What would appear to be three of the most unrelated worlds of fashion, sport, and science have been converging more and more in recent years. Companies now spend millions on scientific studies that will enable them to develop clothes that help us go faster, stronger, and longer than ever before. One such example is that of the minimalist shoe.
What are They?
Minimalist shoes are defined as footwear that provide “minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices”. This basically means that the shoes try to stay as true as possible to your actual feet, without allowing them to get torn to shreds by barefoot running.
Minimalist shoes are designed primarily to allow runners to safely and effectively transition from one type of shoe to another. This usually happens when switching to another style of running, although they can also be used for other reasons, such as greater control.
Are my Shoes Minimalist?
If you have to ask that question, the answer is likely no. In fact, it’s hard to know exactly what a minimalist shoe is. It was only recently that a number of experts agreed on the above definition, and even now, it’s not very straightforward.
There is no question as to whether a shoe is or is not minimalist. The actual question is how minimalist is it. Minimalism is a measure on a scale of 0 to 100, and there are five criteria that affect the score.
The first is flexibility, both sideways and longways. The more rigid the shoe, the lower the score. This is because it is the fact that the rigidness prevents your feet from moving naturally means that they are not minimally affecting you.
The second measurement is weight. The lighter the shoe, the higher the score, as it has less of an effect on your running.
Stack height is the third point of interest. This is the distance between your feet and the ground, measured in the centre of the shoe. The closer your feet are to the ground, the more minimalist your shoes are.
In at number four is heel to toe drop, which measures the slope of your shoes (which is why stack height is measured in the middle). If your shoes are high at the back and low at the front, this would not be considered a realistic reflection of your feet. Therefore, the steeper the slope, the lower the score.
Lastly are the types of technology in your shoes. Many shoes now have all sorts of shock absorbing or stabilising qualities. While these are certainly useful depending on the type of running you do, they mean your shoes are far less minimalist.
There are many advantages that minimalist shoes can offer seasoned runners, but they’re not the be all and end all of sports shoes. As stated above, they are quite useful for people transitioning from one form of running to another, so remember that. Until then though, you should make sure you have the right footwear for your feet.