I got into minimalism back in the early aughts when I began to read the likes of Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Gordon Lish, Mary Robison, Chuck Palahniuk and others. One of my favorite professors was a Hemingway scholar, and perhaps the "iceberg" principle was driven in too deep.
The desire to achieve more with less led me to running in 2006. All I needed was a pair of shoes. Now, I am starting to wonder if I need those.
Last year, before the weather got cold, I attempted my first barefoot runs. Soon, I will make more unshod attempts.
All this talk about natural vs. unnatural running, barefoot vs. shoes and minimal vs. stability cushioning has me shaking my head. The debate is pointless. Nobody has the facts. The arguments are based on limited studies, personal experience and opinion. So, here are mine.
I needed shoes when I started running. I need less shoe now. I will probably always need some shoe because of winters in Ohio.
Ever since the Akron Marathon, I have run most of my miles in racing flats. Because I was recovering from the race and entering winter, I ran a lot less. Easing into minimal cushioning allowed me time to strengthen my feet to handle the increased load.
Before I bought the low-profile Brooks T6 Racers, I became skeptical of cushioning. I have three other pairs of running shoes, and only one has logged fewer than 500 miles. I rotated between these shoes while training for the marathon and raced in the lowest mileage of the three. That pair now has logged 450 miles.
By continuing to run in well-worn stability shoes, I pounded the cushioning down until it was ineffective. My feet had to get stronger to make up for the decreased support. From there, I made a gradual shift to the racing flats.
Yesterday, I took yet another step into less shoe. I bought a 12-by-12 inches piece of 3/16-inch thick industrial rubber for $6.04. Here is why.
This minimalist trend has also been good to my wallet. I've spent about $75 dollars on running shoes in the last 22 months, during which I have run about 1,800 miles. And guess what? I haven't used my injury tag since June of last year, before I logged my highest marathon training mileage ever.
My advice for those who plan on running in minimal shoes or bare feet: Don't be stupid. Making a switch like this is like starting over. Your lungs, core and thighs might be ready to go out long and fast, but your feet and calves are not.
Start short and slow. Stop if it hurts.
This all goes back to being an Experiment of One. You are your own test lab. Listen to your body, not the so-called "experts."
[Drunkard's note: Yes, this can be summarized as, "I was into minimalist running before it was cool."]