Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Newest Addition to the Minamalist Movement.

If you haven't heard of the New Balance Minimus yet... you will.

Minimalist shoes encourage good form with lower leg strength and forefoot striking. Running this way uses your joints and muscles to cushion footfalls rather than relying on synthetic foams and gels to minimize the direct impact on bones. Running causes the force of three times your body weight on each foot fall and heel striking causes all that force to impact a pinpoint location on the heel which then fires a chain reaction of compression among cartilage and bones in your ankles, knees, hips and back as the force carries up your body.

The shot below from a video by NJsportsmed demonstrates how the same runner's form adjusts with and without shoes and how the foot fall changes from heel-strike to fore-foot strike just by running without a shoe. In the article "Millimeters and Mid-foot Strike" by the New Balance Sports Lab, the heel pain of heel striking is identified as a natural promoter of forefoot striking. Any runner will subconsciously move off of their heels, up onto their fore-foot to naturally cushion their footfalls using their muscles to minimize the painful impact on their heels.

Ideal form can be broken down into 4 key points;

1. Posture - Good posture keeps your shoulders, back and pelvis in line to best utilize your bodies' natural levers. Bend your knees a little to emphasize the use of your joints and muscles rather than locking your knees and allowing force to carry straight through your bones and cartilage and jam your joints together.

2. Cadence - Cadence can be defined as the rate of foot falls and is often measured in steps per minute. The ideal cadence has been identified as 180 steps per minute, or about 3 steps a second, which is a quicker turnover than the average runner uses. Focus on quickening your cadence, or increasing your turn-over, by shortening your steps. By taking smaller steps you will not only be bending your knees more but you will also be decreasing the momentum and force each step carries.

3. Mid-foot - The importance of fore-foot striking comes back to efficiency. In order to increase your turn over and quicken your cadence you must be light on your feet and take quick steps. It takes much less time to move from a mid-foot landing back to a push off of your toes than from a heel landing through your mid-foot and then finally up onto your toes. The easiest way to feel a mid-foot transition is to walk in place. You will feel how your stride is confined to your mid and fore-foot.

4. Lean - To help you maintain your posture and facilitate the other three points above be sure that you are leaning from your ankles and not from your hips. A butt-out posture created when you lean at your hips will just make you feel off balance and out of alignment. You want your center of gravity to be centered on your body mechanics and leaning forward at the hips will displace your center of gravity too high. You can mimic the correct lean by standing with your feet together and keeping your body in a straight line as you lean forward softly until gravity pulls you into a gentle run. You can compare this to the "fall-on-your-face" feeling you get as you lean forward from the hips

Now that you know the essentials of good form and the advantages of barefoot running lets balance it out with some of the challenges of barefoot running. Running barefoot is obviously very hard on your feet since rocks, pavement and trash are not only painful, but cause abrasions and additionally the ground is very unclean. Also, it is very difficult to change your form a great deal. So if you are typically a heel striker you will most likely only have enough calf strength to maintain forefoot form for a limited amount of time before falling back onto unprotected heels.

All these pros and cons have brought us in a round about way to the New Balance Minimus. The Minimus has been developed using technical simplicity for an anatomically tailored fit that brings you all the benefits of barefoot running while minimizing the risks. All of the hours of research, studying and design can be best broken down into four main points,

1. Drop - The New Balance Minimus features a 4 mm difference between the heel height and the toe height. Researches at New Balance's performance lab found 4 mm to create the perfectly natural foot position. This is enough height to accommodate the modern human foot in a safe and very natural position.

2. Width - The Minimus also features a wider foot bed that provides your foot enough room for the natural expansion that occurs as a your body weight shifts upon a bare foot. Your toes can spread out, your arch can expand and your foot can shift just like you were doing bare foot strides on a grassy field.

3. Height - The Minimus is manufactured with out any insert and material has been minimized in the mid-sole and out-sole to provide a low profile, light weight shoe. By doing this the distance between the ground and your foot is minimized to provide a naturally stable landing pad and to encourage mid-foot striking the same way bare foot running does.

4. Weight - The Minimus weights 6 oz, which is 50% lighter than traditional lightweight running shoes. For example, the Nike Free is 8.4 oz, the Saucony Kinvara is 7.7 oz and the New Balances MT 101, New Balance's previous light weight running shoe, is 7.48 oz. Having a shoe this light weight will not only create a stride just like you are running bare foot, but it will also feel like you are wearing no shoes at all.

Fleet Feet Bend is now carrying the New Balance Minimus running shoes in the Trail, Road & Life versions for men and women. This is certainly a powerful tool and a brilliant addition to the minimal running shoe family. There is a ton of excitement and information out there about the Minimus and here are a couple of our favorite links to start your research on all the great features and research behind this shoe:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Very informative. I'll come get a pair.