Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Minimalist Running

My husband recently purchased the Nike LunarGlide minimalist running shoe.

Minimalist running has become the new running fad within the past few years. While there are many advocates that support barefoot running and shoes that offer little to no cushioning, there are also many against this new craze. I find myself on both sides of the fence at times and often feel that there is not a sufficient amount of scientific evidence to support either claim.

When you type barefoot running into google, a long list of topics pop up. But the most important piece of the puzzle for me is that most of these sites state that there is little to no evidence at this point in time that minimalist running can decrease injuries, or they just have a general statement saying there is ample evidence but offer no insight in where to find this research. To me it seems as if the information available at this time is basic generalizations from persons who may not be entirely qualified to make any type of biomechanical scientific claims.

It is true that there are plenty of successful supporters of the barefoot craze. Christopher McDougall is the author of Born to Run, a book about his journey to find answers to why so many runners are prone to injuries. His quest brought him to follow runners across the globe who train barefoot. I have not yet read the book, however I know that through his writings he is not telling people that they should ditch their running shoes and hit the streets naked-footed but rather he is making attempts to educate the running population on how to run softly and run natural. Ken Bob is also another barefoot advocate who offers a bit of insight on his website.

The logical side of my mind tells me that this is a new form of running that has not been around long enough to provide enough depth in scientific evidence to support or refute benefits. When I ran the Chicago Marathon this past fall, I recall seeing many people in Vibram FiveFinger Shoes and even one man running totally barefoot. For myself personally I feel as though this is not an option that I plan on exploring anytime soon as that I live in the city and have a great disparity for the germs of others, and to make it simple...Chicago isn't the cleanest city in America. My way of thinking would inhibit me from any barefoot running enjoyment as I would be worrying about what touched the ground last before my naked skin hit it.

While I am an optimist about this concept, I feel as if I have too many questions. I also wonder why many professionals do not take to this idea. If this training method is so effective, why do the majority of professionals not acknowledge it? My mind cannot also help but wonder how this method will affect the body over larger spans of time. Ten years, twenty years later are these people still going to be able to hit the roads in a minimalist or no shoe? What do they do in the winter? When there is feet of snow and frigid temperatures, how do the feet respond and recover?

I look forward in the coming years to hear the research on this concept, and to see where this running style goes. But until then I will be hitting the roads in my hood fully shoed.

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