With the growing popularity of Vibram FiveFingers and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall becoming a New York Times best seller, the Minimalist Movement appears to be more than just a fad. The big name sneaker companies have taken notice, and they have lunched various versions of light weight sneakers that promote the “natural running stride”. Some runners have gone to the extreme of ditching footwear completely and run barefoot. With the hype and inspiration of the movement, some leave their traditional trainers behind and blindly follow the minimalist pack of runners.
Less may be too little for some runners. Most podiatrists would agree that runners dealing with health issues like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other foot abnormalities, or past fractures need traditional running sneakers. Another fact to consider is that 70% of runners have normal, medium arches and normal pronation. The remaining 30% are at a greater risk of injury than the average runner shifting towards the minimalist movement. Going less may help strengthen their feet, but it will not change the structure of the foot.For those that decide to shift to a minimalist sneaker, use caution and start slow. Most of the minimalist sneaker company websites provide little guidance in making the change safely. There will be a transition period that results in significant muscle soreness in the small muscles in the foot and the calves. Joint soreness in the ankles, knees, hips, and back may be experienced as the body adjusts to a more natural running stride. The transition to running distances in light weight sneakers or barefoot may take as long as a year or more, so be patient.