How/why I found my mid-foot

IMG 1289 224x300 How/why I found my mid foot

The change in form has worked wonders for me

As you know, yesterday I was gushing about how I’ve left my heel striking days behind me. I get quite a few inquiries about why and how I went about this, so I thought I’d share. (Pull up a chair).

Some background–I’ve been running for about 15 years, beginning as a triathlete. Like everyone else who started running around that time, I went to the shoe store, was checked to see if I needed “motion control,” neutral, or stability shoes. The verdict was that I was a neutral striker but I still ended up in stability shoes (why? good question). I did fine for many years this way.

Then a few years back, I developed really awful plantar fasciitis, so bad I couldn’t run for six months. After trying everything, I had shockwave therapy on that foot, which cleared it up and I got back to running. However, my podiatrist put me in orthotics and told me that I needed to be in them 24/7 for the rest of my life. I didn’t care what it took, as long as I could run. So there I was, in stability shoes plus orthotics (overkill anyone?).

From here, I developed PF in my other foot–not debilitating PF, but PF nonetheless. I questioned how this was possible if the orthotics were supposedly there to prevent this. Next up–ITBS, a horrible case of it that got worse, even after I laid off running for months. At this point, I was pretty done with it all. I learned about a natural running informational session down in Shepherdstown,W.V., led by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and a panel of all the best PTs, doctors, and athletes involved in the natural running movement. Here’s where I had my epiphany.

These folks essentially said that if you were running injury free, and had been for years, with traditional shoes, then why fix what isn’t broken. But if you were consistently getting injured and weren’t pushing the envelope with overzealous training, maybe you should consider a more natural way of running. They cautioned this transition could take years and wasn’t for the impatient.

The first thing I did was toss my orthotics and started walking around bare foot as much as possible to strengthen my feet. And what do you know: my PF disappeared, almost overnight. From there I bought a pair of Newton’s and started running barefoot in (what I thought) was small doses. Pretty quickly, I found my mid foot, because that’s what going completely bare foot will do for you. However, in no short order, I was hurt again, this time from doing too much, too soon with the bare footing.

Finally this past fall, after loads of time off for healing, I started over from scratch. I went with a 4mm drop shoe and seemed to have found my sweet spot. I had good form, but still had a bit of cushioning to help me make the full transition over. I’m not going to lie–it wasn’t a completely pain-free transition. I had tight calf muscles, about a week off for a sore achilles, and another week off for a strained tendon on the top of my foot. But once I got past that, it has been pretty smooth sailing. Now that Boston is behind me, I am transitioning in a zero drop shoe to the routine, a few short miles at a time.

Would I still do pure bare foot running? Yes, I’d like too, because I do think it’s the very best teacher. But I’ll admit to being a bit gun shy. For now, I’m taking it one day at a time. I will say this (and if I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1,000 times): I think it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my running. I am free of all the old tight spots, the aches and pains, the stiffness that I used to have when wearing those old high-heeled shoes. My advice to you would be much of what I got on that first night in Shepherdstown–if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. But if you have injuries and you can honestly say they are not caused by overtraining, consider natural running.

Where do you stand on natural running?   

 

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Comments

  1. I’m really glad this is working for you. I’ve shared some of my views with you before. I’m lucky as I’ve always been a natural mid to forefoot striker. I think only time will tell how people can adapt to a change in form and shoes. I do see lots of people changing back to full support shoes here in SA as they are getting shin and ankle and foot injuries from minimalist and “free” shoes. I do think this is because we tend to run very long distances here in SA and most people are trying to do the same as they did in their previous shoes. Over here 50 miles per week is kind of the minimum you run and 70 the norm. We are a bit of an ultra crazy country and I believe for that proper support in your shoes are vital.
    Johann recently posted..Involuntary TaperMy Profile

  2. I needed this reminder. I am a terrible over striding heel striker. I am sure it contributed to my calf strain or at the least extended it’s healing process.

    I am not going the barefoot or minimalist way. I tried before and it did not work out well for me. I do wear Newtons once a week but when I suggested the idea of going in a less is more direction my running sponsor said no way! Sure it could be great for some people but I like to run high mileage and intensive track workouts so he suggested I need a light but supportive shoe. Minamalist running is not for everyone!
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  3. Excellent job of being both informative and cautionary. Just like childbirth and nursing – “the most natural things in the world” that are so difficult to actually DO, barefoot running requires you to pay very close attention to what your body is doing. Being barefoot (or in flexible zero drop minimalist shoes) as much of your day as possible allows your arches and lower legs to strengthen and be ready for the transition in running. It’s a good, safe way to move in the barefoot running direction, which is then – in turn – an excellent tool for finding good form, whether you continue to run naked or put some shoes on.
    Rachelle recently posted..“E” = GSDMy Profile

  4. It’s so amazing how you can make small-ish changes like a shoe (or lack of shoe) and improve the way your body deals with the “stress”. I’m so intrigued!

    So glad you were able to move forward from your injury prone days!!
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  5. I think adding barefoot running is good for everyone – even if you don’t need it, it’s a good way to reconnect with the ground and it’s fun!
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  6. I do heel strike a little (I roll over quickly), but I’m in a sort of minimal shoe (the kinvara). I like that I can sense the ground better. I need some cushion for my bunions – they’re easily hurt :(
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  7. I probably should have stayed in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it camp”, but I’ve gone all the way down to VFFs and am coming back up to some cushioning. My surfaces are just to hard (I do all sidewalk and road running) for me to get the kind of distances I want to run in that minimal of a shoe. That said, the VFFs and barefoot on the treadmill will likely stay as part of my rotation.

  8. Excellent post!

    I would also love to transition to bf running but am going much, much slower. Patience definitely wins the day in this case. Thank you for that reminder!

    And the YMX shirt is sweet!
    Tracy recently posted..Friday FiveMy Profile

  9. I am lucky. A few IT issues here and there but he feet have been good.

    I admire your perseverance, many runners would have just thrown in the towel. Good on you for sticking it out!
    Shawn recently posted..Run for MS Race ReportMy Profile

  10. Thanks for sharing your story! I, too, was put in stability shoes and orthotics, which I wore for years. Finally a PT suggested I “train myself out of my orthotics” as she had done. I got Ken Mierke’s Evolution Running DVD which broke down running form into drills. After doing the drills after every run, and just trying to increase my cadence (not focusing on form) on the run, I stopped heel striking and started landing with my foot under my body. It was amazing! I also tried barefoot like you…wore Vibram 5 fingers for a loop at Burke Lake and had horrible tight calves for the next 2 weeks…I just don’t seem to know how to do things gradually!

  11. Ever since I emailed you about my PF issues, I’ve been doing exactly what you described above and it’s worked wonders for me too! The PF is gone and I too am in 4mm shoes. I have barefoot shoes also but I have yet to take the plunge to confidently run all distances in them :)
    Heather@Just a Colorado Gal recently posted..Goals for the Colorado (Half) MarathonMy Profile

  12. Thanks for the informative post – it is so helpful to read of other’s experiences with this change. I have been gradually moving towards something more minimal (4mm) to change my form as well due to injuries that keep coming back. I have still been wearing an 8mm shoe for my long runs. I agree that it has helped along with keeping my cadence up to find my mid foot. I think the most helpful thing has been that over the last 6 months, I walk barefoot in the house, zero drops around town, flats to work and have now adjusted my desk to be stand up for 75% of my day – doing the balance drill you showed last week :). So I think it goes beyond the actual running. It is now what I do daily that supports my shift in running. My form does not look as good as yours yet. But I will keep trying!

  13. You know where I stand on this. All roads have led to the fact that my form and possibly heel strike need work. Nothing else has made me injury resistant. I like that you said it is not for everyone, because there are many, many very successful, long term runners who wear high heels and do just fine. But, I know for me something needs to shift and I have run out of optoins…natural running here I come.
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  14. Miss Zippy, Can I ask what shoe you are wearing now? Great info. Thanks

  15. You know that I am a recovering heal striker. Lately, I have been ending my workouts with some 100 meter barefoot strides on grass… it is really helping increase my foot and ankle strength. I might add a small run a week in a zero drop shoe. I still get injured but most of the time it is my doing, like you said “too much too fast.”
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..Trail ConfessionsMy Profile

  16. I actually just got photos back from my race last weekend. At the finish you can see me mid-foot striking. Score!

    I’m not sure if I ever really did heel strike though. I know a lot of runners “struggle” with that but I don’t know that I ever did. But I do think running in my Vibrams here and there has helped as well as better awareness of where my feet are going when I run.

    When you are running 10 miles you have a lot of time to think about things like that. LOL
    Holly recently posted..Never Regret a RunMy Profile

  17. I’m very nervous about barefoot anything. I wore heavier shoes and hated them but when I went lighter, I strained my achilles so I got orthotics and went heavier. Now recovering from ankle surgery, i have a real dilemma…what to wear.
    Darlene recently posted..An Exciting Weekend Coming UpMy Profile

  18. When I recently had my Newton’s looked at the news was good and bad. Good because they were showing significant signs of mid/fore foot landing. Bad because they still showed signs of heal striking. I took some time over the last month to figure out why and it comes down to speed. When I open it up, my stride increases and I lose my forward lean. Doh!

    Congrats on your migration. NOT an easy thing to do.

  19. I’m in a stability shoe with orthotics as well…. I am (touch wood) injury free so haven’t changed anything. I too, didn’t want to mess with anything before Boston. I’ve been considering trying to switch but then ask myself why? Like you said if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…so that’s where I’ll stay for now.

  20. I went through almost exactly the same thing–almost. I actually ended up with PF after getting some really bad advice about shoes at one of those “running specialty” stores. After that, I kept trying to fix the problem myself by icing, wearing a brace, and buying stability shoes. I eventually had to stop running altogether. Finally, a friend suggested I try Vibrams–I tried them on but couldn’t find a pair that fit correctly (and I admit I felt great relief because I think they look ridiculous). There’s something to the idea, though, so I decided to try a more minimalist shoe. After reading, I decided not to go too low profile to begin and ended up with the Nike Free+ (I know people love to hate on Nike, but I have a very narrow foot and have always had great luck with them).

    And guess what? My PF pain has almost completely subsided. The more I run in them, the better it gets. Like you mention, it takes time for the calves, ankles and feet to “take over” for shoes that used to do the work, but in the end my feet feel much stronger and my runs have gotten better. I’ll never go back to “traditional” running shoes.
    Priscilla recently posted..TSS: Small Island, Small WorldMy Profile

  21. You know my story! I def have left my heel days behind. I would have to force myself to land that way now.
    Mamarunsbarefoot recently posted..Shitty Back, Great PatientMy Profile

  22. Very helpful post here Amanda. My husband has been unable to really run since last summer. :( This has made both of us so sad because he is my favorite running partner and he was getting fast (hopeful of 3:10 marathon and then breaking 3). He knows his PF is from doing too much too soon….a marathon with me in July (untrained) and then another in September off of little training (a 3:24 and then a 3:20). So now, he still isn’t healed. Is this shock therapy expensive?

  23. Thank you for this! i was put in the wrong shoe when I first started taking running seriously and ended up in orthotics and with runner’s knee and tight IT bands. Switched to a more neutral shoe but ideally I want to end up in a more barefoot type shoe, although going purely barefoot might not be the best idea right off the bat.
    Carly recently posted..I Just Want to SWIMMy Profile

  24. Great post. As I continue to make the transition to less and less of a shoe, I continue to feel stronger than I ever have before. I know it’s not for everyone, but if something isn’t working, it’s time to explore different shoes/less of a shoe/going barefoot.
    David H. recently posted..Why I Relay: Uncle JohnMy Profile

  25. I have had similar experiences with transitioning to more minimal shoes and am planning a review about them next week. My injuries were always with my knee and I couldn’t run two days in a row, had to wear a compression sleeve for anything over 4 miles, etc, etc and now I have increased my running frequency, wear no sleeve, and feel NO discomfort at all!
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..Take a minute to read thisMy Profile

  26. I have PF and have heard so much about re-training your feet and natural running. Also had ITBS. When I go barefoot, my feet hurt and when I wear my running shoes they don’t. Maybe I should try some more natural shoes and slowly work my mileage up. Something to think about. I would sure like to run injury free:)
    hikermom recently posted..Free Rant FridayMy Profile

  27. So glad to read a post like this. I have been so interested in the whole bare foot/mid-foot strike phenomena. I have issues with over pronation though, and when I don’t wear appropriate shoes I have issues with my knees. So I guess I am also a little gun shy too. I am interested, but too nervous to take the plunge full-time. YOU GO GIRLIE!
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  28. I really really want to be in a more minimalist shoe, but I just don’t think my muscles and tendons can handle it. Every time I have tried to transition, I end up with calf/shin/achilles problems. I would love if I ever do start from scratch and have very minimal mileage to try again like you did, because it makes sense that it would help. I am not so patient unfortunately.
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  29. THANK YOU FOR THIS. You give me hope and this is what I need right now. So happy you are finding your zen with running again! Inspired!
    Jess @ Blonde Ponytail recently posted..Fitness Friday: BEAST ModeMy Profile

  30. I was just having this conversation with Tappan yesterday– he switched to midfoot in 2010, developed bad achilles tendonitis and hasn’t been able to get over it since then. He has recently started doing heel strike again because he discovered that it doesn’t cause his achilles tendon any discomfort. Eventually he’d like to transition back to midfoot, once he gets his strength back and works on his exercises.

    And eventually I’d love to switch to midfoot– I’m all about anything that helps with efficiency!
    Katherine @ Neon Blonde Runner recently posted..OC Marathon GoalsMy Profile

  31. Great post, I hope to buy a pair of Newtons (or something similar) to transition more to natural running. Just seems like it makes sense to do so. My stride is basically neutral based on the shoe store analysis. One problem is that I have a right ankle stress fracture right now, so my doctor said that I probably shouldn’t transition over at least until it is healed.
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  32. Sigh….such a hard subject for me, I’m skeptical by nature. But if there is one persons advice to take into consideration it would be yours. Curious what shoes you ran Boston in?
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  33. Thanks for this post! I just got a pair of Kinvaras and am going to work on the transition slowly!
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  34. Beautiful and informational post. I love that you stressed if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. Barefoot/minimalist running has so much attention I fear too many will flock and it may not be the best for all at all times! And yes, slow and easy does win the race!
    {lifeasa}RunningMom recently posted..Dreaded Tempo Runs?My Profile

  35. I actually was introduced to mid foot in a book by Matt Fitzgerald – “Brain Training for Runners”. Now if I could only find the same for my motivation….
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  36. Thanks so much for sharing! I really want to move in that direction. The first time I switched to 4mm drop (this winter), I had a lot of Achilles pain (and was still considering a spring marathon) so I dropped back to my old neutral shoes. I’m still hoping to move toward minimalist shoes little by little.
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  37. Maybe because I’m such a barefoot queen, I’ve been pretty lucky with my feet. I love to go barefoot but not when I run. I tried the Vibrams and just didn’t like the feeling. I’m not 100% sold on the barefoot running idea but think it’s a great idea for healthy walking or slow, minimal milage jogging.
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  38. Great post!!! I think most of my injuries are due to overtraining…with the exception of what I m dealing with right now. I definitely don’t believe in the need for orthotics or extremely clunky, over-supportive shoes. I’m just nervous to go more minimal. I’m so glad you’ve figured all of this out and what works for you.
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  39. I always feel incredibly confused about minimal running. I am intrigued and want to try it but worry because I already have bunions (not from running specifically.) I’m so worried about making it worse! I’ve been thinking about the Brooks Pure Project shoes for a small start but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. That said, I tend to do well in my stability shoes so almost hate to change it up.
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  40. I’ve had a very similar experience to yours. PF for over a year, told to wear stability shoes and orthotics 24/7, and then started to develop PF in the opposite foot. Finally my chiro convinced me to walk barefoot as much as possible, start weaning off the orthotics, and slowly start running in a more minimal shoe. My feet are doing better than they have in a year and a half. I’ve just started slowly introducing New Balance Minimus shoes into my running routine and hope to eventually wear them on all my runs. I agree with you that it’s not for everyone — and it definitely needs to be done slowly — but getting my foot out of those orthotics and stability shoes was the best thing I’ve done for my foot (and I tried everything short of EST, shots, and/or surgery). Thanks for the great informative post!
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  41. tinafreysd says:

    The plantar surface is an anatomical term for the bottom surface of the foot. When the foot is facing the floor, the part that contacts the floor is the plantar surface.
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  42. My story is ridiculously similar to yours – “diagnosed” with overpronation, injuries, attempted barefooting, too much too soon, etc. Right now I’m in a 4mm drop and LOVING it (New Balance 730s). Finding my midfoot was incredibly easy for me, but I have the tendency to push off from my toes. My running is still a work in progress, I suppose.

  43. This is typically caused by new or ill-fitting shoes. Foot blisters are painful and can make walking extremely difficult. Since they are on your feet, which are near the ground and the many sources of dirt and grime there, foot blisters are also more susceptible to infection than other types of blisters. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat foot blisters with home remedies.
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  44. So sorry you had to go through all of that, but I think your experiences are helping a lot of others. I definitely want to try more natural shoes although I won’t even think about running barefoot. At least not while living here! I do work hard to strike mid-foot and definitely feel that it’s helped overall but I would like to try more minimal shoes to see if that helps keep injuries away!
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  45. This is a great post! You pretty much know my story…and my running is still very much a work in progress! But as I’ve made the transition to 4mm shoes (Mirage, then Kinvaras) I’ve been much happier, ITB issues have gone away and I’m getting stronger. I don’t know if I’ll ever move to zero drop cause right now my current shoes seem to be working just fine :)
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  46. Love running a few barefoot miles on the track – feels so great. I usually wear minimalists up to 10 miles and then a neutral Brooks for anything farther. I’m hoping to get up to a half marathon in my minimalists.
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  47. I know you’ve posted most of this before, but thanks for the recap. Your story sounds similar to others I’ve read.

    I’ve thought about going barefoot. I’ve got several friends who do it, and they just ran a half marathon with naked feet. I might start on a treadmill. I like the speed of shoes, you have to run slower without them.
    2 Slow 4 Boston recently posted..Johnston’s Half Marathon Race ReviewMy Profile

  48. This is always an interesting discussion to me. And after reading “both sides” to the arguement for each and dipping my toe into the water with trying “less” shoe, this is what I’ve concluded: Moderation is good. It seems like there is a small percentage on one side who can blissfully convert to minimalism, with an adaptation period, no problem. Then there is another small percentage on the opposite side who will never be able to convert to a more minimalist shoe because they do have genuine biomechanical problems that require help (we personally know several top local trail racers here who have tried for several years to convert but just are unable to). Then there is the large percentage of folks in between the two extremes – some could/should trend one way or the other.

    For myself – I am currently running in a pair of Saucony Peregrines and Brooks Pure Grit, both with 4 mm drop. I wish the Peregrines had just a bit more arch support. And I feel a bit “beat up” after a longer run in the Grits. I like both but am not convinced that my body is completely happy with them yet. Fact is, I LIKE having a little spring under foot. I also like just a touch of arch support. Both of those aspects just feel good. And regardless of how strong the feet and lower legs become, eventually, long, technical, mountainous trail runs tax the mind, body, and feet. A little support and cush feel pretty nice at the end of 15, 20, 25 mile trail runs. But there has to be a happy medium out there, for me. I am happy enough with these shoes and plan to continue putting miles in them and see what happens.

    Thanks for the interesting subject! :-)
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  49. I thought I had found my midfoot late last year, but may have been mistaken. Too much FOREfoot running make my shins and paroneals chronically tight, and hence, yet another injury. Some of this was my own doing and lack of knowledge, but mostly it stemmed from lack of upper leg strength: glutes and quads. Tri training has helped with this and I’m gonna use it to requalify for Boston next year. Gotta have a powerful piston to spark the ground.
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  50. I couldn’t agree more. I’m running and heel striking in my Sauconey’s but don’t have any injuries. I bought some vibrams and enjoy running shorter distances in them, but when I go longer, I run in my Sauconey’s. I like the mix. So glad you found the perfect show for you!
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  51. i have been running for 13 years, 11 of them with recurrent ITB issues, a stress fracture, and then the dreaded PF that wouldn’t go away. i got out of my orthotics, thick socks and thick soled shoes for a nike free, i felt immediate relief in walking. the PF lead to a rupture when i tried to immediately take off in a newton shoe (way too much way too soon). it healed. ruptured two more fascia along the way but nothing was putting me back in ‘the vault” shoe….not even a really persistent case of AT. so i believe the NRC when they say the transition can take years..it has with me. but i feel i am finally at the breakthrough point, running painfree in 4mm drop shoes (my latest is skechers gorun due to the softest heel last EVER!)

    thanks for your story, it inspires me to keep moving naturally!

  52. I bought a pair of vibrams, but haven’t worn them yet. I know my form leads me to injury & I’d really like to get better at it. I went to a lecture at the multidports conference in boston that really got me thinking!
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  53. As my second run streak anniversary approached, I know that over training and bad form cause a lot of injuries. While I have been beyond lucky to have avoided the sidelines I know and often do not talk enough about the fact that I am only still running because I listen closely to my body. And it usually does the most talking when my foot hits the ground. As much as I want to alter my all too often heel strike, I know that my form becomes sloppy when I am tired BUT that is the way I have been running for years and years. So I may never completely rid myself of those jarring heel strikes I know that the approach to any change must come slowly.
    shelly recently posted..How’d April Go?My Profile

  54. very interesting as i’ve been in the same boat. and was also told to do insoles in a stability shoe. i finally stopped listening to everyone and i went to a nuetral shoe that i’m experimenting w/ super feet insoles. it’s all so frustrating b/c everyone tells you something different. but the bottom line, since going to a lesser shoe, in just a few short days, i’ve seen significant improvement.
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  55. I’m a believer. I tore my plantar fascia and was in a boot for weeks and then given custom orthotics with the same advice: never go without them. I started running motion control shoes with the orthotics and then learned about barefoot/natural running and began working my way into neutral shoes. I’m now not using the orthotics at all, wearing neutral shoes (currently Brooks PureFlow), and my feet are stronger and better than ever. No pain, no problems, and I’ve been running virtually injury free since then through 10 half marathons and additional shorter races.
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  56. Thanks for this post!!! I have been through every shoe and orthotic with the hopes of ridding myself of the chronic shin splints and stress fractures I seem to get constantly. I am trying to transition to a more natural way of running and you give me hop e it is possible. I am heading to a running group next week who say they can help me with my form, we will see!!!
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  57. As the founder of one of the best hair growth clinics in Mumbai, India, I have been running on Mumbai’s beaches for many years. I usually do a barefoot run atleast once a week. I have seen that barefoot running helps me run longer and I don’t seem to get tired as fast as I would with my running shoes on. I attribute that to better natural grip of the foot on the hard sand. Besides the sun, sand and surf makes one feel better and more enthusiastic about a run. But overall I feel that my calf muscles have become stronger and more defined with barefoot running as also the fact that the earlier niggling foot and ankle pains have all disappeared.
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  58. I WANT to like minimalist shoes..

    I got Newtons a few years ago and found that beyond calf pain, I ended up over-exaggerating on avoiding heel strike and running on my toes. I’d end up with bruised/bloody toes, and I determined that was worse than jarring my heels a bit.

    A few weeks ago I tried out some New Balance Minimus shoes on a 4 mile run. I switched pretty easily to midfoot striking (my left heel touched down twice the whole run), but I ended up almost callousing the whole inside of my left foot – apparently I land there.

    So maybe I’m combining two things, minimalist and a zero-drop, but for me right now I feel as though the minimalist doesn’t work for me because of how I land. Maybe that’s a gait issue I can work through? I also broke my left femur and patella a few years back and so I’m not sure how limited I am in my “ability to adjust” things on that side.
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  59. I don’t think barefoot/minimalist works for everyone, but I do think some folks absolute need to run that way.

    I like to try new shoes ever so often. I’ve run in Inov8 (lower heel than most other shoe companies, at least before the minimalist shoe explosion). Also, Inov8 doesn’t discontinue shoes, it just adds to its collection.

    I’ve run in the New Balance WT100s and REALLY liked those. I wouldn’t do more than 10 or so miles in them, though.
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