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How to start natural running
Tips that help you to ease in minimalist running shoes
Minimalist or natural running shoes are becoming more popular among experienced and beginning runners, but without care running in natural running shoes can lead to injury. These tips of our club trainer Nine will help you to start with natural running safely.
Inspired by Christopher McDougall's book 'Born to Run', a lot of runners decide to go back to basics and run barefoot, or use a minimalist shoe to imitate barefoot running but with a bit of protection. The majority of runners are heel strikers. Besides it's inefficient, landing on your heel first produces a brake -effect, it has a jarring impact on your body. Advocates of the natural running style claim that landing on your mid- or forefoot leads to less injuries. But not everyone will be able to run natural successfully. For instance, if you have plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, flat feet or hammertoes, it may not be for you. If you've never experienced injuries altering your form may not be beneficial. Give it a try to figure out if it works for you.
There are trail-specific and road-specific natural running shoes, but also cross-training or multi-sport shoes. Basically there are two types: the barefoot style and the minimalist running shoe. Barefoot shoes offer the most natural feel and have a zero drop from heel to toe (height of heel compared to the height of the forefoot). The most have no cushioning and a very thin sole (2-3mm). The most popular is the Vibram FiveFingers, characterized by the individual toes. Minimalist running shoes are a cross between barefoot style and normal running shoes. A minimal heel height of 4-8mm encourage a natural running motion and a midfoot strike, yet they offer some cushioning in the rear and forefoot. Popular styles are Nike Free, 33 by ASICS, Brooks PureProject, New Balance Minimus and Puma FAAS.
How to make the switch
If you abruptly switch from cushioned shoes to natural style shoes, you're likely to experience achilles and calve muscle soreness. It is common for new minimalist shoe runners to run too fast or too long, which can lead to poor form and injury. So take it easy. Ease in the shoes in and around the house the first week and spend time strengthening your feet and ankles. Walk around barefoot; do balance drills on one foot and barefoot heel dips on a staircase for example. The first couple of weeks run 1 or 2 km for two or three times a week. Your best coach is your own body. If you are doing something incorrectly, you will experience discomfort. If your form does not feel right, try various adjustments like taking smaller steps until you are able to run comfortably. After two weeks you can increase the distance with 10 percent per week. Most runners alternate their natural running shoes for short runs with normal running shoes for long runs.
Do you run on natural running shoes? Share your experience with us.
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