Ken Leighton 5 p.m., Jan. 24
When we were on the subject of the toe shoes, I mentioned that you need to modify your stride to make them work. I did not mention how to modify the stride. I will do that now.
The initial purpose behind padded running shoes was to allow competitive runners to lengthen their stride and thereby run faster. While strides became a little longer, they were less efficient and came with a bevy of new injuries.
In spite of the new shoes, the U.S. has still only won gold once in the 10,000 at the Olympics and that came in the 1964 Tokyo games before Nike. It was also before the African countries became participants.
Within the past year, minimal shoes have started to become mainstream items that a casual runner might consider. I’ve spoken to several runners who’ve tried these minimal shoes and some love them and some hate them.
Those who hated them were “heel strikers”. Heel striking is a choice that is enabled by padded post-space-age running shoes. Minimal shoes punish heel striking. Go ahead and try heel striking in a minimal shoe and you'll experience the trials of Job for about two miles and then quit.
If you put on a pair of the New Balance Minimus, Merrell Trail Glove, Vibrams, Brooks or Inov-8 Bare XF 210, they will feel free and easy—until you start to run. Minimal shoes are designed to feel free and easy which is how you’re supposed to run in them.
A mid-foot strike is essential to running in minimal shoes. The mid-foot or “pad” of the foot is immediately below the ball of the foot and above the arch.
If you gently run in place by picking your feet up just a few inches, you will start to feel a mid-foot strike. Now all you have to do is lean forward—just a bit—and you’ll start to run.
To start with, your stride will be tiny and your pace will seem unbearably slow. This is akin to eating your vegetables. Once you become comfortable with the form you can lengthen the stride.
The lengthening of the stride is exclusively to the rear. To run a little faster, lift your feet up higher behind you. Never should your feet extend out in front of your body.
We’ll revisit this in the future but this is a good start.
If you want to become better, watch what the best do and mimic them.