Runners should exercise caution in minimalist shoes

| January 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Maj. Zack Solomon
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — U.S. Army Public Health Command studies have demonstrated that shoe selection based on arch type does not reduce injuries.

A new trend, a departure from control and cushioning, has emerged in the minimalist running shoe.

This shoe is extremely flexible and low to the ground to create the sensation of running barefoot.

By running in a shoe with minimal cushioning, most runners will naturally reduce their stride length to avoid landing painfully on their uncushioned heel. This change in running form reduces initial joint impact and promotes a return to what some consider a more natural foot motion.

The growing popularity of minimalist running shoes in both the civilian and military communities was sparked by the promise of increased running performance and decreased risk of running injuries. Whether the minimalist shoe lives up to these expectations remains to be seen.

Soldiers interested in making the switch from a traditional running shoe to a minimalist design should exercise caution in doing so, because a sudden change in equipment or training can result in sore muscles and joints, blisters and even injuries, such as stress fractures. The calf muscles will require the greatest adjustment, followed by the muscles of the foot and hamstrings, as the Soldier adapts to a shortened stride and forefoot strike.

The following are a few tips to make a smooth transition:

•Soldiers should only perform 10 percent of their normal running distance and volume in minimalist running shoes for the first two to three weeks. For example, if a Soldier runs 10 miles per week, only one mile per week should include the use of minimalist running shoes. Traditional running shoes can still be worn the rest of the time.

•No more than a 10-percent increase in distance per week is recommended for at least eight weeks after the initial transition phase. Some Soldiers may take up to six months to get used to running in minimalist shoes.

•Avoid running two days in a row in minimalist running shoes for the first four weeks.

•Run on different surfaces, such as grass, dirt and pavement, to get used to the feel of the shoes. Make sure the running surface is clear of debris and glass.

•Stretching will be very important during the first few weeks to alleviate soreness. Focus on stretching the foot, calf and hamstring muscles.

•As with any change in training, a planned transition phase is critical to limit the short-term soreness and potential complications from an overuse injury.

For more information or if problems develop from any change in training or equipment, Soldiers should contact their medical providers or physical therapists.


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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health, Safety

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