My Journey to Minimalism: An Injury Free 2012

By: Lee Toowey 

After reading many compelling studies indicating minimalist footwear provides the best line of defense against running injuries, I decided to take the plunge during the first part of 2012.  I ran in the Nike Vomero,  which is like having mattresses on the bottom of your feet. My Vomeros felt like pure bliss, and at first, they were hard to give up.

In addition to injury reduction, studies like Daniel Lieberman’s have concluded that minimalist-shoe-wearers have a higher running economy, because such shoes encourage “more elastic energy storage and release in the lower extremity [the feet and legs].”

Back in 2011, I attempted the transition to minimalist running shoes and experienced failure. I took off running in a pair of Saucony Kinvaras. I ran too much, too soon, and ended up injured. On my second attempt, I ensured a gradual transition.

My first shoe was the Saucony Ride 5, which has an 8mm heel to toe offset.  Next, over the summer, I ran trails in the Brooks Grit, which has a 4mm heel to toe offset. I ran on mostly gentle trails like Lady Bird Lake and Lake Pflugerville, which is a crushed granite trail.  Additionally, I did some bare foot running on a treadmill. The idea was transitioning on the softest possible surfaces. The final step in the transition was road running in a Brooks PureFlow (4mm heel to toe offset) and the Nike Free.

I went from this big clunky shoe:

toowey vomero

To this svelte Nike Free Run:

toowey nike free

When I ran in a traditional running shoe, I constantly experienced minor injuries. A gimpy knee, ankle stiffness, pain in the back or hips, or aching feet. I believed these minor aches and pains were just the price one has to pay to enjoy the wonderful experience of long distance running, and I was OK with it. Just as a fisherman has to endure boredom, a runner has to endure constant aches and pains in the feet/legs/back, or so I thought.

In addition to experiencing fewer injuries, I believe my running performance has improved because of minimalist shoes. I had several PR’s in 2012, but I can’t be certain to attribute that to training or footwear. However, I have experienced pain free running, and no injuries and I’m certain the cause is the shoes.

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