Video: Runners, Are You Ready to Go Minimal?

Posted on 11 April 2012

The April 2012 issue of Running Times, in part, was an homage to a bygone era…the late  70′s when shoes were flat, thin-soled, and non-bulky. Moreover, the cover recreated the iconic image and cover pose of Jim Fixx’s “The Complete Book of Running,” which came out in 1977 and eventually sold over one million copies. Bashfully, I admit– those are my weathered-looking 45-year-old legs on the magazine cover. I am running in the same footwear as Fixx’s–  a 1968 Onitzuka Tiger. His were red; mine blue.

The issue also featured an article by both me and Jay Dicharry, who runs the UVA SPEED Lab, that is designed to help any runner make a safer transition to better running form as well as reduce the amount of shoe he or she needs. With just several simple tests and corrective exercises, we describe how or what you can to do to self-assess your own body, and most critically, whether you are “Ready for Minimal”. For example,  one self-test is called “Isolating the Big Toe.”

Both the article and video feature simple self-tests to assess your readiness for minimal and how to improve your foot strength, flexibility, sensitivity and skill.

Don’t despair even if you do not pass all the self-assessments. Start slow and with progression, you will adapt– improving your foot strength, flexibility, sensitivity and skill. This excellent tutorial video by Jay Dicharry, Joel Wolpert, and triathlete Nicole Kelliher, provides three simple self -assessments for minimal running. — Dr. Mark

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11 Responses to “Video: Runners, Are You Ready to Go Minimal?”

  1. anna weltman says:

    So glad that more and more good information is coming out to the public.
    I’m’ really pleased to see a video that explains things and actually addresses the FOOT, and the mechanics behind its functioning. This has been very helpful for those who are interested in barefoot and minimalist sport.

    I would like to add that I can recommend yoga as a very good strengthener of foot and toe functionality. Work on lifting your toes off the floor and separating them – then placing them back down on the floor. This will help you to activate all of the ligaments that surround each toe, pull it up, push it down, and hold it stable from side to side.

    Surfing or standing on any moving and unstable surface increases your balance and proprioception.

    Walk in the deepest sand you can find, barefoot and let your feet sink in. Great for the feet, legs, hips and balance.

    Like the rest of our wonderful and amazing bodies, our feet are built in a way that is suitable to their function. They do not require orthotics, insoles, cushioning, or ‘support’. There are actually three arches in the foot, and each one has a purpose.

    HKeep bringing on the continuing education about this subject!!

  2. Angus Atkins-Trimnell says:

    Jay and Mark,

    Another excellent presentation. Very clear and helpful.

    I have doing the self assessments and exercises and had a question. In the toe yoga, is it a bad sign if when I lift my big toes they move inward (over the lesser toes) as they move up? I’m having a hard time moving them straight up.

    Thanks for any input.

    Sincerely,

    Angus Atkins-Trimnell

  3. Jim says:

    I get a little nervous when I read “reduce the amount of shoe he or she needs”. We know some people are getting injured by running with bad form in minimalist shoes. From both my reading and my own experience, I prefer the approach recommended in “Run Barefoot Run Healthy”, i.e., start your transition by running absolutely bare skin on pavement. Your sensitive feet will teach you good form within just 2 or 3 steps, and won’t let you overtrain either. Covering up your feet at this stage just makes it easier to fool them and injure yourself. Bare skin on pavement will force you to start slow, of course, but will help you to start correctly. And it won’t cost any money at all! Later you can use some minimalist shoes for when the trails are just too rough, but only after you’re sure you won’t relapse into bad form.

    http://www.amazon.com/Run-Barefoot-Healthy-Less-Runners/dp/0983035407/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339664819&sr=1-1&keywords=run+barefoot+run+healthy

    • MarkC says:

      Jim,

      great thoughts here and if a runner was 100% commited to a very slow adaptation and greatly reducing running i agree. most do not want to reduce running greatly though. a lot depends on the status of the “spring”….that is the entire mechanism in the foot and leg to mitigate force. if this is intact the transition is easy. if not, there is a LOT of retraining to teach the body how to control the landing when one is used to a shoe.

      In our store we do it both ways. if one is hurt we often do the ctl-alt-dlt approach and ditch the shoes. start REALLY SLOW. we give lots of supplemental work also.

      for the well runner a gradual progress is best with the most important thing being the gait training, not the shoe.

      thanks for the comment!

      Mark

    • MarkC says:

      Jim,
      great thoughts here and if a runner was 100% commited to a very slow adaptation and greatly reducing running i agree. most do not want to reduce running greatly though. a lot depends on the status of the “spring”….that is the entire mechanism in the foot and leg to mitigate force. if this is intact the transition is easy. if not, there is a LOT of retraining to teach the body how to control the landing when one is used to a shoe.

      In our store we do it both ways. if one is hurt we often do the ctl-alt-dlt approach and ditch the shoes. start REALLY SLOW. we give lots of supplemental work also.

      for the well runner a gradual progress is best with the most important thing being the gait training, not the shoe.

      thanks for the comment!

      Mark

  4. Jose says:

    I have very bad knock knees. I have been running recently with a shoe that has a 3 mm drop. In th past I was using a shoe with a lot of pronation control. Since I was told that I pronate excessively. With either shoe I still experience the same pain on the lateral part of my ankle. What can I do to minimize the pain?

  5. Rachel says:

    Hello!!

    I have just started the ‘transition’ into barefoot Merrell shoes. I’ve been actively running for a year (in traditional running shoes) and have worked up to 3 miles, where I have been intentionally trying to not heel strike, but land on my midfoot. I didn’t know anything about transitioning properly into the barefoot ‘style’ of running until a few days after I got my Merrells, so I had already done my regular runs and workouts in the shoes for that first week. Now my right calf has sporadic moments of pain (sometimes to the point where I am limping :/).

    But to be sure, the first day I ran in the Merrells, I woke up that morning with my calf already hurting so I know it’s not FROM these new shoes, but since I was already trying to run on my toes/midpoint of foot in my old Asics, could I have been overcompensating? Now I fear I’ve made it worse? Or could a good stretch before and after help?

    I regularly do yoga and pilates, and have strong core balance, and strong feet (according to the video). I do need to work on the big toe exercises (thank you for the video!! very helpful!) but even with that, can I really not run yet in my Merrells? Should I be walking? Calf hurts even when walking sometimes. I wonder how long to ‘transition’ because I really don’t want to give up my runs…except I will if I’m hurting myself :(

    Sorry for all the 20?s but I did not even know this world of running existed until a few months ago when I read Born to Run, and since I’m such a newbie at running still…I don’t even have a clue who to ask (I have no idea if there are any ‘running doctors’ locally who would advocate barefoot running?? So I thought I’d ask away. Thanks in advance for any suggestions/tips :) I am a young mom who wants to stay fit/active, and don’t need to run marathons, just want to be able to run well into my old age, so I don’t need to ruin my feet now!!

    Thanks,
    Rachel

    • MarkC says:

      Rachel,

      thanks…you are learning and will become your own best coach. do some mobility work with calves as described in article and video. also some light drills working elasticity like jump rope and easy box jumps.

      we have a nice form video in the “videos” section too.

      Best

      Mark

  6. Mike says:

    One thing I do not understand is why this video recommends the stretching to gain flexibility in the ankle, but there are other articles and videos on this site and the sock doc site that say do not stretch!

    What gives?

  7. Jeff says:

    I have the same question as Mike. Jay Dicharry says stretch, sock-doc and others say, DON’T STRETCH. What are your thoughts?


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