[Craig Kleinberg is an Exercise Physiology master’s student at the University of North Carolina and is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab.]

Following up the evidence presented in my previous article or minimalist, barefoot, and forefoot striking, I will present 2 methods for transitioning to the new style of running. These are by no means absolute, but should provide some guidance on where and how to start. The most important aspect is to listen to your body and take the extra recovery day if needed. This is especially true for the more extreme forms of minimalism.

The first method, as I alluded to in my first article comes from the Harvard website for barefoot running (https://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/index.html). Here it is stated to start out just walking around barefoot. I like to think of this in the same context as the Vibram recommendation. Begin by walking around the house or doing household chores barefoot with conscious effort landing on the forefoot for 30 minutes a day. Once you feel ready to run, the following progression should allow an easy transition:

  • ? to 1 mile of forefoot striking for the first 1-2 weeks
  • 10% increase in forefoot striking each following week
  • Listen to your body, take the extra day off for recovery if needed
  • Do not heel strike in minimalist shoes, either stop and switch shoes or wear traditional running shoes until you feel comfortable with the forefoot strike

Back in February I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Irene Davis, director of the Spaulding National Running Center (link to bio: https://pmr.hms.harvard.edu/pages/45/194/), speak at a campus event. She is firm believer that no matter what you have done previously or where you are currently at, anyone can make the transition with the proper training. This program came from directly from her speaking slides:

  • Perform the following 3x week starting with Level A
  • Progress to level B the following week, then level C, etc
  • You may cross train on rest weeks but refrain from minimalist running
  • Level:
  1. Walk for 30 minutes (Barefoot or forefoot emphasis)
  2. Walk 9 minutes, jog 1 minute (3x)
  3. Rest
  4. Walk 6 minutes, jog 2 minutes (3x)
  5. Walk 7 minutes, jog 3 minutes (3x)
  6. Rest
  7. Walk 6 minutes, jog 4 minutes (3x)
  8. Walk 5 minutes, jog 5 minutes (3x)
  9. Rest
  10. Walk 4 minutes, jog 6 minutes (3x)
  11. Walk 3 minutes, jog 7 minutes (3x)
  12. Rest
  13. Walk 2 minutes, jog 8 minutes (3x)
  14. Walk 1 minute, jog 9 minutes (3x)

Once you complete this regimen, perform two 15-minute jogs with a 5-minute active recovery between sets. If this feels comfortable, continue with your runs increasing distance by 10% a week. Again, this routine is not absolute, and you may “graduate” to the next level if you do not experience any discomfort.

Finally here are few exercises you can do to assist with the transition. These will help strengthen your calves, ankles, and foot musculature. Many of these can be performed sitting at a desk, couch while watching TV, etc:

  • Calf raises
  • Toe raises (dorsiflexion)
  • Draw the ABC’s with your foot in the air
  • Place towel on the ground. By curling your toes and gripping the towel, pull it toward your body until you reach the other end of the towel (x3-4)
  • Myofascial release(foam, PVC, or tennis ball for the foot)- Calves, sole of the foot.