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Review of sports bras for runners from the Running Bug. Real runners review the latest gear.
What are they?
Minimalist shoes are low profile, stripped-back shoes. A clear definition as to what makes a shoe minimalist is yet to emerge, and each manufacturer has a slightly different bent. A specialist minimalist US Blogger puts it this way: “If we view running footwear as a spectrum, on one end you have no shoe at all, or barefoot. In the barefoot condition cushioning and stability are provided by the inherent strength and control of the feet and legs, proprioreception/ground feel are maximized, there is no added weight on the lower extremity, the heel and forefoot are placed at the same level on the ground, the splay of the foot is not restricted when it contacts the ground, and flexibility is limited only by the structural limitations of an individual’s feet.”
As you move up the spectrum extras will be added to make you more stable, and the less there is the more minimalist the shoe. What seems to be a consensus is that minimalist shoes will have a ratio of heel-to-toe drop of less than 10mm (some say as much as 14mm qualifies as minimalist) – often 0mm.
Three of the bigger sellers, Brooks Connect, Nike Frees, and Saucony Kinvara all have a heel to toe drop of 4mm, which seems more typical of what is an emerging shoe category. A minimalist shoe provides maximum responsiveness, but like cushioned shoes the degree of support and weigh varies, typically in the 200g range, but often going up to 400g.
A relatively new category – how did they come about?
Barefoot running was reawakened by the publication of Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run in 2009. McDougall discussed research that had found more injuries had been recorded since cushioning and support had been added to shoes. Ironically, the Rararumari (the Mexican running people featured in the book) didn't run barefoot. They did however run ultras wearing sandals and another star of the book, barefoot Ted famously sported and ran ultras in Vibram FiveFingers.
But, barefoot running and minimalist shoes are not really new.
Famous barefoot runners include, Zola Budd in the 1980s, Bruce Tulloh and Bikili in the 1960s. And minimalist shoes are very similar to performance shoes, and racing spikes – and were the choice of most runners in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Who wears them and why?
Running barefoot or in lighter weight shoes is said to teach you to run naturally, improve your efficiency, and in the longer term reduce your injury risk. The lack of heel support forces you to roll onto your forefoot, and take smaller strides, which combined with the fact that your foot functions better without the restriction of clumpy footwear is a more efficient way to run.
Low profile shoes are best for biomechanically efficient runners. To be able to withstand the pounding of the pavements without cushioning it helps to be a lightweight yourself with a good strong weight to power ratio, ie good plyometric power in your lower limbs with springy tendons and strong ligaments.
Different types of shoes
Shoes with no drop between heel and toe (0mm) for example Vibram Five Fingers will get you as close to the barefoot experience as possible. Manufacturers like Saucony have graded shoes within the category so that your body can adapt and you can make the transition down. They have three different types.
Need to know
If you rush into it, this style of shoes can cause you to have achy calves and shins.
Drills designed to put some power in the feet and lower limbs will help your body adapt (bounding, running zig down hill, running on the toes).
Most manufacturers of minimalist shoes stress the need to adapt and many for example Saucony and New Balance have incorporated exercise drills and programmes that emphasise the importance of good running form to educate runners wanting to make the transition.
Read the first review: Asics Gel Tarther 2 here
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