Minimal Sneakers: Worth a Try?
Over the past decade, science article after science article has suggested that overly cushioned, modern footwear is weakening our feet. Findings detailed in such articles express that dexterous, strong feet not only improve athletic performance, but also ability. As someone who believes in looking at my training from the foundational level (mastering the basics: functional movement capacity), I took those scientific findings seriously. I began wearing footwear less frequently at home and sometimes never at the gym. However, some facilities I frequent require footwear, particularly in the weight room, and because I train outdoors as well as indoors, I discovered I needed an all-around solution for those scenarios: minimal shoes. This post reviews the pros and cons of minimal sneakers I purchased from Amazon about six months ago.
|Great Fit and Feel||Breathable||Strong Grip|
|The sizes available for the brand I selected fall into a range: 5.5-6, 6.5-7, and so on. The pair I received fit comfortably around my foot with not too much slack, but still some wiggle room.||I can feel the wind through my shoes, which is great during a workout and as the shoes age.||The sole of my WHITIN minimal sneakers have plenty of grip. I have a feeling they can double as rock-climbing shoes.|
When slamming my feet on a rocky trail, I can feel every rock and pebble. I know the aim of wearing minimal footwear or going shoeless is to train the body to adopt a movement pattern that aligns with how humans evolved to move, meaning landing on our toes and balls of our feet when running. Conversely, well-cushioned shoes have conditioned us to land on our heels. Part of the process of learning how to run in a more evolutionarily complementary manner is to condition the feet to withstand pressure all over the foot. This process is painful, and minimal shoes protect the feet only minorly from those pressures. However, as time goes on, one can grow accustomed to the discomfort.
A clear difference I experienced between wearing minimal sneakers and traditional, well-cushioned sneakers is how much my feet hurt and tingled after a brief walk. Whether I walked on a flat surface or graveled ground, my feet felt discomfort after about 30 minutes. By contrast, they never hurt while wearing my work shoes (often Sperry’s) or Puma sneakers. But the irritation and slight pain I experienced made sense. Like stated above, the intent of minimal shoes is to enable your feet to do the work, so they, like the rest of your body, can develop and strengthen.
Some readers, particularly avid runners concerned with foot training, might wonder why I have not opted to train my feet via barefoot running. Others might be wondering why I selected the specific style of minimal shoes I had: round toe rather than individual toe slots. I’m not an avid runner or endurance-focused. I don’t participate in marathons or even the occasional “fun” mud run or 5k. I sprint in intervals, lift, stretch, jump, hike, climb, attempt flips, and practice handstands. I’m a functional-strength athlete, who focuses on fast-twitch muscle development and gymnastics skill attainment.
Training barefoot has never been an option for me, for a personal reason: I don’t want ugly, callused feet. Now for the second possible point of inquiry: the minimal shoe style I selected. I’m not opposed to trying shoes cut to fit every one of my toes; however, that has not worked out for me in the past. My toes are very small, and I’ve never found a good fit. Instead of hoping for shoes that would fit perfectly or paying for a custom pair, I eliminated that issue and selected high-rated, premade, round-toe shoes.
After Six Months
My feet hurt. Often — in the beginning. I was very much feeling the repeated, dynamic stress from regular walks in rocky parks and sprinting workouts, coupled with walking around at home and doing my other workouts shoeless – not to mention, standing part of an 8-hour workday, 5 days/week. Long story short, my feet were tired at the end of every day. But I wasn’t surprised or deterred. I heard anecdotes and read studies about similar pain when making the switch from well-cushioned footwear to minimal shoes. So, I pressed through, hoping my feet would get stronger and that lingering, deep pain would dissipate. Overall, I think the pain was a good sign. It revealed how dependent my feet were on the support of shoes. Even though I began walking around home and training shoeless over three years ago and did not experience foot pain, the difference came in the type of training and activities I took on once I had minimal sneakers. In the past, my shoeless training involved mostly basic strength or gymnastic movements, no sprinting or outdoor trail walks. Now, six months in, my feet are better conditioned for movement on various surfaces, and I no longer have lingering foot pain at the end of each day.
Although I feel every rock and pebble when I walk and occasionally have tired feet, I don’t foresee myself ever purchasing another pair of traditional sneakers. I’ve learned to love the connection of my feet to the ground, which is ever-changing as I move throughout the day. And, according to science, I’m doing what’s right for the physical functionality of my body from the ground up.
Sources & Further Reading
"Foot strength and stiffness are related to footwear use in ...." 27 Feb. 2018, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21916-7/. "Your Running Shoes, While Comfortable, May Be Making Your ...." 22 Sept. 2020, https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a34110894/running-shoes-may-weaken-your-feet-toe-spring-study/. "Your shoes were made for walking. And that may be the ...." https://college.harvard.edu/about/news-announcements/your-shoes-were-made-walking-and-may-be-problem. Read more reviews here.
As an athlete for over 19 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created brokesinglemomfitness.com, now LLAFIT.com, to aid anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site. LLAFIT – Lifelong Affordable Fitness