August 30, 2013

When is Minimalism too much?

Lower and lower, sleeker and faster, lighter shoes is what we all want.

In my opinion, transitioning to a minimalist shoe for many may be a step too far.

When transitioning to a minimalist shoe 'form' should be the first consideration. Do you naturally run as a forefoot striker or a heel striker?

If you are a forefoot striker naturally, ie. without forcing it or thinking about it when you slip off your shoes and run, do you land on the front, outside of your foot as per the diagram below?
Barefoot Forefoot Strike

If this is you, then it should be no bother to you to effect a transition process to a minimal shoe. Depending on where you are starting from we would expect to see this transition period having different durations for each individual.

If, on the other hand, you are more of a midfoot striker or heel striker you have a lot more work to do to achieve a smooth, injury free transition to minimalist shoes.
Barefoot Heel Strike

Transitioning from this position is a much more gradual change as you are having to work on changing your natural form, re-mapping neuromuscular pathways and developing core strength to help stabilise the pelvic area which will become more active during the transitional phases.

Speak to us about this as invariably you will be best advised to rotate between your traditional shoe and minimal shoes more frequently to prevent tweaking connective tissues or causing injury.
With many shoe manufacturer's introducing lower ramp shoes ie. changing from the traditional 12mm to 10 / 8 / 6 mm differentials in their core shoes you need to be careful of changes like this occuring in your favourite shoes year on year. It can be a source of injury if you are not prepared, expecting or aware of the change. 

For most people you can handle 12 - 10 or 8 - 6 but a change from 12 to 8mm may be a step too far and result in niggling calf, achilles or foot pain as tendons and muscles are strained beuond their usual points. This is why we always recommend that you call into your nearest Amphibian King store to double check the fit and profile each year.

The series of images below graphically represent and explain the differences in the loading of the feet during the landing phase and the effect on capturing and releasing kinetic energy on the propulsive phase.

Running Kinematics

Heel Striking

Forefoot Striking




Hip and knee are flexed.
Ankle is dorsiflexed (toes point up).Ankle is plantarflexed (toes point slightly down). Foot is usually slightly inverted (the sole is angled inwards).
Land on the middle to outside of the heel just below the ankle joint.Land on outside of the forefoot (the ball of the foot, just below the 4th and 5th metatarsal heads).
As you land, the ankle begins to plantarflex (toes move towards the ground).As you land, the ankle begins to dorsiflex (heel moves towards the groud).
Arch of the foot is not loaded.Arch of the foot is loaded and begins to stretch/flatten.
Impact  Foot FlatBarefoot Heel Strike

Barefoot Foot Flat
Barefoot Forefoot Strike

Barefoot Foot Flat
Knee and hip flex.
As the ankle plantarflexes, the forefoot comes down.As the ankle dorsiflexes, the heel comes down under the control of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which are stretching.
Foot Flat MidstanceBarefoot Foot Flat

Barefoot Midstance
Barefoot Foot Flat

Barefoot Midstance
Knee and hip continue to flex.
The ankle dorsiflexes as the lower leg moves forward relative to the foot and the foot everts (rolls inward).
Now that the whole foot is on the ground, the arch begins to stretch/flatten.The arch continues to stretch/flatten.
This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation.This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation, but occurs in the reverse direction compared to heel striking (from the forefoot to the rearfoot not heel to toe).

Toe Off
Barefoot Midstance

Barefoot Toe Off
Barefoot Midstance

Barefoot Toe Off
Ankle plantarflexes bringing the heel off the ground (calf muscles and Achilles tendon now shorten).
Foot’s arch recoils, and the toes flex.
These actions push the body upwards and forwards for the next stride.

Images and table layout from

In transitioning, a natural heel lander has to overcome the tendency to load the arch in a forward motion. As I've mentioned in previous articles the best way to naturally change your landing pattern is through a mixture of your 'normal' running and some focused efforts at re-teaching your body what natural (forefoot) running form is all about.

Any questions please fire them at me!

Happy running :)


Joey said...

Here's a great video about if people have strong enough feet to go minimal.

amphkingwest said...

Thanks for sharing Joey.

amphkingwest said...

Sorry about the initial formatting, corrected now.