Minimalist Shoes Will Automatically Turn You Into A Forefoot Striker
Many runners mistakenly believe that slipping on a pair of minimalist shoes will “force” them to run on their forefoot. It’s not that simple.
Consider a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina. When researchers interviewed 35 runners who wore minimalist shoes and asked them whether they were heel or forefoot strikers, all 35 responded that they were forefoot strikers. However, after analyzing foot strike patterns with a slow-motion camera, 33 percent of the runners were actually heel strikers.
How can this be? Not only were these participants wrong about the foot strike they perceived themselves to have, but heel striking runs counter to the belief that minimalist shoes force forefoot striking.
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What’s Really Going On
Rather than magically forcing you to run with a certain foot strike, minimalist shoes help you develop the proprioceptive awareness to land with your foot under your center of mass to reduce impact (more on this later). The improved feedback and awareness that comes with less shoe and more “feel” for the ground allows your feet to send better signals to the brain about where your foot is in relation to itself, how it lands, and the space around it.
But even with all the proprioceptive awareness in the world, you still need to first be able to get your foot under you — and this has nothing to do with your footwear. This is accomplished via hip extension.
By improving your hip extension (how much your leg and thigh travel behind your body with each stride) through strengthening and flexibility, you give the leg the physical tools it needs to stop over-striding and land with the foot directly under the body.
Shoes can help you feel when you’re not generating hip extension and over-striding, but they are not a magic bullet.