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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Running Minimalist Style Part II

My intent with this post is for you to be able to visually compare the two different types of running.  As I've said before, running is a skill that takes practice, concentration, and frequent self analysis by paying attention to purposeful movement.


Running "minimalist/naturalstyle and running "shod" style can and should be done regardless of shoe!

It is not the shoe that determines the way you run!  The shoes do not control you and the way you run!  But, they can "influence" the way you run! 

Here is how this works.  The shoes provide a stimulus on the feet that can produce a mild or very profound change our in running mechanics.  This change is purely a reflexive adaptation to the way the shoe is designed and how it feels on our feet.  I have mentioned in prior posts and publications that orthotics act as a "contact cue" on our feet.  Just as orthotics act as a contact cue in order to change the way we walk and run in order to help resolve injury or pain, running shoes are designed to do the very same thing!!  The idea behind the vast amounts of varying shoes is on purpose.  The shoes are designed to accommodate an individuals style of running vs. an individual adapting a more efficient running style.  

To help explain this just a bit more, let's say a person goes into a running store, tells the people in the store that when he/she runs I feel this here, I feel that there, and I get sore here.  The shoe guy then directs the person to the shoe that was specifically designed to prevent the symptoms that the runner is talking about.  So, how does the shoe store person know which shoe is for what?  Cause the manufacturer designed it this way and the shoe guy knows this.


*Comparing Running Shoes*

The shoe on the left is a New Balance 1080v3 "Neutral" running shoe.  Neutral meaning it has no extra components on the sole or in the shoe box itself to manipulate (by contact cue) the way you are running.  The design of a neutral running shoe is made upon the following assumptions:

1.  The arch of your foot is consider of normal height and maintained well.
2.  You do not excessively pronate or supinate when standing, walking, or running.
3.  That your foot does not have an excessive straight or curved shape.
4.  That for your style of running, you just need cushioning vs. support in the rear foot or midfoot.

New Balance 1080v3 Neutral Running Shoe

New Balance Minimus Road Shoe

The shoe on the right is the New Balance Minimus Zero Road Shoe.  This is considered a "Barefoot / Minimalist / Natural Style running shoe.  The design of a minimalist shoe is to simply give you a protective barrier between the surface you are running on and the sole of your feet.  Looking at the sole of this shoe, it maintains a more correct anatomical shape of a foot.  It is intended to fit like a glove.

When looking at the two types of shoes, it is obvious that the Neutral shoe will be much more forgiving and supportive than the Minimalist shoe.  This allows to a certain extent the ability to not pay attention to the way you are running when your heel strikes the ground and when pushing off from the ground.  Also know that when there is more prolonged contact on the ground over an isolated area, this equals more work to continue moving forward at the same speed.  But remember, this is not an absolute statement or rule!  Even in a Neutral, Posted, or Well Supported shoe, you can always change the mechanics of your running to a more natural or minimalist style.

Important issues to consider are:  

Heel to Toe Rise

In the "Shod Running" illustration, I tried to demonstrate this.  Heel to toe rise is the difference in height from the level of the plantar surface of your heel to the plantar surface of your toes.  This varies depending on the brand of shoe and the style of shoe, i.e. neutral shoe, stability shoe, racing flats, etc.  

This is a significant factor to think about when buying shoes and how you plan to run in shoes.  In a racing flat, the heel to toe rise is very small to no difference at all.  In a training shoe other than a minimalist shoe, this ratio can be significant and make minimalist style running quite hard to do.  This is because the heel is of sufficient height that it doesn't allow you to strike the ground minimalist style.  In addition, by running in a shoe with a significant heel to toe rise, the muscles in your legs, thighs, and hips are not performing an equal ratio of work.  Hmm, could this lead to a muscle imbalance?  When the heel to toe rise is large, the majority of the work falls on the quadriceps.

The Sagittal Plane Profile of the Sole of the Shoe

Um, I'm going to draw you another picture (I love this photo shop!  Just got it.)

Notice how the soles of the shoes are different.  The sole of the shoe on the left meets the tip of the shoe.  The sole of the shoe on the right terminates just prior to the tip of the shoe. Saucony has produced shoes like the one below.  Your toes would be hanging ever so slightly over the sole of the shoe inside the toe box.  This supposedly offered a mechanical advantage by not having to work as hard from 1st gear through 5th gear and past toe off.  In theory, you would just roll over the edge of the shoe without having to push off as hard.  The problem with this was that the muscles in the feet and calf were not being used as they should.  Subsequently, this caused a significant amount of plantar fasciitis, tibialis posterior tendonitis, achilles tendonitis, weakness in the hamstrings, and the onset of hamstring tendonitis.

The moral:  Do what you are built to do!  Enhance your performance with technology.  Do not make the mistake of using technology to substitute performance.  

*Comparing Running Styles*

The illustrations below compares the two styles of running.  The first illustration is Shod Running -obviously from the title, duh!.  I mentioned above that running shoes have a heel to toe rise ratio (toe to heel, either way).  Because of the heel protruding from the shoe, this inhibits proper positioning of the ankle and knee upon heel strike when trying to use a minimalist style of running.  In addition, the heel causes the mechanics of the lower extremity to put the majority of the workload on the quadriceps.  I don't want to generalize, but when a muscle imbalance begins or develops between the quadriceps and hamstrings, this sets you up for another extremely annoying and hard to resolve issue:  The dreaded ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME!

Shod Running 

Minimalist / Barefoot / Natural Style Running - All the same.

I believe this illustration speaks for itself.  Minimalist running takes practice.  I say this because running this way initially requires a conscious effort.  There are optimal stride lengths for each individual person, there is intent regarding the manner in which your foot strikes the ground, leaves the ground, and swings, and there is an excellent balance in opposing muscles, secondary, and tertiary (or synergistic) muscle groups.

This is a style of running in which we were meant to run!  It is efficient, it maintains an excellent muscle balance throughout our lower extremities, it fosters great self awareness, and most importantly, injuries caused by weak foot intrinsic muscles, calf muscles, thigh and hip muscles are absolutely minimized.

Until next time...

Happy Bipeding!

Brad Senska, PT, DPT, BS, ASTYM.

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