Monday, March 2, 2015

The Minimalist Movement Went Flat Because It Was a Trend.

Hixson argues that minimalism went flat because "[the runners who switched to minimalism] were either unprepared or continued to run with poor technique and didn’t reap the benefits they thought were theirs."   I think this is wrong.  I think it went flat because it was a trend, straight up, and trends simply don't last.

I liked Born to Run like everyone else I knew in 2009, and why not?  It's a great tale of a completely insane race, and it holds out the promise of being special to every middle-aged hobby jogger out there.  You have the lineage, it says.  You and all human beings are to the manner born, the manner of running free and easy.

A lot of my friends -- as an educated late-20 something at the time, I was basically the target audience -- fell in love with the book.   Vibrams seemed like the sensible path for a bunch of city dwellers, and away they went.

A solid majority developed stress fractures.

Now, you can say this is a case of too much too soon.  And perhaps it was, although my friends adhered scrupulously to the guidelines.   You can say they ran with poor technique, but the thing is, they weren't getting injured in traditional shoes.  I believe that many runners could benefit from changing their running style, but the minimalist movement, or at least elements of it, seemed to argue that people should change their style solely to fit the ideal promised by a book.

If you think about it, this gets it backward.  Most of us attempting to run in minimal shoes aren't naturally talented human runners, and years of sitting, injuries, weight gain, years of living have left their imprint on our bodies.  For many of us, starting slowly and easing into isn't enough.   Why not buy shoes that work, instead of those that fit a story?

I never went fully minimal.  When I started running in fall 2013, I began by walking in a pair of Vivo Barefoot I had bought at the height of the craze.  Then I ran in Altra Torins, and learned that I have better rearfoot control in a zero-drop shoe.

Unfortunately, I also learned that better rearfoot control is not good rearfoot control. My hip has to take up the slack, and while I don't have weak hips, they aren't strong enough to control a foot that developed bunions at age 13.

I'm fit.  I foam roll, mobilize, everything, but I do not have good feet for running.  They are fine and flexible, but trying to pretend they're really strong doesn't make them rigid.  I believe the lighter shoe might have worked well, if I had different feet.  No amount of toe exercises is going to change bone.

I can't believe I'm alone.  I'm glad the trend happened -- it's nice to have lighter shoes, and I really like the 8mm offset Saucony adopted across the board.  But the trend didn't last just because it was a trend.

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