Every shoe company has an idea of how thin a sole should be or what the heel to forefoot relationship should be and their guidelines are not well defined. What exactly is a "Minimalist" shoe? The parameters and features of a minimalist shoe vary greatly and even their marketed usages may differ widely, but the shoe industry continues to pursue persons willing to cough up a little extra money for a little less material under-foot. As in all life, the past repeats it's self often enough that we can find the answers in historical terminology. Shoes were once exclusively named for the type of sport they were meant for and later for the properties of their construction. "Trainers", "Field Cleats", "Tennies", and "Racing flats" were all an athlete needed to ask for 40-50 years ago when the mass marketing of shoes was in it's infancy. There were no large heeled, anti-pronation, asymmetric, multi-durometer, extruded soles on the market because designs were yet to be drawn, the machines had yet to be invented, the sports had yet to be integrated into society, and marketeers had yet to exploit the idea that running barefoot was somehow healthier for you. Later, as running took hold as a common sport and past-time, helpful terms such as "Half-Last", "Board-Last", "Straight or Curved Last" came into vogue as a means of better educating the consumer on selecting proper footwear. The term "Minimalist Running Shoe" is primarily used to group together styles of shoes with attributes that yield a walking or running experience similar to being barefoot without allowing the plantar surface of the foot to make direct contact with the ground. Minimalist running shoes (MRS) are lightweight, low to the ground, and flexible. They provide very little cushioning for the heel and forefoot. Additionally, compared to traditional running shoes, there is minimal slope from the heel to the forefoot in the MRS. This reduction in cushioning and decreased heel-to-toe drop forces the runner to land with a more anterior foot strike when running. While there are anecdotal stories of these MRS reducing injury and improving performance, there are still no conclusive research studies that confirm these claims. What does seem clear is that switching from a traditional running shoe to a MRS requires a proper transition period to avoid potential overuse injuries. There is no one right way to make the transition to MRS, but most programs require a period of 8-12 weeks. Running with MRS encourages a forefoot or midfoot strike when running. This type of foot strike means that rather than landing on your heel, you will land on the toes or mid part of the foot. This landing may lead to a reduced initial impact force on landing and relies on strong foot and leg muscles. A good transition program will focus on learning how to land on your forefoot or midfoot and will include strength exercises specifically for the foot and leg. Another important aspect of the transition is that you start with very short distances using the MRS – and build gradually over several weeks. This might be more easily said than done. While some studies show a reduction in vertical forces experienced in the joints, others suggest barefoot running requires more strength and has a greater metabolic cost on the body compared to shod running. Even the world's elite runners heel-strike; Meb Keflezighi and Usain Bolt both heel-strike as a primary method of running. Ankle and Tibial bone injuries are associated with heel-striking over use injuries while metatarsal fractures, posterior tibialis tears, plantar fasciitis and musculotendinous strains are associated with mid-foot strikers.
Whether you are for or against near-barefoot running, one thing is very clear: A persons body will tend to stand, sway, walk, and run in the most metabolically efficient way to bring about the most amount of comfort in any situation they encounter. Specialized shoes and conscious changes in running styles has the effect of increasing energy consumption which, in turn, causes earlier fatigue. There is no one way to run! In the absence of pathology, your natural gait and movement patterns are the ideal method of performance for you!
Graceyfeet insoles allow you to move within your preferred path of progression but lower the detrimental ground reaction forces that travel through the plantar surface of your foot an cause you injury and pain up the chain.
They are the perfect compliment to any minimalist shoe.
Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel Wa, et al. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 2010;463(7280):531-535.: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7280/full/nature08723.html
Miller RH, Umberger BR, Hamill J, Caldwell GE. Evaluation of the minimum energy hypothesis and other potential optimality criteria for human running. Proc Biol Sci 2012;219(1733):1498-1505. : http://lowerextremityreview.com/issues/may/biomechanist-challenges-idea-that-forefoot-strike-pattern-reduces-runners-injury-rate
FOOT CONTACT PATTERNS AND JOINT DEMANDS IN NOVICE BAREFOOT
RUNNERS BEFORE AND AFTER EXERTION
Hashish R, Samarawickrame S, Powers C, Salem G
CSM 2012 Sports Physical Therapy Section Abstracts: Poster Presentations SPO1100-SPO1125J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(1):A114-A124
Chris Gracey MPT, Cped