Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Minimalist Shoes for Running, CrossFit, even Work

New Balance 101's. Going back to the basics

By now you should know realize that a lot of running injuries are related to the type of shoe runners wear. Big, soft, cushion-y heel = heel striking = impact on the knees = "I have knee problems and can't run even though I'm 35 and should be perfectly healthy." In "What Shoes Should I Wear?" I explain why having a minimalist shoe helps maintain proper posture and form while running, thereby decreasing injury. Yes, even for a marathon it is ok to wear shoes with little cushioning.  

This is a link for a pretty darn comprehensive and up to date list of minimalist shoes. It's a very thorough list with brand names that you will recognize and ones that you won't. It also lists data such as weight, cost, and "drop." The drop refers to the height of the heel vs. the height of the toe off the ground. If it's a big drop (greater than 10mm), those refer to the traditional running shoe with lots of cushioning. Medium drops are around 4-8mm and low drops are below 4mm or even 0mm. Although there has been supply for minimalist shoes from Vibram and Terra Plana, there is now a huge surge of "barefoot running" shoes or "zero drop" shoes. Merrell, New Balance, Inov-8, and even Fila have been pushing their minimalist shoes and with spring here, runners are looking for new gear. 

 Inov-8 Road X 222

Although the intention of these companies is to hop on the bandwagon of barefoot running, I do think that they are heading in the proper direction. So whether people are joining the movement because they think it's cool or because they know it's anatomically more correct to have less padding under their heels, the net effect is a positive change. I just hope it doesn't swing back to the chunky heels of yesteryear. 

Fila Skeletoes: Because four fingers is better than Five Fingers (apparently)

Remember, if you are starting out with these new types of shoes, do NOT do any long distance running at first. Gradually work your way up to your normal mileage. Also be wary of shoes that may market themselves as "barefoot," but aren't really. Nike Free shoes are a good concept, but there is nothing barefoot-like with their 7.0's. If you go Nike Free, go with 3.0, the lower version of their Free line.


  1. I think I'm going to add the Nike Free 3.0's in addition to using my old Adidas Adizero Pro's. I need a sneaker a little more subtle than my bright red Adizeros!

  2. Thanks for the info, Chris! Getting some new shoes soon and this helps!

  3. Minimalist running/training shoes!
    Great write up Christopher!
    ... just a little extra I will add because many of you have asked me lately about the difference in the soles of one of my favorite models... I guess this has come up a lot lately most likely because as spring rolls in more people want to get outside and get some new wheels too. Basically all the Nike Frees have the flexible sole. To me there's a huge difference between the 3.0 and 7.0 in heel height and even weight.

    3.0 -- "racing flat" weight (~7 oz) with a pretty low and slim heel. I found to be a little more minimal than the Free 5.0 V4 I normally wear. The heel is a little lower and they're muuuch more flexible. I really like this shoe, but I've only had it for a 2 weeks and ran on it 5 times. (very hard to find in a store so go online)

    5.0 -- basically a very flexible neutral lightweight trainer shoe, trainer meaning it's great for CrossFit activities. (9-10 oz). My current 5.0 V4's have just under 1000 miles on them and because of POSE running and not smashing my heel every stride, they still have a long way to go...

    7.0 -- I felt these up a little bit at BMRC when they had them and they feel huge and clunky. The soles are also pretty stiff. Basically a cushioned neutral trainer.
    Keep in mind these models dont have any ankle support, which in my opinion is better for getting those ankles stronger, stop sheathing your foot and FEEL THE GROUND!

  4. Chris, I have the Nike Free 3.0's and they are possibly the best running show I have ever ran with. They are hard to find and they run a bit tight, but true to size if that makes sense.They kind of form to your feet the more you run. I got mine at City Sports in Ardmore. This was a while ago but they had a lot of different options for minimalist so they may still have them. Hope this helps.

  5. Hi, Chris,

    I'm with you on the pro-natural movement and back to basics trend.
    As a former NCAA xc/track athlete for FSU with a clear bias towards Nike, yes, I like the Nike free for walking around, short runs, lifting...HOWEVER... I think you should consider another really kewl awesome minimalist product: Invisible Shoes. Check em out: http://www.invisibleshoe.com/

    If you want more information about them, checkout our press kit:

    They're barefoot feel (barefoot plus) with that extra layer of protection. Brilliance.

  6. Big fan of the New Balance minimus...I just bought my second pair a few days ago. :)


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