Choosing running shoes…minimalist or traditional?

Choosing running shoes

Choosing running shoes

From West 4th Physiotherapy associate Dee Malinsky…

RUNNING into difficulty: choosing running shoes.

With running shoe companies pushing for simple racing flats (with the dawn of the running boom) in the 70s, to increased cushioning (air, gel & torsion control) with associated variation and marketability in the 1980s-2000, followed by a push toward minimalism in the early 2010s…we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of information, in limbo between fashion/market trends and straight forward scientific evidence.

Ask yourself the following series of questions to help you with choosing running shoes and in particular whether a change to a minimalist shoe could be worthwhile:

1. Do I usually run with traditional running shoes?
No, consider choosing running shoes in the minimalist variety.
Introduce yourself to running very gradually and with care so that the body can gradually adapt.
 Yes, ask yourself…
2. Do I want to improve my performance?
Yes, consider switching to a minimalist shoe.
Research shows that lighter weight running shoes lead to increased economy of running (eg. decreased oxygen uptake), as well as improved foot strike.
If No, ask…
3. Am I currently injured?
If No, when choosing running shoes, consider remaining in a traditional shoe.
Why mess with something that’s currently working well for you?
If Yes, ask…

4.Was my injury less than 6 weeks ago?

If No, consider switching to a minimalist shoe. An acute injury may appreciate the cushioning support & protection of a more traditional shoe but a chronic injury may be improved by the benefits of a minimalist shoe: more natural biomechanics, improved foot strike, and decreased ground reaction force. The gradual progressive stress of a new shoe may also be beneficial to promote tissue adaptation. But progress slowly!

If Yes, Ask…
5. Does my injury involve my foot, achilles tendon or calf?
If No, consider switching to a minimalist shoe.
A minimalist shoe will decrease forces on the skeleton, hip & knee, but will demand more from the foot & ankle (in a good way, if done progressively) in order to actively stabilize during running.
– If Yes, remain in a traditional shoe.
With more cushioning, stress on the foot will be decreased, but stress proximally (on the skeleton) will increase.

As easy as that!

Check out The Running Clinic website at for additional information on choosing shoes and other research-based reasoning behind running-related topics. Also, check with your physiotherapist for individualized recommendations regarding preventing injury—in the shoe you’ve already chosen, or while transitioning to a different shoe, if the situation is appropriate.

~ Dee Malinsky, MScPT

With 5 associates recognized as specialists by The Running Clinic, West 4th Physiotherapy is recognized and recommended as a specialized running clinic care centre. Book an appointment with Dee or one of our other running specialists for solutions to your running problems.


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