8 months after I injured my IT band during a race, I started easing back into running using Vibrams barefoot running shoes.

Things were going fairly well, but then I ran a 5K in old running shoes- it was a mud run, and I didn’t want to ruin my good shoes. The results of the race? Not so great on the knee. But did I blame training in the Vibrams? No way! I’ve since continued using them, and hate to put on a pair of regular shoes.

muddy running shoes from mud run

Barefoot or minimalist running isn’t for everyone, but I think they can be a great training tool. Here’s some things to consider before heading out on your next run barefoot:

1. Not everybody was built for barefoot running. {When I say barefoot in this post I also mean minimalist.} As my physical therapist pointed out, some people are built to run ultramarathons, others just aren’t. It’s the same for minimalist running- some people have the right feet and alignment for it; others will just get it injured.

2. Start slow. Really slow. I’ll say the word slow again just to make sure you read it. Running in Vibrams or other minimalist shoes is completely different than running in regular shoes. Running shoes are built up, structured, and cushioned- minimalist shoes obviously are not. This changes the entire way you run, from how your foot hits the ground, to how your legs absorb the impact, and how your hips rotate.

You may be able to whip out a double digit run with no problem, but when you’re easing into Vibrams, start with a walk. Work up to a mile. Alternate wearing your Vibrams and regular running shoes. Slowly build up your mileage in the Vibrams.

vibrams fivefingers barefoot running shoes

3. You don’t have to run long distances in them. Say you’re one of the people that just aren’t built to run barefoot. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them at all- Vibrams are a great training tool for anybody. Running strides in Vibrams or barefoot is a great way to train your body to run with the proper alignment and to help build different muscles.

I will probably never run races or even a lot of miles in mine, but I will continue to use them as a training tool. I do my daily walks in them now so I’ll still be used to them if when I can start running again.

4. It might hurt. Even though you’re doing the same basic running motion, taking the cushioning of a running shoe out of the equation changes things drastically. Your lower calves will probably hurt at first. Make sure you know the difference between sore and pain- if you feel pain, stop before you get seriously injured.

5. Pick the right shoes. Vibrams are pretty popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s the shoe you have to chose. Most running shoe companies have come out with a minimalist shoe now- they look more like running shoes than the crazy feet-shaped Vibrams, but they don’t have all the structure and cushioning that normally accompanies a running shoe.

Try Newtons, Saucony’s Kinvara or Hattori, Nike Frees, Merrells, or New Balance’s Minimus.

minimalist running shoes

6. Finally, make of this what you want, but remember that barefoot running isn’t a new thing– the barefoot running craze goes in and out of fashion every 10 years or so. This time around more of the shoe companies have jumped on the bandwagon though. So make of it what you want, and make sure you make the decision because it’s right for you, not because it’s popular.

 

Have you tried Vibrams or other minimalist shoes? What do you think about the barefoot running craze?

 

P.S.: Read about my experiences with prenatal yoga– it’s not what I thought it would be!