Let me first say that I am not a fan of minimalist running for the majority of my patients. Having said that, “just don’t do it” is not an acceptable directive to runners who are going to run in minimalist shoes in spite of what I recommend. Due to this, I have reluctantly learned to evaluate minimalist running shoes. Not surprisingly, the best way to do this utilizes some of the same principles I use when evaluating non-minimalist styles.
First and foremost, does the shoe match the runner’s foot type? Unfortunately, most minimalist shoes only come in medium widths and none are available in narrow widths. This excludes up to 50 percent of the runners who need a narrow or wide width running shoe. Second, does the shoe make the runner’s stride, shock absorption and/or pathology better or, at the very least, not worse?
Armed with the answers to these simple questions, my colleague Samantha Gibson, Bsc(Hon) and I have evaluated over 50 models of minimalist running shoes on hundreds of runners with differing biomechanics, pathologies and foot types. Based on this, we have created a minimalist shoe list to give to patients to use as a guide and educational tool. It’s not a perfect list but at least these shoes have our preliminary seal of approval, which is important, given the constraints we are forced to deal with when recommending minimalist shoes.
Once a minimalist shoe has been selected, I will evaluate the patient running barefoot, running in the minimalist shoe and running in an appropriately structured shoe. Based on this analysis, I will recommend whether someone is a candidate to wear minimalist running shoes or not.
Additional blog posts on barefoot and minimalist running are as follows and provide more of my thoughts about minimalist running: