Barefoot to minimal running shoes.

Hi all,

 I run or try to run approx 3 times a week around 4 miles each time with 1 longer run on sundays.

I over pronate and have quite flat feet so have supportive trainers. However I'm really keen to try minimal trainers or even eventually go completely bare foot.......

 .....but is this really possible for flat footers like me!!???? I can understand one would need to make a transition slowly to it to allow muscles to adapt etc, but will I be increasing the risk of injury...bearing in mind I badly sprained my ankle 3 months ago in my "supportive" trainer!

 I'm a great believer in getting the muscles to do the proprioception not relying on trainer/mechanical support. I am a pro horse rider by trade so my ankles are normally pretty reactive due to that however it is non weight bearing!!

 Any views welcome please and especially from flat footers alike lol




  • I'm flat footed. Sports shops always try to get me into anti-pronation shoes (ignoring the wear pattern on my shoes which doesn't indicate overpronation). I ignore them and run in neutral shoes or (as much as possible, and increasing) minimalist. Absolutely read up about it and avoid too much to soon (TMTS) injuries if possible (or as I put it, for all runnning, "if it hurts, rest, stupid" injuries). I'm running up to about 10 miles in minimalist shoes now (Terra Plana Neo) and should be doing a 11 or 12 mile midweek run in them this week.

    Note: changing to minimalist shoes should also be about ensuring you have a running style where you're landing midfoot, with your leg underneath you, at a fast cadence (say 180 foot falls per minute), rather than longer slower strides landing on your heel with your foot in front of you. If you'r running with a midfoot landing etc. you won't be overpronating because you're not rolling outer-heel-to-inner-toe  - you're not rolling heel to toe at all.

  • It's still possible to pronate with a mid/ forefoot landing!

    I midfoot strike but still have to wear orthotics! I have for the last few weeks been doing short distances in vivo barefoot shoes, around 1 mile at a time 3-4 times a week I'm just taking it really slowly so as to not overwork the weak foot muscles!!!

    For my everyday running shoes I wear newtons, they are light and allow me to run naturally while still being able to accommodate my orthotics!
  • SqueakzSqueakz ✭✭✭
    I naturally midfoot strike and pronate, I run with cadence of 183 and do not heal strike even when fatigued unlike most people who have transitioned. I have had my full biometrics check under a number of occasions.

    It is possible to pronate when midfoot striking and some people even naturally heal strike barefoot.

    The podiatry profession have noticed an increase in specific types of injury associated with minimalist shoes, and as many people are getting injured using them as there are enthusiastic supporters of this type of shoe.

    ‘Is barefoot better?’ is the wrong question to ask,” says Lieberman. “The issue isn’t whether you run barefoot or not, but how you run – your form."

    My advise would to have your biometrics and form accessed by a biometric professional rather than someone on a forum.... I would hope you would not simply buy the identical saddle for your horse because someone said it was good.... I would hope that you would appreciate every horse is different and the exact same thing can be said for you... what works for someone else may result in injury for you.
  • many thanks guys!

     and squeakz, yes you are right i think a biometrics test is a good you know where i can get one.....i'm near oxford so thinking there may be somewhere is town!??


  • SqueakzSqueakz ✭✭✭
    I use profeet in London and find them to be really good, they have given me exercises to do to address some of my issues and explain things in great detail, they also have a quaified podiatrist on site. The only other place I am aware of is stride-uk over near hove in brighton which offers a similar service.

    I personally found that it allowed me to understand more about my own biometrics and have become a stronger runner due to this. Unfortunately these kinds of services are not exceptionally cheap. Give them a call or google for them and ask questions.
  • Debra Bourne wrote (see)

    I'm flat footed.


    No your not, I am image

  • Didzy, you have the Run3D Gait Lab in Oxford (it's up Headington Hill, I ran there from town), which is just about the most sophsticated biomechanics analysis in the country! I had an assessment there when they were setting it up, and it is a fantastic resource. Best thing is that they are just there to analyse your gait, not to sell you certain shoes, and they are professionals qualified in engineering and biomechanics, not salespeople who have had a one hour workshop on what to look for. They use 360 nodes and video analysis, and can compare your gait to everyone else who has passed through. They are also able to analyse possible causes for past injuries based not only on your gait, but on ongoing research between foot placement and injuries, particularly knee pain.

  • If any of you have a spare moment could you fill in a questionnaire about your Running Shoes for a Finalist research Project at Loughborough University.

  • I honestly don't see the point of having a biomechanics analysis done to see if you are 'able' to run without modern running shoes.  Even If I did see the point of it I certainly wouldn't recommend getting one done by a 'specialist footwear and custom orthotic' manufacturer.  It's hardly in their interest to tell you that their expensive, custom orthotics are completely unnecessary.

    Should people who want to heel strike in 'traditional' shoes also go for a full biomechanical analysis as well, to check if they are suited to this kind of running?

    Start slow. If you are serious about trying it you need to accept that you will effectively be not running for a few months.  First time out I did 2km and that was way too far.  Plenty of helpful info on the US runners world site although some of the posters are a bit OTT in their overwhelming support of barefoot and how it will eventually cure cancer and lead to world peace.

  • Lol Ian! Well, my more recent biomechnical analysis (actually at the Drummond Clinic in Maidenhead this time, not Run3D) told me that I am generally a neutral and efficient runner, but the restricted movement in my left shoulder means I occassionally throw my left arm across the body. This causes my right foot to overpronate, and this sudden and occasional movement may explain my repeated right pereneus tendon injuries. It also indicated that my restricted shoulder and back movement means that I am unable to use about 25% of my lung capacity when I run, which is obviously severely hampering my performances and contributing to a significantly greater oxygen debt than I would otherwise experience. All of these problems had emerged since my previous analysis in summer 2010 (which I can confirm as I still have the video footage from that assessment).

    I would say that this type of knowledge is well worth knowing for anyone serious about their performances, and I am now embarking on physiotherapy to try to correct my shoulder and back immobility.  The whole body is a chain - if one bit is not working efficiently, the whole chain can get thrown off and cause significant problems, as this indicates.

    Few people who are suited to minimalist shoes should need orthotics. Orthotics have their purpose for short-term use to "get through" a block of training or important race, but they are no substitute in the long-term for correcting running technique and strengthening foot muscles and tendons.

     Victoria - have done your questionnaire image.

  • I've been to the Drummond clinic too and would recommend them to anyone.  I found it very informative and interesting, and they didn't try to sell me anything.  In fact it was a visit here which started me thinking about how inneficient my running style was at the time (big strides, heel strike ahead of CofG, bouncing vertical motion...). 

    The guy I spoke to never mentioned forefoot landing/minimal running but in retrospect it all makes a lot of sense. 

  • Best thing I did was get a biomechanical analysis done at an independant podiatrist, who recommended various stretches etc and was able to get me into a set of not expensive off the shelf solid orthotics, which she adapted for not a lot of cash.

    I have all but lost knee and hip issues, I can use them totally fine with my Saucony Kinvara's or any of my other shoes (always neutral) even for me as an over pronator who has various other imbalances, leg length difference etc. I know there is a lot of debate about orthotics etc - rarely I should say from people who use them, but they really do work for me and everyone else I know who runs with them. Not all my issues can be corrected by strengthening or taking it easy.

    All the info I got from the podiatrist (NOT a shoe shop!) were the same as the info I got from a sports massage therapist I saw before I went there.

    At the same time I am doing more core work, leg strengthening and foot strengthening work as I may not always need the orthotics - but while I use them they are so natural and I do not notice them for a second when wearing them. Shoes without them now feel so unsupportive due to my low arches etc.

  • I used orthotics for a while while I was recovering from a foot tendon injury, but made it clear to the physio that I saw them as strictly a temporary crutch, not something I'd use long-term any more than I would wear a cast after a broken bone had heeled. She was okay with that. The orthotics got more and more irritating to me; I took them out of my shoes in the middle of a run and haven't used them since. Different people, different experiences.
  • SqueakzSqueakz ✭✭✭
    Ian... I personally would advise everyone to have a full biometric check for anyone and everyone no matter what type of shoes you are running in... Only with sufficient information can you begin to address your issues. You also run using your entire body which other checks such as gait analysis alone does not consider.

    Im a natural midfoot striker as such easily progressed towards minimalist type shoes, no matter what type of shoe I ran in, I experienced soreness in my knees.. the barefoot brigade informed me that this would eventually go though using minimalist shoes, and going barefoot..... it did not
    Running shops which checked my gait advise support which equally did not address my issues
    A full biometric check discovered a weak hip which was causing rotation of my leg and it was this which was causing my soreness...... Addressing my issues solved my problems, so in my experience a proper check provided valuable information.

    Although i myself run in minimalist shoes I think many people present midfoot striking and minimalist shoes or barefoot as a solution for everything which is simply not the case... minimalist shoes can cause injury, and for some people going barefoot can even be life threatening.

    Understanding your own biomechanics is important as one shoe or solution does not suit all imho
  • Squeakz: "I think many people present midfoot striking and minimalist shoes or barefoot as a solution for everything which is simply not the case." Fair enough - but there's also a tendency I've noticed, every time someone suggests going minimalist/barefoot, for someone to pop up and basically yell "barefoot is evil! Everyone going barefoot is going to get horrible injuries! Stick to nice safe thick soled shoes and heel striking!" - But lots of people are getting injuries while wearing thick-soled shoes and heel striking, which is why some people are looking at alternatives.

    It may, as you say, be best for everyone to get a full biometric assessment, but I don't see that happening any time soon. Minimalist or barefoot style is one option which can provide more propriceptive feedback, encourage people to be more aware of their gait, and appears to help some people to improve their running style and to avoid injury. Didzy originally asked whether it was possible to go minimalist with flat feet. As someone with fairly flat feet, I reported on my own experience that yes, it was - as well as my experience that staff in shops selling running shoes appear conditioned to label every person with flat feet as overpronating - even if their shoe wear doesn't indicate that being the case.

  • Didzy, Can you do it?


    Be aware, build up your minimal miles slowly, while strengthening your calf muscles as they will take one hell of a pounding at first.

    Phase out cushioning slowly.
  • I have one flat foot and one normal foot. I overpronate on the flat foot.

    I use Merrell barefoot shoes (pace glove) fine.

    currently up to 8 miles on them at the moment. definately ease into it slowly - i didnt and killed my calf muscles for a few weeks!

  • Squeakz,

    I'd be interested to know how barefoot running can be fatal....?

    As far as biomechanical analysis goes to an extent I agree with you, but then I tend to think as runners we (as a group) are far too fixed on finding the 'right' pair of shoes for our own particular set of problems, rather than accepting that in fact it may be poor form or weakness in one area which is causing the problem.

    How many threads are there which start with the OP saying "I have problem X" and which are answered by a succession of posts saying, effectively "Don't change anything you do, just buy a different pair of shiny new trainers. Nike will fix it for you".

    How many other sports can you think of where people are positively encouraged to keep going with their poor, untrained form and just fix any problems with different equipment?

    I don't believe, as some do, that barefoot/minimal running will solve every issue. I do like, however, that when talking about this type of running the emphasis is firmly on getting the technique right and that by striving for better technique we reduce our chances of becoming injured.

    Can you do it with flat feet? Yep.
  • Ian K: if you have one of a variety of serious medical conditions and cut/punctured yourself while running barefoot it could be serious. For example, if you lack normal feeling so you might not know you're injured, or if you get infections very easily, or heal very slowly. Most people, however, do not have such serious medical conditions.

    And yes, I agree with you - I like the barefoot/minimalist emphasis on getting your form/technique right, rather than finding "the" pair of £100 shoes or orthotics which will put everything right!

  • SqueakzSqueakz ✭✭✭
    Ian there are certain conditions for which going barefoot is nothing less than dangerous and under certain situations can be life threatening. If you are diabetic for example you are advised not to go barefoot for these reasons.

    One such thread can be seen at the following url...;_ylt=AohHGlw36JSIqzsbguF3UEkjzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20110408192602AAYRAtR

    Debra... I most certainly use minimalist shoes myself as they suit me under certain situations but I do believe that supporters of minimalist shoes often present as fact or suggest that they reduce injury or that traditional running shoes cause injury.. There has been no scientific evidence what so ever supporting this.
    Im equally not aware of any wearer of maker of traditional running shoes who has suggested or claimed that traditional footwear reduces injury. This misinformation seems exclusive to supporters of barefoot and minimalist footwear.

    Nobody has the same running form and biometrics as such seeking a professional to address your personal needs is a good idea imho

  • Squeakz: "Im equally not aware of any wearer of maker of traditional running shoes who has suggested or claimed that traditional footwear reduces injury. "

    Oh really? Actually, that's what traditional running shoe manufacturers are selling/advertising their shoes on: that wearing -this- shoe will improve your running/reduce the risk of injury which you have due to your poor mechanics.

    For example, the Asics website says that "As underpronators tend to be susceptible to shock-related injuries like stress fractures, you should choose a neutral running shoe with plenty of cushioning" - which is basically suggesting that cushioned shoes will reduce such shock-related injuries.

    Another website providing advice for choosing traditional runnning shoessays "If you are a serious overpronator and do not wear the correct shoes then you are much more likely to get injuries (especially knee and hip injuries) when running."

    Another (traditional) site says (for overpronators): "there are plenty of shoes designed to help manage your footstrike, keep you comfortable and help you avoid injury."

    Then there's all the stuff saying you must buy a new pair of running shoes every 500 miles, with the implication that unless you do this you will start getting overuse injuries such as shin splints and knee pain.

  • I would put good money on the thought that no matter what shoe you have, over training, and ignoring pains, niggles and soreness, along with correct warm up and warm down procedure cause many more issues for runners than this debate.

    Marketing for shoe ranges will say whatever will sell more shoes..
  • Sprint for the line: Absolutely. What many people name as "too much too soon injuries", I've started calling "if it hurts, rest, stupid" injuries. And I advise rest (and self-massage, and going to see a decent sports physio if rest etc. doesn't work), and try to follow my own advice.

    And I agree with Iain Knowles regarding barefoot/minimalist running: "I do like, however, that when talking about this type of running the emphasis is firmly on getting the technique right and that by striving for better technique we reduce our chances of becoming injured."

    But there are extremists on the barefoot side of the debate and on the thick-shoe side of the debate, and people on both sides pressing their pet points without sufficient evidence.

  • Sprint for the line wrote (see)
    I would put good money on the thought that no matter what shoe you have, over training, and ignoring pains, niggles and soreness, along with correct warm up and warm down procedure cause many more issues for runners than this debate. Marketing for shoe ranges will say whatever will sell more shoes..

    At my running club, the only other person in the 'fast' group I can find who cools down properly at the end of a run is twenty years older than me.

    They're not stupid people, but why do they insist on running full pelt to the last possible moment of the session and then getting in their cars to drive home? image

  • Until I learnt, I used to finish off tempo, fartlek or LSRs with a sprint finish, sometimes to outpace someone else.. Now I tell anyone else that they can have me if they want at the end, because you should be just ticking over at the end of a training run.
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