MINDFUL MONDAY: Can Minimalist Shoes Really be Blamed for Running Injuries? - Chi Living

MINDFUL MONDAY:  Can Minimalist Shoes Really be Blamed for Running Injuries?

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Mon Nov 17th, 2014, 8 comments

I'm sure that many of you have heard of the lawsuit incurred by Vibram for claiming that wearing their minimalist shoes would help strengthen you body and make you run better. Because of this lawsuit, many so-called experts are trying to tie injury-rates from minimalist shoes to the fault of the shoes, or even to the manufacturer. This is misleading, at best. To be fair, I would say that many more people have been injured by wearing heavy, thick-heeled, stiff-soled running shoes, than will ever be hurt by minimalist shoes. The best running shoe is the one that allows your foot to move in the most natural way, and minimalist and zero-drop shoes do just that. That being said, it's not the shoes that hurt your body, it's the way you run. Vibram's only mistake was making health claims, and they got busted for it… just like Skechers, with their Shape Ups.

The biggest reason for people getting injured from running in minimalist shoes is simple… it's because they're either unaware of how much their running technique might be creating impact to their feet and legs, or they're unwilling to change how they run so they don't get injured. Chi Running allows you to take responsibility for learning to run in a way that doesn't hurt our body, regardless of the distance you run. Subsequently, as you improve the economy of your running by working to reduce impact and effort, you'll be able to run safely in less of a shoe.

The ideal running shoe for you will always be tied into how you run. This means that you don't just go out and buy a pair of minimalist shoes unless your technique can support running in them, or unless you take time to transition into less of a shoe. You can set your mind to try something new, but your body has a time-frame of its own that you need to respect.

It also means that a shoe you use to run short distances might not be the best shoe to run a marathon. I love to walk and run in minimalist shoes, but I wouldn't think of running long distances in them. It doesn't feel good. For my longer runs I prefer a bit more cushioning. 

My definition of the best running shoe for you is: "The least amount of shoe you can safely run in, given how you currently run, and the distance you're running." Put some thought into this statement and check yourself to see if this holds true for the shoes you're wearing.

My friend Betty started learning Chi Running 10 years ago. She wanted to learn to run marathons without the pain she was used to feeling. A few years later the first minimalist shoes came out and Betty loved how they felt on her feet. Even though she was running marathons at the time, she cut back to only a couple of miles in her training runs, eventually taking over a year before she ran her next marathon. She faithfully practiced Chi Running throughout her buildup and, as a result, her running felt effortless and her feet and legs never felt better. She has now run more than 80 marathons, a number of 24-hr. races and even a few 48-hour events. She's able to run as far as she wants in her minimalist shoes because she has spent the time refining her technique to support the distances she's running without getting injured by the shoes she's wearing. She also turned 73 this year.

So, in reality, it's up to you whether the shoe fits.



  • injury-free running,
  • running injuries,
  • chirunning,
  • minimal running shoes,
  • low-profile running shoes,
  • running training

8 CommentsLeave a comment below

Steve Mackel Nov 18th, 2014 12:22pm

Great post, gonna share it.

It took me three tries before I got changing to minimal shoes correct.  I found that after three miles my calves became sore.  So my third try at the beginning I kept the mileage less than 3M and only use the minimal shoes every other day.  Now I have no problem in using them every day, no matter what the distance is.  You need to be smart when switching to minimal shoes.

My Altra Lone Peak shoes strongly reinforce one Chi Running technique, encouraging flat foot landing.  This stops the braking from striking with the heel first.  The toe box is also very big, allowing the toes to move about, which for me means less cramping in the metatarsal.  I had not run for years until I got these shoes - due to knee issues (no cartilage) and mid-foot pain.  Wearing these shoes makes me want to run.

Mark Cucuzzella Nov 20th, 2014 11:18am

Danny thanks for sharing.  i own a store selling minimal shoes and with education and progression everyone can get stronger and improve movement.  as you state…shoes do not run, runners run.  all the best
Mark Cucuzzella MD

My Training Centre Nov 21st, 2014 09:53am

I totally agree, I don’t think it’s the footwear, it’s the way you run. I kept hurting my ankles because of my running gait. Brilliant article Danny

Would they suit me? I get pain on the outside of my ankle when running, I think I tend to run on the outside of my foot?

Hi Danny,  I attended your class in MD last year.  I have a question in regards to the new designs of the minimalist and zero drop shoes.  I have noticed that they all have a large amount of cushion compared to last year’s model.  Do you have any guidance or thoughts on this?

Thank you!

The voice of reason!  I totally concur.  Although I run shorter distances than Danny - my max is a half marathon - I can attest that if you take the time to transition your form to match your minimalist shoes, you’ll be able to run long and freely.  Trying to shorten the transition phase will likely lead to frustration and/or injury - I experienced the latter in my first attempt to switch.  I was more patient in my second attempt to move to minimalist shoes and have not looked back.

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