Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Minimalist vs Traditionalist

Minimalist vs. Traditionalist
 Paul Jenkins, PT

During fall, Cross country season moves into full swing and concern for running injuries grows. Questions continue as to if different shoes can prevent these injuries. 40,000,000 athletes are reported to run regularly in the United States.  With that impressive number, injury rates among runners are uncertain.  Research is scattered with reports ranging from 7% to 79% of runners will be injured each year. Reasons for the wide range include: injuries that are recorded, level of severity, and different levels of runners—novice to ultra-marathoners.   One study looked specifically at high school cross country runners.  Impacting factors included age, gender, body mass and shoes. Debate rages over which type of shoes are best for avoiding injuries and improving performance. Current medical science does not make this any clearer.

Before the development of modern “traditional” running shoes in the 1970’s, minimalist shoes were all that existed. Running shoes were developed to prevent injuries and improve performance. Now the minimalist movement is making the same claims. However, having less research on minimalist runner injuries makes a true comparison impossible. Simple injuries such as sprains and strains will occur with either shoe types and seems to be more based on volume of training.
Traditional running shoe pictured on the left with example of a minimal type shoe on the right
Although when comparing shoe types, scientific research has shown differences in muscle activation, joint angle, and impact forces. It is difficult to determine if this is truly related to the shoes or the running style associated with the shoes.  Typically runners in minimalist shoes will have a forefoot strike pattern unlike traditional running shoes which have a rear-foot strike pattern. The forefront pattern will land on the front of the foot, with the heel hitting later, if at all, versus the rear-foot pattern the heel hits first, taking advantage of the cushioning of the shoe.  Runners who have a rear-foot strike pattern will not likely do as well in minimalist shoes if they do not change their running style.
If you are having pain in your current footwear you may consider changing shoes, if your running style matches the other shoe.  Otherwise keep on running the way you enjoy and wear the shoes you like best.  Personally I enjoy training in both, but I do run differently in different shoes