What To Know About Minimalist Philosophy and Minimalist Orthotics, Part 1

If you don't know anything about minimalist philosophy and minimalist orthotics, now is your chance to find out about this fascinating topic.

First of all, you should know that the term minimalist in respect to running refers to wearing shoes that are very, very close to walking barefoot. The minimalist philosophy started around 2010 after a reporter at the Nature magazine uncovered a discovery by Harvard University researchers. That discovery found that there was a difference between foot dynamics when someone ran barefoot versus with shoes. (Minimalist orthotics try to mimic barefoot running in the design of their Orthotic.)

About the same time, interest was generated about a tribe of Indians in Mexico called the Tarahumara Indians. They run up to 200 miles a day, and their running shoes are nothing like ours in todays stores. They make their own sandals out of worn-out tires and leather. Imagine running in sandals. Its almost unfathomable since weve been trained to think about running with athletic shoes. These same Indians often run barefoot.

Occasionally there have been Olympians who ran their races barefoot. Back in 1960, Ethiopian-born Abebe Bikila discovered that his new shoes didnt fit and couldnt pass up the opportunity to run the marathon for the Summer Olympics. Since he already had a minimalist philosophy mindset and had been training as a barefoot runner, he thought nothing of running barefoot. Back then, very little was known about the biomechanics of the foot during running, and people thought Abebe was a little nutty for running barefoot, not seeing the important paradigm shift that minimalist philosophy brought with it.

In 1984, another runner out of South Africa competed in the Olympics and set the world record for the 5K. By now, minimalist philosophy was starting to be noticed. Yet no shoe company was creating shoes that matched the philosophy, and minimalist orthotics were nowhere to be seen on the market.

And then it happened again, with another barefoot runner from the continent of Africa. Kenya citizen Tegla Loroupe won the 10K run at the Goodwill Games running barefoot, without shoes and without minimalist orthotics.

Do all these runners have perfect feet? What gives them the ability to run barefoot? How are they not concerned about stepping on something that will penetrate the foot? Why arent they wearing minimalist shoes with minimalist orthotics? Do these runners know and understand something about how barefoot running affects the feet that we didnt know?

The Nature journal detailed the differences in running barefoot with minimalist philosophy and running with running shoes. Standard running shoes are different than minimalist shoes. Standard running shoes have a higher heel up to 11 mm compared to minimalist shoes that may be elevated in the heel only 2 to 3 mm. When a barefoot runner takes a step, the part of his foot hitting the ground is the midfoot and forefoot. When todays modern runner takes a step, he is landing on his heel, which is putting the force of two to three times his body weight onto the heel. Its no wonder why so many runners end up with heel pain.

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