I love my Hoka “clown shoes” (that’s what my husband calls ’em.) They are ugly as sin, but my half artificial knee seems to like them. My physical therapists aren’t crazy about them, and there is a new study looking at runners that wear minimalist running shoes with out all the cushion of the Hoka that says they may be right.
Hanna Rice, PhD, who works at Harvard Running Center (who knew Harvard had a running center?), and pals studied 28 runners. (Click here to read the article.) They wore either regular running shoes or “minimalist” running shoes. As you may know, for a while barefoot running in glove like “shoes” was the rage , but went out of favor because of injuries. Dr. Rice studied runners stride and noted whether they landed on their heels (“rear foot strike”) or on the front of their foot (“fore foot strike.”) She then had them run in a usual running shoe (Nike Air Pegasus) and looked at how much force occurred to the leg when runners ran with a heel strike or a fore foot strike. She then had the runners wear a “minimalist” shoe and looked at the total force that the leg received.
In the usual cushioned shoe, the leg received the same force whether the runner used a fore foot strike or a heel strike. This means the shoe equalized the force no matter what type of strike the runner used. However, when she looked at runners wearing the “minimalist” shoe, those with a forefoot strike encountered lower total force to the leg than the when wearing the usual shoe.
So what do we take away from this? Well, a couple of things before we all run out and buy some inov-8 TM BARE–X–200 shoes. First, this was a small study, only 29 people, with just seven women. Second, the key was that if the runner already had a forefoot strike, they would encounter less force when using a minimalist shoe. However, those with a rear foot strike did not experience lower forces when running in a minimalist shoe. Lastly, we are assuming that lower force transmitted to the leg leads to less injuries.
- Get your gait analyzed. If you have a forefoot strike, using the minimalist shoe could decrease injuries.
- If you have a rear foot strike, you would have to change your running style to a forefoot strike for this to have any benefit. Otherwise, you will likely encounter more injuries if you use the minimalist shoe.
- If you do change to minimalist shoes, do so gradually and with guidance. (I.e. with a coach!)
Let me know if you try them out.