To Minimal or not to Minimal…


I’ll jump to the punch line and say right up front "It’s complicated."

I believe the theory is absolutely 100% correct. I don’t think anyone would argue that given ideal circumstances, the body is built to function but humans have done a good job at making it hard to do so at times. High heels are not a normal evolution to walking, nor is sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

When Born to Run came out, people everywhere jumped on the bandwagon and immediately thought running barefoot or with zero drop shoes would solve all the problems. And when some started getting injured, they called the idea bull-crap.

For many of us, we have spent 40 + years walking and running a certain way. The muscles are developed to accommodate that and within lies all the underdeveloped and overdeveloped sides of the story as well.

My perspective is this:

If you wanted to lift weights, the last thing you would do is rush into a gym and expect to go + 250 lbs on your first go. Weight lifting is about strength AND form and technique. Even if you had the strength, if you tried to lift with bad form and technique…you risk serious injury.

Our bad habits or weaknesses, and yes we all have them, that we manage to band aid or compensate for are suddenly magnified when we overextend. It takes practice, training and progression.

My friend and former coach Neil Rosenthal is an expert at running form and technique. Neil works at Solefit in Ottawa and amongst many things to aid the body, they do video analysis of running and provide insight to people all over the world. When Neil transitioned, he took months and slowly restarted to run. Low distance, slow pace.

When Neil transitioned me out of the high drop world, we did it over a period of 8 months starting very slowly. Even now, I am not fully minimal and I doubt I will go all the way.

Running with minimalist ideals is a good theory. But you need to think about this, and go slow. You need to consider your form, your current habits, and most important your current state. Meaning, if you have recurring injuries, you need to understand that and try to resolve it. If you need orthotics for a legit reason, you need to take that into consideration.

There is one more consideration. You have to ask yourself "Why do I want to do this?".

I believe in minimal theory, but I honestly could not look everyone in the eye and tell them it would help them. So my thoughts are this. If you want to get faster or be a better runner, try these suggestions first:

1) Running with better form and technique

2) Strength ( core and supporting muscles and tendon groups ) and Flexibility

3) Nutrition .

4) Follow your training plan. If you have a plan, there is a logical reason for most workouts and where they are placed. In some cases minor shuffling is ok. But jumping in and out and or missing crucial build periods only opens you up to injury or failure.

If transitioning to minimal theory is what you want, then do so smartly! Develop a strategy and seek input from the experts if needed.