While writing this article on minimalist running shoes, I wondered how many people even know what this really means? Many have heard the term minimalist running shoes or minimalist shoes and think this is probably some new style or some fad that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
Barefoot running or natural running are terms you run across when discussing minimalist running shoes. You can use a variety of terms to describe minimalist running shoes but the terms fad or style of the day are not good descriptions.
How to Pick the Best Minimalist Shoe
Most people looking for minimalist shoes are looking to improve their running form and possibly correct past problems caused by conventional running shoes such as joint and ankle injuries or over-pronation problems for people with flat feet.
In general, any minimalist shoe will help improve these conditions but you have to find the right shoe that gives you the most comfortable fit and works best with your body to help give you the proper running form.
No one shoe will work the same for everyone and it may come down to making the best choice based on comparison of different styles and brands. Customer reviews are also very helpful in making a good determination.
The following steps will help you in making an educated decision when choosing the right minimalist shoe:
1) Decide which features you absolutely need. Keeping true to the minimalist form, the following features should be present:
Zero-drop or near-zero drop heel,
Toe box wide enough to allow toe splay, shoe big enough so toes do not touch front of shoe.
Below are the most preferred features, but not absolutely necessary:
Nice to have, but you can do without
Easy to slip on and off,
Easy to adjust lacing,
Minimal toe spring
Through experimentation, you will find what works best for you and you’ll be able to make a better decision as to what shoe or shoes you want to own.
2) How do you plan to use your minimalist shoes?
Will you be running on hard flat surfaces or natural trails? Long distances? Rain or snow? Some minimalist shoes simply won’t work for all tasks.
For example the Vibram five fingers is better suited for natural surfaces such as sand or dirt while the MX20 minimus is an excellent cross-training shoe which can be used on different surfaces.
Some people own at least a couple of pairs depending on the surface they will be running or walking. You will need to consider factors such as traction, durability, ground feel, insulation, and ventilation.
3) Try all different minimalist shoes.
Since your feet are unique some shoes will match all the criteria you are looking for, but the fit won’t be quite right. Others will fit perfectly. The best way to decide is by trying them all on at some point.
Trying them in a store is helpful, but testing them in actual conditions is ideal. How do you accomplish this? Try out some of the most popular brands such as the New Balance MT20v2 minimus or Vibram five fingers first and see how they work out for you.
Customer reviewers can also be very helpful in describing any given shoe’s characteristics. Reviews can give you a great idea of which shoes you can eliminate.
However, when it comes down to the final choice that third step is your responsibility. You are the only one who can decide what is the best minimalist shoe for your needs.
Barefoot running can be easily understood as a way to improve upon your current running technique or a way to reduce running injuries, however, not many people would ever consider barefoot running as an anti-aging strategy.
Probably the most well-known theory on anti-aging is the concept of free radicals and how free radicals can cause cumulative damage to your body and tissues over time.
Free radicals, or positively charged electrons, are released inside your body anytime there is an injury to your body or some kind of inflammation, whether it’s a headache, arthritic pain or simply just day-to-day stress. Free radicals can occur even from the act of breathing or eating and drinking.
Antioxidants on the other hand are negatively charged electrons and will automatically neutralize free radicals and the two opposite charges will cancel each other out.
Some free radicals are good and it’s not necessary to eliminate all of them, however, you want to reduce excessive free radical accumulation and keep a healthy balance of antioxidants running through your system at all times. Barefoot runningor walking can help accomplish this delicate balance.
Three Important Aging Factors
There are at least three different aging factors in our bodies that are affected by excessive free radical formation:
1. DNA damage and mutation due to free radical damage
2. Mitochondrial damage in our cells and tissues. Free radicals are a byproduct of mitochondria oxidative metabolism and eventually the mitochondria wear out or self-destruct due to excess free radical formation.
3. Protein cross linking explains why you get wrinkles in your skin. Excessive free radical formation causes these proteins to stick to each other, reducing the efficiency of enzymes.
According to Dr. James Oschman, an expert in the field of energy medicine the human body is designed with a kind of semi-conductive material that runs throughout the body and connects everything together including inside of the cells.
This living “matrix” according to Dr. Oschman carries electrons that enter from the soles of our feet and can go anywhere throughout the body. Wherever free radicals show up inside the body, negatively charged electrons will be nearby to neutralize them.
This neutralization that occurs as a result helps to prevent damage to cell tissue and helps preserve the three aging factors discussed above: DNA damage, mitochondrial damage and protein cross-linking.
So basically this conductive material that runs throughout our body is an antioxidant defense system that protects us against the ravages of free radicals. Our connective tissue which keeps everything together has a gel material called “ground substance” that stores electrons.
When you go barefoot you pick up electrons from the Earth where the body will store them. These electrons will be reserved for any time there is an injury, inflammation, pain or any other reason that would create free radicals in the body.
How Barefoot Running can Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
A very interesting point recently discovered is how barefoot running can help reduce blood pressure. Barefoot running or “grounding” actually helps to reduce the thickness of your blood allowing the blood flow to your heart and all your vital organs throughout your body to become much easier.
This can have a profound effect on people suffering from cardiovascular disease and other blood pressure related conditions as practically all types of heart disease or blood pressure related diseases like hypertension, anxiety, among others has been linked to proper blood flow throughout the system.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a well known cardiologist and proponent of alternative medicine worked with Dr. Oschman’s team on researching a method called zeta potential which measures the potential for thickness of blood based on how fast your red blood cells migrate in an electrical field.
It turns out that your zeta potential rises when you are grounded to the earth, like when you are barefoot on natural surfaces.
This increase in zeta potential causes your red blood cells to have more charge on their surface, forcing them apart from each other causing your blood to thin and flow easier resulting in a lower blood pressure.
By the sheer fact that your red blood cells are repelling each other, they are less inclined to stick together and form a clot.
A blood clot of even the smallest size could be enough to cause a heart attack so barefoot running or grounding can have enormous implications on reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease or heart attack.
Barefoot running or grounding and the associated increase in zeta potential not only has the potential to decrease your risk of heart disease but also could reduce your risk of dementia, (loss of brain tissue due to micro-clotting in the brain) as well as many other blood pressure related diseases. Learn more about about how going barefoot can help here at minimalist running shoes reviews
Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews studied the benefits of barefoot running and walking and discovered some amazing facts. The skin on our body is an excellent conductor of electric energy. Although we can connect any part of our bodily skin to the Earth, the most sensitive or most conductive part of our body where the skin touches the Earth is actually the middle part of the ball of our foot.
The middle part of the ball of our foot is a point known to acupuncturists as Kidney 1 (K1). It’s a well-known point that conductively connects to all of the acupuncture meridians and essentially connects to every part of your body. Interestingly enough, the fact that most people do not regularly walk barefoot has been associated with the rise of modern diseases.
Barefoot Running and Modern Disease
Dr. James Oschman, an expert in the field of energy medicine, researched the grounding or earthing phenomena and came up with some interesting information regarding the relationship between barefoot walking and inflammation. Many studies and research have pointed out that chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of virtually all disease, from diabetes to cancer.
When we look at the physical changes that occur in the body when we walk or run barefoot we can gain a better understanding as to why chronic inflammation is so prevalent in today’s society, and what could be done to prevent it.
Scientifically speaking, when you’re barefoot on the ground there’s a transfer of free electrons from the Earth to your body. Surprisingly enough, these free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants that are known to date.
Recent grounding experiments have found that these particular antioxidants are known to provide benefits such as:
• Positive changes in heart rate
• Decrease in skin resistance
• Decrease in multiple inflammation levels
Dr. Oschman’s explanation on the relationship between what happens during grounding and how it impacts the inflammatory response gives us a deeper insight into this very interesting phenomenon:
Oschman basically tells us that the human body has built-in defense mechanisms like our immune system which is activated almost immediately with the slightest painful contact such as a bump or any other pain eliciting motion. Internally, our immune system responds to this painful contact by sending white blood cells to the isolated location where the injury took place.
These white blood cells (neutrophils) release what are called free radicals in an oxidative burst. These free radicals act as scavengers gobbling up bacteria that may have entered your skin as a result of the bump or painful contact.
If any cells are damaged as a result, these free radicals will break them up into smaller fragments so as to make more room healthy cells to come in and repair the tissue.
This free radical activity that goes on is considered an inflammatory response from our immune system when we bump or hurt ourselves and cause inflammation (i.e. pain, heat, swelling etc.)
Inflammatory Response and the Healing Process
What’s really fascinating here folks are the causal effects of inflammation. Research shows us that inflammation is a result of a low electron count in our tissues.
When white blood cells deliver the automatic inflammatory response to an injury or painful contact to our body, some of the free radicals that are produced can also damage some of the already healthy tissue.
Grounding research shows that if you place your feet on the ground after an injury (or on a grounded sheet, or place grounding patches on the balls of your feet), electrons will begin flowing into your body from the Earth and spread through your tissues.
The free radicals that leak into the healthy tissue will immediately be electrically neutralized. Since the electrons have a negative charge and the free radicals have a positive charge, they will cancel each other out.
So according to Dr. Oschman when we ground our feet we’re sending a flow of negatively charged electrons throughout our body which acts as a neutralizer for any collateral damage that can happen internally to our healthy cells and tissue.
By separating ourselves from the natural ground of the Earth with rubber and plastic soles on our shoes we actually expose ourselves to increased injury to our bodies. Amazing! Read more about about minimalist footwear on our home pagehttp://minimalist running shoes reviews.
Obviously the best surfaces for barefoot running or walking would be surfaces free of debris, or sharp objects that can cause injury. If you live in the suburbs or in the city this may be a little more difficult to achieve as you may have difficulty finding the best surfaces to run on.
The most optimal surfaces for barefoot running are surfaces that are good conductors of electron flow. Studies show that concrete is a good conductor as long as it hasn’t been sealed.
Painted concrete allows a lot less flow of electrons. Materials like asphalt, wood, and typical insulators like plastic or the soles of your shoes, will not allow electrons to pass through and are not suitable for barefoot running.
The ideal location for barefoot running is the beach, close to or in the water, as sea water is a great conductor. Your body also contains mostly water, so it creates a good connection. If you can’t hit the beach, then a nice grassy area, or a beautiful meadow covered with early morning dew is the next best surface to run barefoot on.
How Barefoot Running can Affect your Health
Two main things that make a difference in your ability to conduct electron flow are 1) Standing or running outside in your bare feet and 2) How high up you are off from the Earth’s surface.
There is a natural charge at the surface of the Earth where your body can receive an electron flow. This potential charge is something you don’t feel as is does not cause any particular current flow.
Whenever we have weather changes, this potential charge can go up from one hundred volts to 10,000 volts per meter which is the stage just before lightning strikes. This charge between the surface of the Earth and the ionosphere hundreds of miles up is charged by particles from the sun and is very electrically active.
Those charged particles eventually reach the Earth in the form of lightning and electrify the entire surface of the Earth so that anywhere you touch the Earth, there are electrons. The path they travel is originally from the sun, then to the ionosphere and finally to the earth.
We don’t see the effects of this charge right in front of us daily, but this constant flow of electrons does exist in the atmosphere and during storms ti intensifies to the point where we actually see it in the form of lightning.
This atmospheric electron flow is what the human body needs for the immune system to function properly.
To experience this flow of electrons through our body however, we need to stay grounded to the Earth’s surface.
Therefore, the more separated we are from the Earth’s surface; the worse the implications are for our health.
For example, if you live on the 20th floor of a high-rise and you’re not grounded (using grounding technology, of course), the consequences to your health will be more significant than if you lived on the first floor.
Likewise, when you wear rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, you are effectively shielding yourself from this beneficial influx of electrons from the Earth.
For optimal immune function, you want these electrons to enter your body, so make sure you take your shoes off now and then!
Exercising barefoot outdoors is one of the most wonderful, inexpensive and powerful ways to incorporate grounding into your daily life and minimalist running shoes will help you achieve this goal.
Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews – Origins of Minimalist Running
Since the 1970′s when the padded running shoe was introduced into the market, people bought into it like it was going out of style. From that point on there was a big transition into what we now call the conventional style of running shoes.
Until just a few years ago, there was no other kind of running shoe available and everyone just got used to running an walking with extra padding on their feet. The common understanding was that this was the best kind of shoe for their feet and would offer the best protection for feet and legs.
Recently however, this idea has been challenged with emerging evidence on the benefits of minimalist running or barefoot running.
While in Mexico, he studied the running style of this tribe who were able to run quickly for hundreds of kilometers with nothing but a pair of sandals.
Benefits of using Minimalist Running Shoes
One of the most common questions we hear at minimalist running shoes reviews regards minimalist running shoes and how they would really help you physically while at the same time reduce the possibility of injury.
Minimalist running shoes are specifically designed with reduced top covering, a less amount of arch support and little to no heel-to-toe drop, it helps the runner shift to a fore or mid-foot landing, instead of landing on the heel which is usually very painful and more prone to foot injury.
Minimalist running shoes are lightweight, flexible with a large toe box which allows your toes to spread upon landing thus developing a more efficient step and shorter running pace which reduces the effect of impact.
The minimalist running approach strengthens your foot muscle tissues and your helps to shape your figure as your entire body becomes gradually conditioned to the new running style.
Research shows that by helping you to imitate the gait of a barefoot sprinter who softly lands on his mid or forefoot, minimalist running shoes will enhance your physical running form, reduce injuries and ultimately improve your running ability faster and more effectively.
Minimalist Running Shoes as a Revolutionary Idea
If you really think about, padded shoes were only recently introduced into the market in the past few decades. From the beginning of time, man has always worn minimal footwear. Our ancestors had always worn minimal footwear or sandals.
Primitive man hundreds of years ago ran, walked, hunted, etc. with little to nothing on their feet for protection, yet their running abilities were pretty similar to the Tarahumara Indians.
Once the padded shoes were introduced into the market, people seemed to believe that this was the best solution for optimal running and reduced injuries.
This change to padded shoes created a new gait or motion in running which was much different from the natural gait of the human body and in reality made the runner more prone to injury.
The concept behind minimalist running is based on the “revolutionary” idea that “less shoe is better” as demonstrated by the Tarahumara Indians. Evidence now shows that minimalist running shoes or barefoot running shoes actually benefit our feet, along with our overall physical health and well-being.
Although Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews recommends trying the transition to the minimalist style for greater benefits please make sure you have checked with your doctor to ensure you have no other physical limitations that would prevent you from making the change. You can find out more information Here about studies on this.
Latest Barefoot Research Reveals Surprising Information
Yes, barefoot running is quickly becoming a sweeping phenomenon and many running enthusiasts are now convinced that barefoot is the only way to go when it comes to running.
Recent studies, however, show that barefoot benefits runners originally thought they were getting may not all be the same.
Researchers at the University of Colorado found optimal performance when running with lightweight, cushioned shoes, and more efficient for conserving a runner’s energy – but the matter is still up for debate.
Is it Easier to Run With Shoes?
The study involved 12 runners with “extensive” barefoot running experience. They ran on treadmills on different occasions, wearing either lightweight, cushioned running shoes, or ultra thin sport socks. Small weights were taped to the top of the runners’ feet to simulate the weight of a typical running shoe.
The results showed that barefoot running used nearly 4 percent more energy with every step, which suggests that it may be physically easier on your feet to wear lightweight shoes rather than be completely barefoot.
When running barefoot, the leg muscles suffered the entire force of impact with the ground forcing the leg muscles to work harder than they would when compared with wearing some cushion underneath the soles of their feet.
So, physiologically speaking, it may be more efficient to wear lightweight shoes (about 150 grams). Whether this means that you are able to run farther or faster than the average runner is still not 100% clear.
It should be noted that the shoe used in the study was the Nike Mayfly, which is designed as an ultra lightweight model and is not the type of running shoe most casual runners wear. Additionally, the study has been cause for much heated debate over several potential issues …
Potential Flaws In University Study
Humans have been running or walking barefoot for ages; running shoes were only invented in the 1970’s. Barefoot running advocates suggest that barefoot running saves precious energy while the added running shoe weight increases your energy expenditure.
The latest research, however, suggests that modern running shoes, with extra cushion and elevated heels, may actually encourage runners to strike the ground with their heel first generating a greater impact with the ground which also leads to an increased chance of injury.
This study did not evaluate injury rates, but past research by Michael Warburton, a physical therapist in Australia, revealed that:
Chronic leg injuries to the bone and connective tissue are hardly seen in developing countries, where most people usually travel barefoot.
In Haiti, where there is a mix of people walking barefoot and people wearing shoes, leg and foot injury rates are substantially higher among the shoe-wearing population.
The likelihood of ankle sprains, one of the most common sports injuries, is higher with footwear as the shoe either decreases your awareness of your foot position or increases the twisting torque on your ankle when you trip over something or stumble.
Planter fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament along the sole of your foot, and one of the most common chronic injuries in runners, is almost never observed in barefoot populations.
Several other points brought up in this university study were worthy of further consideration:
1.) The runners were said to be “experienced” in barefoot running, but this only meant they had to have run barefoot or used “minimalist running footwear” for at least three months in the last year.
Common sense dictates that the more experience a runner has, the more efficient and better form they will cultivate, and three months is most likely not enough time to achieve the proper barefoot running technique.
2.) The study used a treadmill, which is different than real-world conditions
3.) The barefoot runners had weights taped to the tops of their feet, which is different from wearing a running shoe that distributes weight more evenly below your foot. This alone could have made their running more difficult.
4.) The barefoot runners also wore socks, which could also alter the true barefoot running experience.
An Often-Overlooked Benefit of Barefoot Running: Grounding
Whenever you go barefoot, you get the benefits of grounding with the Earth (an activity that is also known as “earthing”). The Earth is negatively charged, so when your bare feet are firmly planted on the ground, you’re connecting your body to a negatively charged supply of energy.
Since the Earth has a greater negative charge than your body, you end up absorbing electrons from it through the soles of your feet. According to the latest research, the grounding effect is very possibly one of the most potent antioxidants we know of and may have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body.
As written in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine:
“It is well established, though not widely known, that the surface of the earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons as a consequence of a global atmospheric electron circuit. Wearing shoes with insulating soles and/or sleeping in beds that are isolated from the electrical ground plane of the earth have disconnected most people from the earth’s electrical rhythms and free electrons.
… A previous study demonstrated that connecting the human body to the earth during sleep (earthing) normalizes the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep. A variety of other benefits were reported, including reductions in pain and inflammation. Subsequent studies have confirmed these earlier findings and documented virtually immediate physiologic and clinical effects of grounding or earthing the body.”
Since so few people ever walk (or run) barefoot anymore to experience the benefits of grounding, it is very plausible that some of the people who have converted to barefoot running are experiencing benefits not only from the lack of shoes, but also from the increased connection to the Earth.
Barefoot or Shoes: What is Our Best Choice?
It’s likely that there are benefits and risks to both shoe-wearing and going barefoot, and you can tailor your footwear decisions accordingly.
For instance, if you’ll be running on asphalt or rocky terrain, or in very hot or cold temperatures, a lightweight shoe makes sense to protect your feet from injury (seasoned barefoot runners note that the skin on the bottom of your feet naturally thickens the more time you spend without shoes, offering natural, built-in protection, but this will take time to build up).
For times when you’ll be on softer surfaces, such as sand, grass or a dirt path, try going barefoot and see how it feels.
Do use caution when first starting out, as many new barefoot runners continue to land heavily on their heels — and the result can be injury.
When running barefoot, you need to aim for a forefoot or mid-foot strike with the ground, which will take some adjustment to get used to.
If you decide to give barefoot running a try make sure you do it slowly, progressing gradually to more and more time spent without shoes. Listen to your body and go from there …