One of the latest trends in running is the minimalist movement which is still growing in popularity, but is minimalist running a fad? No, minimalist running is by far, not a fad and here are the reasons why this is so.
The reputation of standard running shoes in preventing injuries is long gone because injury rates are still sky-high in runners who wear them. This is one of the many reasons minimalist running is not a fad, but is here to stay as so many runners consider barefoot-inspired footwear as their go-to running shoe for good performance and for maintenance of strong feet, especially for those with fallen arches.
Even better, minimalist running shoes reduce impact at the hips and knees by improving foot-ankle mechanics during running. This is mostly due to the fact that minimalist running shoes promote a forefoot strike landing, which is much safer on the body.
Is Minimalist Running a Fad?
Overall, one of the greatest benefits of minimalist running shoes is that they make forefoot running easier and safer whereby forefoot running enables the ankle to act as a natural shock-absorber, which is what it was evolutionary designed for in running. In fact, many are unaware that the ankles are the only real defense against high impact forces during running, and are better than shoe cushioning at reducing impact on the knees and hips!
Shoe cushioning, on the other hand, comes up short when it comes to injury prevention because no cushioned running shoe, no matter how much it is enhanced, has been found to beat the absorption capacity of the ankle in forefoot running. The key is however, the only way to boost absorption activity in the ankle is to wear minimalist shoes that mimic being barefoot because they allow the ankle’s natural range of motion.
- Fleming et al., 2015 found that barefoot running, which is the best form of minimalist running, increased ankle range of motion which led to greater ankle plantar flexion in the absorptive phase during stance, which in turn reduced loading on the knees and hips.
Essentially, knee and hip loads were reduced at the expense of increased loads on the ankle during barefoot forefoot running. This seems to be the body’s own impact absorption specialty under barefoot conditions — increased impact absorption in the ankles which in turn deflects impact from the knees and hips, is very common in habitually barefoot runners, suggesting that the ankles were evolutionarily engineered to serve as barriers that cut-off impact from proximal joints of the body.
How Heel Strike Running Hurts the Knees and Hips
Rigid Ankles in Heel Striking Increases Impact on Knees and Hips
In heel strike running, where cushioned running shoes are used, there is limited ankle range of motion, which increases mechanical activity at the knees and hips where impact degradation is much slower and weaker as compared with the ankles in forefoot running under barefoot conditions.
Therefore, impact absorption works best in forefoot running either barefoot or in ultra minimalist shoes because the knees and hips are more stable at touchdown and during stance and the kinematic changes prevent impact from going past the ankle.
More From Run Forefoot:
Fleming et al. Acute response to barefoot running in habitually shod males. Hum Mov Sci, 2015; 42: 27-37.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.