Fix Your Running Mechanics: 5 Steps towards Strong Running
Most people have probably heard about the class action lawsuit against the vibram five finger shoes. Upon releasing them, they claimed that these shoes would improve posture, strengthen muscles and reduce injuries, resulting in a lawsuit that ended in a settlement of 3.75 million dollars. They failed to back up their claim.. I get it.
What they failed to make clear, is that there is something called adaptation that must occur in order for those claims to prove true. One must transition into any new demand or movement pattern that they expose their body to, not simply strap on a new shoe with no support after years of wearing stiff shoes that stabilize your body, forcing the muscles in your foot and ankle to atrophy.
I have used minimalist shoes ever since I learned to change my running mechanics and it has changed my life for the better. I transitioned into them slowly and progressively, and listened to my body through the whole journey. Now I run only in shoes with little to no support, and my knees thank me for it!
So, before you go setting flame to your minimus shoes and opt for a big clunky running shoe, take the time to adapt! Here are 5 things you can do to reap the benefits of running in a barefoot shoe:
1. Balance work
with no shoes on, stand on one foot, trying to lift the inside arch of your foot by gripping into the floor with your toes and pushing the knee outwards. Hinge at the hip keeping a neutral spine and a tight core, and reach forward. Keep bending as far as you can until your torso reaches parallel with the floor and then return, keeping most of the weight in your heel and outer edge of the foot.
Complete 15 reps on each leg, repeat 3 times. Do this at least once a week along with any other exercise that challenges your balance
This will strengthen the stabilizer muscles that don’t work in conventional, high support shoes.
2. Run up hills
No matter what shoe you are in, when you are on an incline, you will default to landing on the front of your foot with every step. This is the idea when running in a barefoot shoe – moving from a heel strike to a mid-front foot strike. Once you can get used to this, find hills with less depth and practice still landing on the mid- to front-foot. But before you run flat, something else has to change about your mechanics
3. Shorten your stride
When you transition into landing on the fronts of your foot, you want your foot to land right under your centre of mass with every step, this will immediately prompt you to land in a better position. When you heel strike (hit the floor heel first), you will notice that your foot hits the floor in front of you. When you speed up while forefoot planting, your stride should get faster, not longer. You will notice that you won’t feel like you are hitting the pavement quite so hard anymore.
4. Progress mindfully
When I first started practicing forefoot running, my calves, shins and ankles really felt it. As soon as they started to burn, I would either default to my old way of running (given I was not in a minimus shoe) or take it right down to a walk until I felt ready to pick up my pace again. Over time, I was able to endure more due to my muscles adapting and getting stronger
5. Change up your shoes
As you transition, it is important to alternate running in your old shoes and your minimus shoes so that you do not overtrain the same muscles. Eventually, you can run in minimus shoes only, but until you feel strong and efficient with your new running mechanics, change your shoes up. It is also a good idea to buy a shoe that has less support than you have now, but is not quite a minimus shoe so that you can allow your body the time to slowly develop the muscles needed to run effectively in little to no support.
It is easy to point a finger and blame a company for your lack of body awareness. Remember, people are out to make money and will tell you what you want to hear to make a dollar. It is YOUR responsibility to take control of products you use. Just the same as food commercials that tell you about all the whole grain goodness, or high fibre in their food. It is YOUR responsibility to notice that there are toxic chemicals in those very foods.
Be aware, listen to your body, and keep moving