Transitioning into Minimalist Shoes or Barefoot Running
As CrossFitters, we are always looking for the best way to train. Many of you have asked me what the best shoes are to train in. This is a loaded question and requires some assessment of what we use the shoes for when we train at CrossFit Raleigh. We run (short and long distances), we perform power lifts, we row and we Olympic lift. There is no “one” shoe that is able to handle each of these methods of training. However, I can address some options for shoes that can adapt to run and lift. My main suggestion is to bring two pairs of shoes. One pair of Olympic lifting shoes and one pair of cross-training shoes. Olympic lifting shoes are in a category all by themselves and more can be learned about those below. As for the other items of business, the running and powerlifting, we suggest a minimalist approach. And with that suggestion comes an “asterisk” a few points of consideration and some additional work on your part as an athlete. The shoe is not the complete answer. I can’t just say, go buy a pair of minimalist shoes and Olympic shoes and you will be all set. There is some adjusting to do on your part. Take part in the process (just like using Mr. PVC Pipe) and you will benefit in the long run.
We do perform Olympic lifts (Snatch and Clean & Jerk). Olympic lifts require shoes with some lift in the heel, a flat and hard bottom, support around the mid-foot and minimal torque throughout the shoe (meaning you can’t just twist the shoe in half). “The Evolution of Weightlifting Technique: The Form and Function of the Modern Weightlifting Shoe Evolves Two fundamental elements of weightlifting technique have had the greatest impact for the creation of a specialized weightlifting shoe. Ultimately, they were the driving forces behind the evolution in the design of the footwear: 1) the method by which the weightlifter moved his body under barbell; 2) the disposition of the weightlifter’s principle “kinematic links” (the trunk, thigh and shin) in the starting posture to lift the barbell. A weightlifting shoewith a raised heel was actually more important for the squat style of lifting than it was for the “deep split” style, i.e., the area of balance is smaller in the squat position. A shoe with a raised heel allows the weightlifter to squat down with a reasonably vertical disposition of the trunk which requires fully bending the knees and tilting the shins forward; with the feet resting flat on the floor , i.e., the lowest, stable position to support the barbell became possible.” Does this mean that you can’t wear other shoes when performing the Olympic lifts? No. But you should try to find a shoe that can help you perform the movements better than a highly cushioned running shoe.
All That Other Stuff
Now here comes the part where I say, you will need a bag. If you are going to wear shoes that can be changed out for Oly lifting and the other CrossFit movements, you will need more than one pair. Totally up to you, but keeping them with you whenever you join us for a WOD is a good idea. Now on to the fun stuff – buying shoes. Selecting a shoe with a minimalist profile requires that you learn how to recondition yourself, train to run properly and transition slowly. Basically it comes down to where your foot strikes the ground when you run. Do your shoes promote heel striking or landing on your toes? “My shins hurt, my Achilles is tight.” So you head to the shoe store, pick up some orthodics, maybe take a quick jog and have them look at your running form. Shoe companies create shoes to help address your running “issues”, but they don’t solve your running issues. And here come the arguments. I can’t speak for everyone’s health issues or your running form. Your foot has an arch. That arch is designed to help you run. Now you must help yourself run better. One option is learn to run better or even better. In addition to that, you can wear a shoe that encourages you to run better, forces you to hit the ground mid-foot. And if you are a heel-striker or toe-runner, then transitioning into this type of shoe will require some effort on your part – all for the better.
Of course buying new minimalist shoes, barefoot shoes or just running without shoes is not the complete solution. Just like with anything new we do, such as learning to snatch, we must learn in steps to train the body to run properly and therefore acclimate to the new mode of training. The transition is actually pretty simple, but does require some reading and practical application. Proceed with caution when using the new shoes.If you are reading this and have no idea what a minimalist shoe is, read on and learn about that too.
411 on The Shoes
Exert from The Running Times “By nature, minimalist shoes offer little to no support and no stability control, based on the belief that the foot in an efficient gait can naturally off set much of the rolling (pronation/supination) that would occur after a heavy heel-strike gait. Essentially, minimalist shoes offer just enough protection from the pavement while letting the foot move naturally through a stride cycle. Many traditional training shoes put the foot 22-24mm off the ground in the heel and 10-15mm off the ground in the forefoot, and the difference between the two — typically 12-14mm in traditional training shoes — creates a forward-leaning slope, designed to reduce stress on the Achilles. Minimalist shoes trend toward being much more level (a 2-10mm slope) with the assumption that the runner will land on the midfoot and use the natural cushioning of the arch, thus the built-up heel only adds weight and gets in the way of an efficient stride. But understand that there are varying degrees of minimalist shoes. For example, a Pearl Izumi Streak has a 10mm heel-toe drop (20-10mm), a Brooks Green Silence has an 8mm drop and the Newton Gravity Trainer has a 3mm drop. Other current shoes within the minimalist realm include the Vibram 5-fingers, Merrill Pace, New Balance 100, Saucony Kinvara, ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 4, adidas adiZero Ozweego 365 CLIMACOOL, ECCO BIOM A, Inov-8 and K-Swiss Ultra-Natural Run II S. The key is to focus on good form: light foot placements that don’t entail heavy braking, a short, compact arm swing, and an upright, but slightly forward-leaning posture that allows your center of mass to be in front of your footsteps. Consider ending your run where you can run on soft grass — a park, the edge of a public golf course or the infield of a high school track — and do a handful of buildup strides of 50 to 75m reaching 80 to 90 percent effort two-thirds of the way through. Start with a few during your first week and ease your way up to about six to eight after a few weeks, extending the length and your speed slightly but always focusing on optimally efficient running form. Another form of barefoot strength-building can come through slow heel-toe walks on grass or through sand — either on a beach or the long jump pit of a local high school track. Start a stride by pushing your heel into the sand and then forcefully rolling through the midfoot to the ball of the foot and then extending up on the toes. The resistance from the soft surface or sand will require more muscular exertion and, if done regularly, will help build foot and ankle strength.
Physical therapist Jay Dicharry has laid out some criteria for transitioning into a minimalist or barefoot-style shoe. Dicharry is director of the Speed Lab at the University of Virginia. At UVa, Dicharry is known for his solid reputation of treating runners and researching gait and injuries. You can read more about him here: Publications and UvaEndurosport. Practicing the skills that make up good running form, which include that light foot placement (heel kisses the ground), high stride (figure four with the legs), quick turnaround on foot striking (cadence), keeping your form tight (arms by your sides and swinging with purpose), upright positioning (hips open) and a slightly forward posture (a little forward tilt), your body’s brain will overtime work for you – not against you – al la – avoid injuries. Dichary’s Drills (we do these at CFR people – you can do these on your own too!): high-knee strides (alternating every other stride or every third stride with a “knee kick”), butt kicks (an exaggerated rear leg extension in which you alternate kicking yourself in the hind quarters) quick feet (doing as many fast, short strides as possible in about 20-30m) and acceleration strides (50-60m buildup sprints that top out at about 90 percent). We perform these many times throughout the week. Use these as a way to better your running form, just not as a warmup for the WOD – they have purpose. Switching to a regular shoe to a minimalist shoe is a big change for your anatomy and physiology to acclimate to. Not as much cushion means you will feel the ground more. More proprioception. Our bodies were designed this way – strange isn’t it? Your feet and ankles can take the impact and shock so that your hips don’t have to absorb so much. Wearing shoes actually works against us. They restrict the muscles in our feet and ankles from performing to their potential. So when we go from a cushioned shoe or a high-heeled shoe to a shoe that is limited in heel height and little cushion, our muscles, ligaments and tendons are not used to the new stress. TRANSITION SLOWLY! Let the body adjust – it will.
What Can Happen if you Don’t Take Time to Transition
SORENESS and Possible Injury Achilles Soleus (Lower Calf) Shin Splints Tight Calves You have been warned. Be smart in transitioning. Learn the basics of pose running. Thanks to these sources: Reading Materials CrossFit Journal UVa Endurosport Some Videos Heel Striking “How to Transition to Running With Minimalist Shoes” “How to Strengthen Your Feet and Legs for Minimalist Running”