#232 Most runners lack the discipline required for minimalist running shoes - DOC

#232 Most runners lack the discipline required for minimalist running shoes

Today on the Doc On The Run Podcast we’re talking about why most runners lack the discipline required for minimalist running shoes.

Many runners will find this episode offensive. In fact, my guess is that so many runners will be put off by a title suggesting they lack discipline, they won’t even listen to it.

But if you stick with me for a few minutes I think you will understand where I am coming from.

First of all, who do you think decides to buy minimalist running shoes?

Novice runners do not go searching for minimalist running shoes. I’ll bet most novice runners don’t even know what the term “minimalist running shoe” means.

This would probably be a different episode, but I would argue that most novice runners probably wouldn’t get injured if they were running in minimalist running shoes. Novice runners who are just beginning and starting to run, just don’t have enough running fitness to run far enough to get injured.

But experienced runners can run a long way, regardless of footwear.

And it is mostly highly experienced runners who start investigating the idea of barefoot running or running in minimalist running shoes.

There are many reasons minimalist running shoes appeal to endurance runners.

Minimalist running shoes simply weigh less than conventional running shoes. Therefore there is an argument that simply the decreased weight of minimalist running shoes will make you a more efficient runner. It’s just less weight to pick up and put down thousands of times during the course of a marathon.

When you run in minimalist running shoes you will definitely feel the ground underneath you with a lot more detail than when you run in conventional running shoes. There is an argument to be made that that increasing tactile sensation can provide valuable feedback when you’re running.

There is also certainly a large group of runners who argue that when you run in minimalist running shoes you are more apt to develop better, more efficient running form. Whether you are running a marathon, a 10k, or an ultra-marathon, efficiency is at the core of your success.

No one trains for long distance events, nor successfully completes a long distance event without a great deal of discipline.

You have to train on days when you feel tired. You have to do workouts at times they may be horribly inconvenient. You have to stick with a training plan for months. So yes, all runners have discipline.

Running in minimalist running shoes requires an advanced level of discipline.

All runners are disciplined enough to suffer. But not all runners are disciplined enough to avoid suffering.

The discipline required to successfully run in minimalist running shoes without getting injured is the discipline of restraint.

A few months ago I ran a 50 mile trail race. Whether trained or untrained, I can run a long way. If you’re listening to this right now, I bet you can, too.

But just because you can do something, doesn’t make it a good idea.

If you run 50 miles without training the chances are high you’ll get injured. I don’t think most runners with argue with that premise.

The problem arises when you think about running a short distance, much shorter than you know you are actually capable of running, but running in minimalist running shoes that requires a level of fitness when your body is not fully prepared.

Only highly trained barefoot runners are actually fully prepared to run in minimalist shoes without undue risk.

Regardless of how much running fitness you have, it is unlikely you could take off your shoes and run several miles barefoot without getting skin irritation, skin abrasions, lacerations or blisters on the bottom of your feet. 

Your feet just aren’t tough enough today, to run barefoot.

The muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet are similarly just not prepared for you to run without shoes.

If you decided today that you wanted to start running barefoot, the discomfort related to the softness of the skin on the bottom of your feet would actually protect you. If you were to run barefoot, you actually couldn’t run far enough to sustain a musculoskeletal injury like a stress fracture or tendinitis.

The pain and obvious and pending injury to the skin on the bottom of your feet would protect you. In short, unless you were trying to hurt yourself, your skin would start to hurt in a short period of time and you would stop running.

But if you put on a pair of minimalist running shoes, your skin is protected. You could easily run 5 miles. You could probably run 10 miles. You might even be able to run 20 miles.

But if you were to run that far in minimalist shoes, the bones, tendons and ligaments, the small intrinsic muscles inside your feet that help stabilize you when you run, would take a serious beating.

When you run in minimalist running shoes your running form will change.

If you ramp up your minimalist running very gradually, all of the bones and soft tissues will strengthen gradually. 

But most endurance runners just won’t do that. Most endurance runners just run the distance they think is reasonable.

We think 5 miles is a short run. We think running 1 mile is a joke.

So we put on our minimalist running shoes and we take off on a 5 mile run. We just don’t have the discipline to run half a mile in orr new shoes. We don’t have the discipline or the patience to wait until our form changes and all of the necessary adaptations occur in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones in our feet and legs.

An overtraining injury is nothing more than too much stress applied to one particular tissue, without enough recovery, before that tissue is stressed again.

Minimalist running shoes, particularly in an athlete who is not uniquely trained to run in those shoes, has a high-risk of getting injured during what is perceived to be a relatively short run.

That is why I believe most runners lack the discipline required for minimalist running shoes. We are just too impatient, and we just believe too firmly that we have enough fitness to absorb the abuse.

If you want to try out minimalist running shoes and want to do it in the safest way possible, just follow the same routine that I give injured runners who are returning to running after a real overtraining injury. It is a free video I made for you called “How To Do  A Test Run.”

Check out the video on how to do a test run and it will walk you through the process. You can get the video for the test run at the bottom of the show notes page for this particular episode at DocOnTheRun.com under the podcast section.  

If you think you are ready to run, you are at HIGH RISK of another injury.


Follow a careful test run plan and transition safely back to running.

Get instant access to the video here…





If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!