Allowing your feet to move naturally is a beautiful thing. The problem is many of us have been in a cast of a shoe for years, weakening the muscles of our feet, toes, and lower legs.
I wish transitioning were as easy as just putting on minimalist running shoes and immediately feeling the freedom of natural movement. Unfortunately, it takes time and effort to shift out of traditional running shoes to a more minimal, barefoot-inspired shoe. Do it wrong, and you could hurt yourself. Do it right, and you’ll never want to go back to those old high-heeled monstrosities again!
I made the transition to barefoot shoes about 6 years ago because of debilitating hip pain that brought my running to a standstill. I’m happy to say I’ve run injury free ever since, and here are the top 10 tips I learned during my transition. I hope they help you make your transition to minimal shoes enjoyable and injury free as well!
1.) Get to know your feet: When was the last time you looked at your feet, moved your toes around, and walked around barefoot? Probably awhile ago. One of the comments I hear regularly from our customers is that “there is something wrong with my feet: my arches are too high, long toes, flat feet etc.” Familiarize yourself with the shape of your feet, massage your feet to stimulate nerves and muscles, and try walking on different surfaces.
2.) Strengthen your lower legs and core: If you have been running in traditional shoes, you will need time to strengthen your lower legs and core to support new movements. Traditional shoes keep you in a plantar flexed position (toes pointed downward), resulting in a shortened Achilles tendons and calf muscles. So when you start running in minimal shoes, these muscles will become lengthened; resulting in soreness as your body adjusts. To help minimize the soreness, try these exercises 3x a week, 2-3 sets of 20 reps, and be sure to check out my blog on a 20-minute core strengthening exercise for more guidance:
Calf RaisesStair Heel Drops
3.) Check out your form: Form first, then footwear. Running is a skill and just putting on minimal shoes will not change your form. I wish when I transitioned I had a resource like Born to Run running clinics available. Professional barefoot coaches will analyze your foot strike pattern, body positioning, and cadence; all important for natural movement. Remember these important facts of form: Your body should be upright, shoulders low and relaxed, arms at 90 degrees, tilting your hips forward (they are the drivers of running), landing lightly; 80% on your forefoot, 20% on your heels; underneath your body with a turnover of about 180 steps per minute.
4.) Buy multiple pairs of shoes: When I transitioned to minimalist shoes, I was running higher mileage and the thought of going back to a 1-3 mile run MAX was hard for me to do. The solution was to buy a shoe that was zero drop (Vibram FiveFingers Bikila) for my easy runs and gym workouts and a shoe with more cushion and drop (New Balance WT10) to use on my higher mileage and speed workouts. By having two pairs of shoes, I was able to rotate depending on how my body (calves especially) were feeling. Eventually I was able to rule the more cushioned pair out and now I only run in a zero drop shoe. My personal favorite is the Skora Core, a perfect mix of zero drop with some cushioning.
5.) Practice Drills: This goes along with strengthening your lower body, but it also reinforces good running form. My favorite drills were and still are jumping rope and high knees.
6.) Start slow…slower than you think: This information is based on both scientific research and my own personal experience. Start the first couple weeks just walking in your shoes, allowing your body to adjust gradually. During weeks 3-4, as a general rule run about 10% of your normal distance and each week increase by no more than about 10%. The most common reason I hear for injury is doing too much, too fast. Be patient and build slowly. Transitioning can take anywhere from a couple months up to a year.
7.) Listen to your body: Everyone is different. The 10% increase is not a hard rule, and your body will tell your better than me every time. Stop if anything hurts, and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore and tired muscles are normal and it will happen. It means you’re getting stronger!
8.) Talk to people in the know: I’m sure you know a friend, co-worker, someone who is running or using minimal shoes on a regular basis. Ask them about their experiences, both the positive and the negative. It will give you a better understanding of the journey. Born to Run staff members are also always available to answer any questions you may have, and you can always reach us via Twitter or Facebook if you aren’t local to the Seattle area.
9.) Join a running group: Similar to talking to people who are or have transitioned to minimal footwear, is finding the opportunity to go out and run with people in minimal shoes. I always find that being in a group helps reinforce good behaviors that transition (pun intended) into better form when out running by yourself. If you are in the Seattle area, check out the Born to Run Running Club . We pay YOU to run with us. How cool is that?
10.) Enjoy the process: I’ve always enjoyed how connected I feel to my mind, body, and the environment when running, and I’m sure you do too. Now imagine increasing this feeling by being more aware of your surroundings with purposeful movement, increased proprioception and ground feel. The transition takes time, but it’s worth every step.
Don’t forget that this is all about enjoying running again and not letting injuries stand in your way. So listen to your body throughout every step of this process, and have fun. I hope these tips help you safely explore the splendor of natural running.
About the Author: Erin Nielsen is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and ambassador for SKORA Running with a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion. When not writing for Born to Run, Erin is most likely running, reading, or helping others become healthier individuals. Current Shoe Rotation: All SKORA’s (Base, Form, Phase, Core)
If you read my Minimus Hi-Rez Preview back in January, then you should know that I've been really looking forward to getting this shoe at Born to Run.
Well, we finally received our shipment of the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez on April 15th, and since then I've been able to log about 75 road miles in varying weather conditions. Seriously...we've had everything from 87 degree weather to cold rain, hail and sleet in Seattle this Spring. Craziness!
So what's the verdict on the Hi-Rez?
In January, I said that I believed the Minimus Hi-Rez would be the most minimal running shoe we would see in 2013. That statement certainly still rings true.
And for you barefoot running enthusiasts out there who don't like toe shoes but have been waiting for a minimalist shoe that provides maximum ground feel with minimal protection for your feet, let me simply say that the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez won't disappoint. They feel amazing to run in!
As a follow up on the Pros and Cons I mentioned in my initial preview, I'd like to once again quickly touch upon the characteristics that stood out to me the most now that I've put some decent mileage on the Minimus Hi-Rez.
If you're not a fan of toe shoes but want the most barefoot-like running shoe for those days when you choose to not go completely unshod, the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez is for you. Every minimalist running enthusiast should have a chance to experience what these feel like on a run. Once I started running in them, I seriously didn't want to stop.
Newbies beware though, because I can totally imagine runners sustaining injuries in the Hi-Rez if they're not adequately prepared to run in such a minimalist shoe. I've been running 50+ mile weeks almost strictly in zero-drop minimalist shoes for over a year, and I still experienced some calf soreness after an 8-mile run in the Hi-Rez. So take it easy, and make sure you've got your barefoot running form really dialed in before hitting it hard in the Minimus Hi-Rez.
I'm looking forward to spending several weeks in England again this coming June. I will be setting out to primarily accomplish three things:
On June 8th I will run a relay leg in one of the most awesome trail runs in England, the Endurancelife Classic Quarter Ultra Marathon in Cornwall. The Classic Quarter follows 44 miles of single track trails along the famous SW Coast Path with innumerable climbs and descents starting at the most southernly point of mainland England, Lizard Point, and ending at the most westerly point, Lands End. A most amazing event.
Last year I ran the final leg and found myself mesmerized by the sheer, rugged beauty of the English coastline. I stopped again and again to take amazing photos of the most delectable vistas. If you haven't heard of this race before, it's definitely one I recommend adding to your hit list!
Me during my leg of last year's Classic Quarter.
From June 22nd to the 23rd, you will find me speaking at the 2013 Barefoot Connections Convention organized by Matt Wallden of Primal Lifestyle. I was a presenter last year at the inaugural event. It was held at London's Natural History Museum and proved to be a huge success. We brought together experts, scientists, researchers and barefoot practitioners from all over the world to talk about our most primal human vehicle, the human foot, and the marvelous skill at which we have learned to use it, becoming one of the most successful animals in history despite our apparent vulnerability. Or, perhaps because of it?
One of my favorite speakers was Louis Liebenberg of South Africa, author of The Art of Tracking: the Origins of Science (a free downloadable version of his book is available on his site Cybertracker.org). Louis pops up in the book "Born to Run" because he is one of the few westerners to have participated in a "persistence hunt" in the desert with the San people of the Kalahari. His insight into primal human behavior and skills is incredible.
By studying the tracking and hunting methods of the San, Louis came up with a fascinating theory that connects running and tracking and brain growth to the success of early humans, our direct ancestors. According to my understanding of Liebenberg, our ability to track animals using visual cues along with the power to empathetically "imagine" what an animal being tracked will do next was a skill new to humans.
Our ability to sweat and breath freely while running made us the supreme hunter allowing us to hunt large animals before the invention of projectile weapons, simply by forcing a persistently chased animal to overheat in the midday sun. Heat, feet and brain power were harnessed to eat meat: fresh, nutrient dense food not regularly available to our earlier human ancestors, a key to our survival and the reason we are the only great ape that can run long distances. According to Liebenberg, we evolved as thinking, tracking, running animals unique in the animal kingdom. Fascinating stuff!
Louis and I in front of Charles Darwin's House
Unlike last year's conference, which was held for one afternoon in the middle of London at a famous museum, this year's Barefoot Connections Convention will be a two-day event held in the beautiful English countryside and will be "far more applied, practical & interactive." The list of expert presenters this year also includes Dr. Mark Cucazzella, a well-known US-based expert on barefoot running, training and performance. And presenters this year will be focusing on the practical application of barefoot fitness and potential, as we will have the perfect outdoor setting in which to work.
At this year's conference, I hope to also demonstrate the Solowheel as a new form of a human-speed recreational transportation device best suited for upright apes. I had the opportunity to share it for the first time at this year's Primal Con in California, and it was well received by attendees. In my humble opinion, it is the motorized vehicle analog of Vibram FiveFingers, as profoundly revolutionary, yet obvious once understood. Naturally, I will also share my insights on barefoot running and my fascination with the history of sandals and sandal use among humans. It's going to be a steller event, so join us if you can!
Then, on June 23, my final day in England will culminate with a full-moon Lunar Monkey run which will mark the official launch of LUNA Sandals in the UK. As many of you know, LUNA Sandals is the company that I unofficially started in 2006 after learning how to make and wear huaraches sandals from Manuel Luna down in the Copper Canyons. Like a surfer making surfboards, I have sought to evolve sandals through trial and error in order to meet the needs of 21st century primates.
With co-founders Scott & Bookis Smuin, I moved from my garage to the "Factory" on Capitol Hill in Seattle in 2010. Since then, LUNA has singlehandedly jump-started the age-old tradition of making minimalist adventure sandals by hand, and through hard work and constant vigilance we are continually improving on a classic piece of footwear. I'm proud to say that LUNAS have now become a worldwide brand, and the UK will soon enter the list of countries selling LUNAS in retail shops. Of course, LUNAS can always be ordered online here at Born to Run too, as we ship to "Lunatics" all over the world on a daily basis.
This is going to be an amazing trip back to England, and I'm truly looking forward to all the people I will meet and the experiences we will share. Hope to see you out there on the trails!
Have you found that you prefer a generous amount of cushion with a low-drop running shoe? If you do, and you haven’t yet heard of Altra running shoes, then welcome to your new happy place!
The Altra Intuition 1.5 is the perfect choice for women who are looking for a more cushioned running shoe that still promotes good barefoot running form. As with all Altra shoes, the platform from heel to forefoot is level with the ground (what Altra refers to as ZeroDrop), thus encouraging natural posture, alignment, and an improved foot-strike.
In addition, Altra’s unique foot-shaped design allows your toes the opportunity to spread out and grip the ground for improved balance, stability, and a more natural ride. And finally, while traditional running shoe foam compresses 70-90%, Altra’s Abound technology compresses 2-3 times less and ensures that the Altra Intuition 1.5 will provide your feet with enough comfort to take you as far as you want to run.
But before I get into more specifics regarding the pros and cons of the Altra Intuition 1.5, here are some of the most important manufacturer specs you should consider:
In general, I have always been a fan of less-cushioned running shoes, which is primarily why I’ve chosen to run in Vibram FiveFingers for many years. For whatever reason, I simply ignored anything out there that provided more cushion for the feet.
That is until I decided to finally try on the Altra Intuition 1.5. Right after putting my foot into this shoe, it felt amazing. It fit my foot so well, and I found that I actually really enjoyed the feeling of running in a zero-drop shoe with more cushion. My first impression was: “These shoes are unreal”, and it was hard to believe that they could even be considered by some to be a “barefoot” shoe!
Then, I did around 6 miles for my first run, and every minute of it felt awesome. The zero-drop platform helped me stay true to my barefoot-inspired running form, while I also felt as though I could run the entire day away with the extra cushion. I probably would have if I only had the time! Since running in the Altra Intuition 1.5 over the past three weeks, I have taken them on a few runs exceeding 20 miles and have had even better experiences with them. In fact, I’ve noticed that these shoes seem to increase in comfort as I break them in.
So far, I can say that I’ve have had an awesome experience with Altra Intuition 1.5, and I believe that they will be a new staple in my running shoe collection. I just wish I had given them a chance a long time ago!
If you’re ready to order online and give the Altra Intuition 1.5 a chance yourself, we suggest sizing up ½ size as they tend to run a bit on the small side. Support Born to Run and order for $99 with free shipping in the United States!
Don’t know what to get your mom for Mother's Day? Well, you could always buy her some sweet barefoot running shoes, but if you're local to the Puget Sound, how about signing her up for one of our favorite local Mother’s Day races?
Trust us— she’ll love it! Whether she's a weekend walker or an experienced marathoner, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are the best Mother's Day races in the area to check out:
5K: 9am start
Kid’s 1-mile race: 8:30am
Location: Magnuson Park
Race Day Registration Fee: $45
"Run Like A Mother" not only has the most creative race name, but it also features amazing views of Mt. Rainer on the 5k course. The course is a relatively flat loop around Magnuson Park, with most of the loop meandering along scenic Lake Washington. Have little ones? This race also has a timed 1-mile kid's race. There will be one aid station as well as refreshments at the finish line. For more details visit: runlikeamotherrace.com
5K: 9am start
Location: Seward Park
Registration Fee: FREE!!! Doesn't get any better than that!
Relax with this no-pressure run at Seward Park, as this is an untimed and FREE 5k fun run/walk! The race is sponsored by the University of Washington Center for Women’s Lifetime Fitness and Sports Medicine, and the course is simply an out and back along the coast of the Seward Park.
5K: 9am start
Location: Marymoor Park
Kid's Race: Yes!
Race Registration Fee: Adults: $40, Children(13-17): $20, Team: $120
This is a great race for kids and moms! Flowers are even available for kids to make bouquets for their moms during the race. After the run, cupcakes and other fun treats will be available for an after party. Mom’s Day 5K will also raffle off a variety of fun prizes. The race starts at the Velodrome Shelter in Marymoor Park, and the course follows the beautiful Lake Sammamish trail, which is a mix of paved path and gravel. Part of the proceeds from the race will be given to Cocoon House, a non-profit organization supporting homeless youth. For more details visit: http://www.roadracerunner.com
1/2 Marathon: 7:30am start
5K: 8am start
Location: Kirkland, Juanita Beach Park
Kid's Race: 10am Race
Registration Fee: $75, Free Kids Dash
This half has hills! Challenge your mom to a half marathon or 5k run/walk along Lake Washington. The half marathon is a loop that starts and finishes in Juanita Beach Park, where the last 5 miles will be along the waterfront. The Kirkland half will also provide 5 water stations so your mom will surely be hydrated! After the race, 5K and half awards will be given out at Juanita Beach Park where you can enjoy fun events, food, plus more than 25 exhibitor booths. For more details visit: http://www.promotionevents.com/Kirkland/index.htm
As you can see, there are a lot of great last-minute choices for you and your mom to choose from, so get out there and have a fun and active Mother’s Day!
Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Born to Run!