calf muscles after running in these new Innov-8 shoes. Granted, the amount I'm running is not much. Maybe 2 or 3 miles per day 3 or 4 times a week. I've been careful in not running too much without any training. For me it's a slow exercise wherein I run, then stop, run and stop building up a certain amount of endurance and resistance.

So here goes:
1. Is the tension in my calf muscles normal considering that I'm using these minimalistic shoes?
2. What should I know about switching from stabilizing shoes like Omni 12 to these more minimalistic, "natural running" shoe.
3. What sorts of exercises should I do to stretch my muscles to avoid any possible injuries from running in these new, less supportive shoes.
4. Finally, I've taken precautions and am not running too much in these new shoes to adapt my body to them. What is the best way to acclimate myself from running in Omni's to running in Innov-8 F-lite's. This is from somebody who is an amateur runner, if that, doing about 14 miles per week.
posted by caudal to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Run on a softer surface. There's nothing particularly natural about concrete either you know.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:04 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The calf tension is exactly what I experienced when I made a similar switch. It took about 3 months for them to stretch out. I reduced the distance I was running a lot and built back up gradually.

I don't think I can give much generic advice about exercises as it will depend on your form. I would say that the change of gait may create or expose problems with your general running form. If you can, it might be good to get it looked at by a sports physio to suggest exercises to prevent problems building up. It will be a lot cheaper than going to a physio when problems emerge.
posted by crocomancer at 4:30 AM on June 24, 2014

When I switched to merell trail gloves several years ago my calves were definitely the slowest thing to acclimatise. And yes, hard surfaces are uncomfortable (and maybe even a bit dangerous?) without a pronounced forefoot strike. I didn't do any specific training other than just running but I also didn't do many miles on pavement until after several months on just grass and trails.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 4:31 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go slow, go slow... I am not a runner (I mean maybe I would run if there was, ya know, chocolate involved) but I did try the f-249s in my short-lived CrossFit stage. I RUINED my feet. Ruined. It's been 2 years and I still have significant pain. The podiatrist says they'll likely never be like they were. I did too much and ignored the pain (d'oh) - lesson learned.

Go very slow in your transition. Know that minimalist footwear isn't for everyone. Do not run on hard surfaces in your minimalist footwear. I suggest seeing a personal trainer/physical therapist who is into the barefoot scene to get some exercises and stretches to help your transition.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:35 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

My wife switched to forefoot running recently & developed some heel pain afterwards, which her physio said was common - it arises from a combination of lack of strength in the heel stabilising muscles in the calf & shortness of the main calf muscle / tendon. The latter was fixed with some deep tissue massage (ouch! apparently), the former with some exercises. Mostly single leg standing toe raises (ie, standing on one leg, going up onto tip-toes & back down again).

A session with a physio who's aware of these issues with lightfoot / forefoot running might be useful.
posted by pharm at 5:30 AM on June 24, 2014

I'll echo the advice to go slow, which it sounds like you're doing. I don't think there's any reason to avoid hard surfaces. Your calves will get stronger and this will reduce the soreness you experience. The most common injury I've heard about from minimalist shoes (which I also experienced) is achilles tendon strain. A zero drop shoe lengthens the achilles and puts more pressure on it, which the body is not used to. I'd just be aware of this, and if you feel any tightness/pain in the achilles stop running and maybe even switch to a traditional shoe for a day or two. Your body will adapt to your new stride eventually, you just don't want to rush things.
posted by btkuhn at 8:10 AM on June 24, 2014

Go even slower. Get a foam roller and roll your calves a LOT.

The recent studies about injury rates with minimalist shoes indicate that people switching over tend to get injured because they don't adjust their stride enough (or slowly enough, maybe), so take it very very slow.
posted by suelac at 8:35 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as exercises go-- Hundred ups (Christopher McDougall demonstrates in a video)

But I will echo the point that barefoot running is not for everyone. I began using 'barefoot-style' shoes to work on form for about 2 years ago. I started doing only a couple of minutes a week; after the first few weeks I was up to about a mile a week. I started getting worrisome pain in one of my shins (I've never gotten shin splints, not when I started running and not when I was running 60 miles a week) and so I quit using the barefoot-style shoes and went back to my heavier shoes. The shin pain went away.

I loved 'Born to Run' but I think a lot of the anti-shoe company stuff in it is a bit oversold. Large, built up shoes work for some people and not for others. Minimalist shoes/no shoes work for some people but not others. People who are in heavy shoes who are always getting injured should try going the minimal route, but I take an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach.
posted by matcha action at 9:01 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I switched to a midfoot/forefoot strike due to shin pain, my calves would become very sore after running. I reduced my mileage during the transition, and tweaked my foot strike a wee bit backwards to midfoot. My calves got used to it and this running stride change (along with new shoes) has so far greatly improved my shin issues even with longer distances. I'm so happy with this style of running for my now old-person, injury-prone legs. Good luck!
posted by FiveSecondRule at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2014

Treat the change as you might with a new pair of orthotics - very gradually, very slowly, and listen to your body. Ramp way back if you experience pain, as you can really do some damage if you try to push past the pain.

It's the norm to experience calf tightness and pain when switching to minimal shoes. Unlike traditional running shoes, they are generally "zero-drop" or a lot closer to it. That means that your heels and toes are more level to the ground when you stand in your shoes (as when your are barefoot), as opposed to traditional running shoes, which have a higher heel-to-toe ratio (your heels are higher up than your toes). This really puts a lot of strain on your calves. You'll want to keep both muscles of the calf limber. There are many resources on the internet detailing the right way to stretch both the soleus and gastrocnemius. Remember to stretch gently, and don't bounce. Stretch all throughout the day, not just around running time. You want to really train your muscles that limber is the new way to be.

A good way to trains those legs for a more forefoot stride and lower heel-to-toe drop is to jump rope. Very good way to strengthen those calves. And it's just so much easier to stop jump roping when it is prudent than it is in running, where one may be determined to run an x number of miles, no matter the pain (ask me how know!).

In the end, if it doesn't work out, cushy, traditional running shoes can be pretty wonderful. Or you can use both, cushy for longer runs on pavement and concrete, minimal for shorter runs and on trail.
posted by sweetpotato at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2014

One more thing - Saucony Omni 12s are support shoes, meaning that they control your stride somewhat by not allowing your feet to over-pronate (fall inwards). Has this been working out for you?

Your Innov-8 F-Lite 230s, as a minimal shoe, provides none of that support. This may not be an issue for you - but if you start to experience knee pain (or foot, or hip, they're all connected), this may be an indication that these are not the best shoes for your personal stride.
posted by sweetpotato at 10:31 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most important: Build slowly, pay attention to sensation, back off if too much, and be willing to back off in the middle of a run. (and the need to build slowly stays true when experienced. Minimal running places demands that can make you succeptible to -itises (tendon inflammation) if some minor muscles aren't up to the speed or distance you're asking them for.)

That said, I love it, and I run much better now and attribute a lot of that to minimal (barefoot, in fact) running.

Someone said to avoid hard surfaces, but I don't think that's an issue. In fact I think the feedback helps you. It forces you to land more gently, absorbing the impact, which is excellent form training (it points to the best way to be running, at all speeds)

I'll confess, I just gave myself a new itis last weekend. I'd been travelling with very little running for several weeks, and I wanted to build quickly. I went on a demanding run on saturday, longer than I'm used to. I'm takin' a break now.
posted by spbmp at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2014

When you say, go even slower, do you mean run slower, transition slowly to the payment by running less time on it, or something else.

posted by caudal at 10:18 AM on June 28, 2014

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