What the heck is minimalist running? Is it the same as barefoot running? Both terms seem to be used interchangeably so it’s easy to understand the confusion.

Technically, barefoot running is running without any shoes…literally barefoot. Proponents say it is the most natural form of running and lets the feet do exactly what they are biologically engineered to do while running.

The difference with minimalist running is that you still wear shoes. However, these minimalist shoes are specifically designed to mimic barefoot running. They are light, flexible, have wider toe boxes and minimal sole padding. For all intents and purposes, it is the same as running barefoot, just with some protection.

But why run with minimalist shoes at all? Why try and mimic barefoot running? Isn’t more cushioning a good thing for your body?

Contrary to popular belief, throwing as much padding and cushioning into your running shoes as possible isn’t necessarily a good thing. Yes, it reduces the stress of impact. However, with the way traditional running shoes are made, there is a lot more padding and cushioning in the heel. This causes you to heel strike as you run.

Imagine yourself running. What form do you use? Typically your arms will be bent, swinging side to side, you will take long strides, land on your heels, push off and have minimal bounce to your step. Are you surprised to know that landing on your heels is actually a bad thing? The impact this sends through your body is bad on your joints, especially knees, hips and back. And the problem perpetuates itself- manufacturers stuff more and more cushioning into the heel to relieve impact, but that makes it harder and harder to run properly.

The proper way to run is not to heel strike. You want to land on your midfoot as closely as you can. This video below is a great tutorial on how to do just that:

Without minimalist shoes, running properly is very difficult to do. Your heel is raised and it naturally makes you want to land on your heel. This is why minimalist shoes, or barefoot shoes, are so important. They allow you to have the protection you need for your feet but still allow you to run naturally and properly.

For more information on minimalist shoes and minimalist running in general, please check out these articles: