Categorized | New to Minimalism?

Got a Minimalist Running Shoe Question? –Let Jim Hixson (“Voice from the Running Shoe Store Floor”) Answer It!

Posted on 06 October 2012

Wide Feet

Question: I ask this as someone with ridiculously wide feet.  I have been a barefoot runner for 4 years now, and very much enjoy going naked, but I have become intensely interested in some more rugged, ultra marathons where having a foot covering will be important.  I’ve considered simply using huarache style sandals, but I would like to see if there are any fully covered options that will work.So far I have tried New Balance, Merrell and Vivo Barefoot.  NB and Merrell even in their widest offerings are vastly too narrow.  Vivos work ok (Breatho Trail, specifically), but my metatarsal still hangs off the outside edge of the soles.

Jim Hixson:  Unfortunately there aren’t as many choices for barefoot runners when it comes to shoes that will give protection and not much more.  You’ve already tried on the Merrell Trail Glove in a wide, so the option would be to go up a size in length in the wide width.  That’s not an optimal solution, but could work.  I’m not sure which New Balance trail shoe you tried, but the one that would be most likely to work would be the MT110 in an EE.  If you can find an MT101 in EE there would be even more width, but they are probably out-of-stock, since that shoe was discontinued last year. Although Altra does not make the Instinct in a an ample width, all of that company’s models have a wide toe box and are worth trying.  The Instinct comes with a choice of two (3mm and 5mm) insoles, but you don’t have to use them and without there is a significant difference in room.  Another option is to try the Vibram FiveFingers Trek LS, their lace-up version of their first trail model.

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Kid Stuff

Question: At my children’s suggestion, I bought a pair of Merrell Pace Glove barefoot shoes. I am 66, an avid walker/hiker, and haven’t worn a pair of high heels for a decade. Yesterday, I wore my Merrells for about 5 hours walking around NYC. When I returned home, I could barely stand up. The pain in my lower back, hips,feet and my calves was terrible. I’m afraid to put them on again. Have you advice? Thank you.

Merrell Women's Pace Glove

JH: Don’t worry, your kids are still smart and have given you good advice! But if you’re new to minimal shoes your body will need time to make the transition and that time can vary depending upon individual differences.  Wearing shoes makes a person dependent upon the cushioning of the shoe and reduces the responsiveness, strength, and balance of the foot.  By wearing the Merrell Pace Glove consistently but sparingly your body will be able to make the gradual adaptations necessary to moving naturally with minimal shoes while avoiding injury.  Everybody’s goal should be to wear a zero drop flexible shoe, since this allows the body to be in its natural anatomical position, resulting in more efficiency, fewer injury, and better performance.

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Live Free or Try

Question: Can you recommend a minimal/transitional shoe that has a very soft back/heel counter like  the Nike Free?  I love this shoe for my chronic Achilles tendonosis and was wondering if there is another similarly constructed heel counter out there…no irritation whatsoever on the insertion point in the Frees but, at my age (53) I thought i may need a bit more sole support forlonger runs (over 10K).

JH: I’ll rely upon this quote by Winston Churchill for the advice that most makers of minimal shoes try to follow: “All the great things are simple”  Most truly minimal shoes have a soft heel counter.  The Nike Free actually has a 4mm-8mm heel drop, depending on the model, so by going to a shoe like the Merrell Road Glove or Bare Access, New Balance Minimus MR00, Altra Samson, or Skechers GOBionic you will have the advantages of a light, flexible shoe with zero drop that retain the flexibility of the Frees.

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Plantar F.

Question: I am suffering from plantar fasciitis/Achilles tendinitis type symptoms. These symptoms have presented for nearly 9-12 months. After rest (minimal running) and an attempt at minimal drop shoes, last month I went to a podiatrist who prescribed orthotics, night boot, and Relafen.

JH: This is the classic prescription  or recommendation by most, but not all, podiatrists. And why is that so? Perhaps  to answer that question, it’s best to look to Albert Einstein’s who once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. But in the case of most podiatrists they’re simply repeating what they were taught early in their careers and never questioned. Rational research will reveal some surprising information. Plantar fasciitis is caused by wearing supportive shoes that allow the foot to become week, unbalanced, and less responsive than is required to move without continued support and increased susceptibility to injury. The goal then is to begin wearing non-supportive shoes. It’s a gradual process, so don’t rush it; but your feet will naturally get stronger over time. Go here to read more.

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Got a shoe or shoe-related question for Jim, please submit it in the comments section below or email the Natural Running Center here.

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19 Responses to “Got a Minimalist Running Shoe Question? –Let Jim Hixson (“Voice from the Running Shoe Store Floor”) Answer It!”

  1. SteveL says:

    Question on transition: When I started this journey to minimal footwear I started out in the Saucony Kinvara 3 for the road and the Merrell Mix Master 2 for the trails. After about 250 miles on the Kinvara I decided it was time for the next step and am now in the New Balance MR10.

    I was at the Minimalist store the other day getting zero drop casual shoes for work and just out and about. I noticed they were trying to sell people brand new to minimalist running the New Balance Minimalist 10 Trail shoes for trail and road running.

    My question is that to much of a change for most people to make right off the bat? I have friends who I run with that are interested in making the transition but I don’t want them to get hurt in the process.

  2. Richard says:

    Regarding the question on wide feet, I too have a wide foot and have been very happy with my Altra Adam shoes. They have a roomy toe box. You might want to try on a pair.

  3. Debbie Greaves says:

    Another question re shoes/injury. I have slowly built up my long run to about 12 miles and I am now doing 40 miles per week. I wear the merrell pace glove or the inov-8 baregrip. I have been patient and transitioned slowly and all is well except 1 thing. I have symptoms in my right foot (by my 4th toe) similar to a neuroma which happens inconsistently. I can do my long run some days with no issues and then on others it happens within a mile. I have seen a physio who can’t recreate the symptoms on the couch. My right foot turns out naturally and I think I have some tibial torsion. I don’t think its the shoes or my transition rate but wondered instead if it can be a lack of dorsiflexion in my right ankle or tight hip flexors causing me to roll my foot too much and so irritate the nerve – I know you can’t diagnose from this but would these be areas that you would investigate? My job means I spend all day barefeet and I also wear the paceglove as my everyday shoe and sometimes I get the burning pain when not running. The issue has become more painful and more frequent since changing to minimalist shoes but is this just highlighting a biomechanical fault? Or am I in the wrong shoes?
    Any help pointing me in a direction to get relief of this would be great – I don’t want to put big chunky shoes on again!
    Thank you

  4. SteveL says:

    Debbie: check out the Sock-doc.com site for this injury

  5. leland says:

    i’ve been running in nike free 3.0 for about 6 months and no longer experience back pain after my 3-4 mile runs. i think i’m running with pretty good form but don’t really know. i’m wondering what benefits there would be to switching to a zero drop shoe or if i should just stick with what seems to be working. when i jogged around the store in a pair of merrell trail gloves, they felt narrow to me

  6. George says:

    I too have wide feet and a flexible arch (looks normal but goes completely flat as soon as I stand on it). Previous visits to my podiatrist have result in prescriptions for custom arch supports, but they just make things feel worse. I have always struggled as a runner, but need to keep try to improve as I am in the military. I have also tried to schedule a gait analysis, but it is going to take months to get in with the exercise physiologists. In general, are minimalist shoes appropriate for a wide foot and flexible arch. If so, what is a good shoe to start the transition.

  7. Laurence says:

    A question on minimalist running. I have never worn shoes in the house for over 20 years, walk barefoot outside occasionally, and wear flat canvas shoes. After a long break I start running again I loved the idea of minimal running shoes.

    Wearing NB MT110 I started slowly, walk running etc and progressed to 4 miles a couple of times a week. But I started to get sore ankles after a few months. I stopped and started again and now have a slight pain in posterior tibula (behind ankle bone and slightly up leg).

    I have a late over-pronatation problem after landing my forefoot (RL) and I’m sure this is the problem. I’m following excerises to correct any form issues and was recently told to stop using minimalist shoes after having gait analysis, but I’m reluctant to do so.

    I knew it’s an impossible question, but I need to know if I really do need to switch to a horrible bulky shoe or continue with minimalist running carefully.

  8. SteveL says:

    I am in minimalist shoes but I also had a pair of the NB MT110s but had to give them up. My ankles started hurting after every run. I’ve read of one other guy who had the same problem and others who got different pains from them. I just gave them away and switched to the Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Merrell Mix Master 2. I’m out of the Kinvara now and in the NB Minimus 10 Road shoe and love them both.

  9. eva says:

    I started to transition into minimal shoes about two months ago (thank you natural running!), I love it and it has allowed me to get rid of a few niggles. I think I’m doing well as I can run about 10 miles without problems, but my average speed has decreased by about ½ mile/hour. This worries me! Is this normal during a transition phase? If not, what can I do about it?

    • MarkC says:

      Eva,

      do not worry about speed. when learning new skill keep intensity low to perfect form. speed will come. see what your HR is…that is a good indicator of effort. speed at low HR is the goal….aerobic efficiency.

      Mark

  10. eva says:

    Thank you, Marc.
    Happy New year to you and the team. Thank you again for such a great site.

    Eva

  11. Debbie says:

    I have recently started researching minimalism and reading this site, and all of this makes great sense to me. I ran in high school and college, then off and on over the succeeding years. The only injury I had was stress fractures (both femurs) in high school. That is, until about three years ago. I had been slowly working my way back to 30 minutes of running every other day. At that point, I developed plantars fasciitis to the point where I could barely hobble across a room. I tried the sock, ice, NSAIDs, iontophoresis, dry needling, taping, and just about anything I could find. I started wearing Birkenstocks, and a sports med doc told me that it would probably resolve itself in 12 months. And it did, almost exactly. At that point, I went to a running store and was videoed on a treadmill. I have very high arches, so I’ve always worn a neutral shoe–was almost exclusively New Balance from 1981 to 2008. But they told me I was pronating and put me in an Asics GT 2160 stability shoe with arch support insoles. That was two years ago, and I’ve slowly been trying in fits and starts to get back to running, but I’m still having pain issues. My calves tighten up to the point where I don’t feel I can flex (when I was extremely fit as a runner, this always happened when I needed new shoes). Now I’m developing some ITB issues in my left leg. I can’t seem to get strong enough, and at nearly 50 am beginning to wonder if my body isn’t meant to run anymore. Reading this site gives me hope, but I’m wondering if there’s any issue with having very high arches and minimalist running shoes? Thank you!
    Debbie

    • MarkC says:

      thanks Debbie and keep figuring it out in your own body. Jay Dicharry’s book Runner Anatomy might help you self assess a bit better too. high arches are not a bad thing and do not suggest you need arch support or more cushion. having a good practitioner evaluate you is a good step. Mark

      • tom says:

        I have found taping for PF highly effective. Try using Lukotape P, which is incredibly strong.

        Tape like figure 2 in this .pdf. Don’t worry about the other things — just tape it like that. If you use trainer tape, tape it 2-3 times. Lukotape, just once.

        http://www.taping.hk/img/tape%20plantar%20rigid%20tape.pdf

        I have made the transition from heavy shoes with a motion control insert into hauraches, thin, flexible sandals. http://www.invisibleshoe.com. It’s been great for me. The PF is gone along with all my other problems. Good luck.

  12. erin says:

    Hi, I am new to minimalist running and just getting back into running in general. I switched to merrels and didn’t start out as gradually as I found out I should have. Well, one of my feet started hurting on the outside so I switched back to the shoes I used to run in. It was awkward trying to run in my old shoes. Now my ankles and feet are so swollen and hurt to walk. What did I do and what should I do about it? I really want to keep running in my barefoot shoes but now I am not sure if they are for me. Any help would be great thanks!

  13. Jim Hixson says:

    There are four major changes that occur during the transition from running int traditional shoes to running in minimal shoes. The first two are obvious: the change from using the calf muscles only concentrically (pushing off) to using them both eccentrically (the same muscles lengthening as they provide the initial absorption of shock) and eccentrically. Even if you are running with a forefoot strike in a traditional shoe, you will have to become accustomed to the increased range of motion required when running in a flat shoe. The third change involves the need to eradicate the old muscle memory that has developed from running with poor form, which is often heel first. Traditional running shoes have excessive cushioning in the heel because humans have not evolved to run heel first. This cushioning prevents the body from receiving the negative feedback from running improperly, information that is essential to correcting poor form. The fourth change involves the increased demands placed upon the sense receptors of the sole of the foot. As a result of wearing traditionally cushioned shoes these receptors have lost the ability to receive and process information fast enough to run with thinly soled shoes or to run barefoot. This ability can be regained, but time and patience are required.

  14. Nick says:

    Hi there Jim,

    I hear mixed results regarding this question, so I’d like to hear yours!

    I have extremely flat feet, virtually no arch at all… It’s really that bad…

    But I do run Vivo’s on trail regularly and am a fit runner.

    Is barefoot running a bad idea for my feet?
    What should I do from now on? How should I continue?

    Thanks,
    Nick

  15. Junior says:

    I hope you are still able to answer questions. I have flat, wide feet and have just been running with minimal shoes for about a year now. My first minimalist shoe was the Saucony Type A5′s. For the most part they worked pretty well, and my furthest run in them was about 10 miles before the traction began to peel off from the sole. And I wasn’t able to fix them because I had to rip the part that started to peel off in order to finish my run. I did have some pain from them in the bottom and sides of my feet.

    For my next shoe, I decided to try out the Nike Free 3.0 (version 5′s) since they had the same 4.0mm heel drop, and thought that the extra cushioning would help with the slight pain in my feet. After completing a 9.5 run in them, my feet were in extreme pain (especially the sides). I think the reason why they were so painful is because the 3.0 v5′s are a bootie type shoe and due to the compression of the bootie, it caused the sides of my feet to be in extreme pain.

    Do you have any recommendations of a minimalist road running shoe that would be good for flat and wide feet? I’m also 5’3″ and weigh about 155 lbs, so I have a muscular build also.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.


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