Can Minimalist Shoes Really be Blamed for Running Injuries?

« Go Back

I’m sure that many of you have heard of the lawsuit incurred by Vibram for claiming that wearing their minimalist shoes would help strengthen you body and make you run better. Because of this lawsuit, many so-called experts are trying to tie injury-rates from minimalist shoes to the fault of the shoes, or even to the manufacturer. This is misleading, at best. To be fair, I would say that many more people have been injured by wearing heavy, thick-heeled, stiff-soled running shoes, than will ever be hurt by minimalist shoes. The best running shoe is the one that allows your foot to move in the most natural way, and minimalist and zero-drop shoes do just that. That being said, it’s not the shoes that hurt your body, it’s the way you run. Vibram’s only mistake was making health claims, and they got busted for it… just like Skechers, with their Shape Ups.

The biggest reason for people getting injured from running in minimalist shoes is simple… it’s because they’re either unaware of how much their running technique might be creating impact to their feet and legs, or they’re unwilling to change how they run so they don’t get injured. ChiRunning allows you to take responsibility for learning to run in a way that doesn’t hurt our body, regardless of the distance you run. Subsequently, as you improve the economy of your running by working to reduce impact and effort, you’ll be able to run safely in less of a shoe.

The ideal running shoe for you will always be tied into how you run. This means that you don’t just go out and buy a pair of minimalist shoes unless your technique can support running in them, or unless you take time to transition into less of a shoe. You can set your mind to try something new, but your body has a time-frame of its own that you need to respect.

It also means that a shoe you use to run short distances might not be the best shoe to run a marathon. I love to walk and run in minimalist shoes, but I wouldn’t think of running long distances in them. It doesn’t feel good. For my longer runs I prefer a bit more cushioning.

My definition of the best running shoe for you is: “The least amount of shoe you can safely run in, given how you currently run, and the distance you’re running.” Put some thought into this statement and check yourself to see if this holds true for the shoes you’re wearing.

My friend Betty started learning ChiRunning 10 years ago. She wanted to learn to run marathons without the pain she was used to feeling. A few years later the first minimalist shoes came out and Betty loved how they felt on her feet. Even though she was running marathons at the time, she cut back to only a couple of miles in her training runs, eventually taking over a year before she ran her next marathon. She faithfully practiced ChiRunning throughout her buildup and, as a result, her running felt effortless and her feet and legs never felt better. She has now run more than 80 marathons, a number of 24-hr. races and even a few 48-hour events. She’s able to run as far as she wants in her minimalist shoes because she has spent the time refining her technique to support the distances she’s running without getting injured by the shoes she’s wearing. She also turned 73 this year.

So, in reality, it’s up to you whether the shoe fits.


Posted in Technique, Mindfulness

Related Articles