Over the last couple years the shoe industry has been trending towards minimalism. Shoe manufactures are cashing in on the movement (Fila Skeletoes) or rethinking assumptions about shoe function and building from the ground up (New Balance Minimus). Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run, has motivated thousands to kick off the foot coffins and hit the streets “naturally”. Zealous minimalist runners preach dumping shoes altogether while moderates assert less is more when trying to run “naturally”.
Anecdotes and stories generally fall under one of the following themes (1) heel striking is bad (2) less shoe = less injuries (3) trails over road (natural over man-made). After wearing different manufactures and comparing the wear on them when I retiring a pair I discovered I heel strike with shoes that have a drop of 6mm or greater. While heel striking my knees hurt and my stride over commits (read as: gets longer) and I feel more fatigued at the end. Lower drop shoes (flatter) have helped me shorten my stride, run further, and stay stronger.
Do I wish I was a Tarahumara? Having the ability to traverse hundreds of kilometers on beer and Chia seeds? Si señor. I read Born to Run like everyone else and what I gleaned from it was: GET OUTSIDE.
I think that the gift of minimalism to the running community has been to demystify “running” by showing that there are as many ways of doing it right as there are people. Whenever I am asked my opinion on “toe shoes” or minimalist shoes generally say to do what works. If they feel better in a “minimal” shoe and it keeps them injury free and smiling, do it. If you want to try it out for possible performance gains, transition slowly. Any info beyond that point is an experiment of one.