Minimalist Footwear: Proceed with Caution

You’re more excited than Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB gun as you tear through wrapping paper to reveal your first, brand new pair of (insert current most popular brand here) minimalist running sneakers.  You throw them on, lace them up, take them for a 4 to 6 mile test run, and inevitably shoot your eye out.  After returning from what you’d consider a typical run, your feet, ankles, shins, calves, knees, and/or hips are in more pain than usual.  This example of too much (or too little), too fast is merely a result of being a bit overenthusiastic about your new minimalist footwear.

I love minimalist sneakers as much as the next CrossFitter, and probably enjoy running significantly more, but it takes time to break yourself into the shoes, and combine the two.  It’s taken a couple years of practice to get to the point where a 5k training run in next-to-noting sneakers doesn’t make my calves feel like I just did a 20 minute AMRAP of box jumps.  Believing that yet another new pair of sneakers, light, flat, and firm as they may be is going to instantly solve the issues of the modern runner, for which other, at the time new and innovative sneakers bare a large portion of responsibility, is just as foolish as believing that more cushioning, support, stabilizers, and air bags are the answer to your running woes.  They’re both just band-aids, and we look pretty silly poking fun at folks with thick heeled shoes, when we expect similar magical results from ours with thin soles.

So what’s a CrossFitter to do with their fresh, flat kicks?  First and foremost, seek coaching.  If a movement is consistently causing you pain, it’s probably because your form sucks, and not likely to be fixed by a new pair of shoes.  Most memberships here at CrossFit Fenway include some one-on-one coaching time, and I’m more than happy to work with you on beginning to improve your running technique.  You can also check the internet for ideas.  Although shot a little funny, I like this video from CrossFit Milford owner and CrossFit Endurance head coach Jay Leydon.

If you must use your new sneakers immediately, please start slow.  Walk around in them and use them when lifting.  Limit running to shorter distances at first (think 50m repeats), and keep the volume on high impact exercises like box jumps relatively low.  Figuratively tread lightly as you begin your minimalist footwear adventure, and you’ll be literally treading lightly (and fast) in no time.

December 29, 2011
Strength: Front Squat 5-5-3-3-1-1-1-1

Ring Push-ups
Calorie Row
Box Jumps (30″/24″)

11 thoughts on “Minimalist Footwear: Proceed with Caution”

  1. “‘Be sure to drink more Ovaltine???’ Son of a…”

    FS — 55kg, failed (twice) at 57kg

    WOD — 11:09 Rx…an eternity elapsed between the first row and the first set of box jumps, but after that I found my legs. Love seeing ring pushups programmed too.

    Discovered that I still can’t do cartwheels after almost 28 years.

  2. FS: 59kg and failed at 60

    WOD: 10:24 Rx. Ring push ups felt better than regular push ups, which was great. I liked this one!

  3. “You throw them on, lace them up, take them for a 4 to 6 mile test run, and inevitably shoot your eye out.”

    funny…this is exactly what I did with the Terra Planas, and could barely walk for the next few days. Lesson learned!

  4. FS: 61kg PR – Thx to the paparazzo for the final verbal push.
    WOD: 11:41 w/ 20in and rings from knees
    Unremarkable? Not so!! Last 3 box jumps were rebounding…first time evah on the 20…Coach Cummings: all for you.

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