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Minimalist vs. Maximalist Shoe Debate

Though this article may seem “old”, it contains information relevant to runners of any era. I read the article and enjoyed it because I could hear the shear disdain for Hokas from the author.  I also could see through the Hoka marketing malarkey, too, which was nicely displayed in the article. The conversation at the end of the article, though, truly gets to the heart of the issue: we runners are all a study of “n=1”.

I feel it is important to see through the debate and appreciate what “minimalist” and “maximalist” shoes have to offer.  For fine tuning the body and refining running form during training, minimalist shoes are the best.  For competing when the body screams “too much”, maximalists offer an option (albeit a cautionary one) for helping us meet our goals.  Having a selection of shoes to chose from allows us to train smarter as runners.

I was a minimalist purist for a while, but then I started rehabilitating people who had injured themselves with minimalist shoes.  I also sustained my own injury, managed it by going back to supportive shoes temporarily, and now train selectively with minimalist  and moderately cushioned shoes.

Training is all about loading the body, then recovering adequately before training again.  Training is also about retraining the nervous system/muscle firing patterns… i.e. form.  It is much harder to learn good form, and ingrain it in our muscle memory, when using overly supportive shoes OR when you are hurting because the shoes are too unsupportive, but it can be done either way.

I teach clinics because I feel it is important to offer this balanced approach.  I want people to enter this conversation from a well rounded perspective, so they can see what they need and when, but also so they can cut through the marketing hype to make intelligent decisions on their own.

The Intelligent Runner

Before you decide what kind of running you want to do, you need to do a bit of honest self-reflection.  Many of you may be like me, in that you want to have a base fitness level to be able to do something fun, big and intense without a lot of prep time. Ultimately, it comes down to what part of the compulsive-impulsive continuum you want to live.

Compulsive training allows you to perform at your full potential for a certain race or races, but it doesn’t allow for as much spontaneity.  Impulsive training is inherently more fun because it is driven by what you and/or your friends feel like doing at the moment, but it means you may get spanked by a big race that you sign up for at the spur of the moment.  Once you decide where on the continuum you want to be, you can then decide how far you want to go into developing a training program.

To really compete at the top of your potential without getting injured you need to focus on a few big events and train mainly for them.  To train effectively, you need to know at least the basics of exercise physiology to develop a good training plan.  In addition, you need to be a well rounded athlete so that you are less likely to break down muscles and connective tissue when you are maxing out on intense races.

The following article from the Flathead Beacon summarizes our philosophy and background. We hope you enjoy it.
“Relearning to Run” Since this article was published, Jamie has moved to Missoula and I now have Brianna Irion, DPT, OCS, and Julie Shobe, RD, CPT helping me with these clinics. Hope to see you this spring at one of our clinics.

If you feel inspired to see a condensed, “Hollywoodized” version of the “Born to Run” book-turned-video, watch this 10 minute clip.
“Born to Run”

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