3 Tips for Making the Transition to Minimalist Running

It's hard to spend any time with a group of runners without hearing the word "minimalist" bandied about. 

While it might be tempting for both new and experienced runners to "jump in" and give minimalist running a try, injuries can easily happen if basic steps aren't taken to allow the body—and even the mind—to adjust to the transition.

According to RRCA and USATF-certified coach Sean Coster, preparation is much more important than determination when embracing minimalist running. Here are three tips Coster suggests runners should employ when making the big leap into minimalist running.

More: How to Transition to Minimalist Shoes

Tip No.1: Stabilize the Core

Core strength is a vital component of successful running, and it's even more vital when going minimalist. Building your core can be accomplished by strengthening your core with Pilates-type exercises such as planks and bridges. 

Once basic stability has been mastered, work on increasing your range of motion across the three planes of movement: saggital (side-to-side movements), frontal (forward flexion and extension) and transverse (internal and external rotation).

"Make sure that your range of motion across the three planes is stable and proper," suggests Coster. "Try doing lunges, lateral lunges and squats for some serious core strengthening." 

More: Runner Lunges

Tip No.2: Increase Ankle Stability

"Going beyond core stabilization, you get into ankle stability, which is really similar to balance," says Coster. 

To work on ankle strength and stability, Coster recommends runners perform what is called "The Runner's Touch" exercise.

While balancing on the left leg, engage the core and lean slightly forward. Reach out with the right arm while lifting the left leg behind the body. 

Return to an upright position while forming 90-degree angles with the right arm and leg (as if in a running pose). Repeat for 10 repetitions, without allowing the right foot to touch the floor. Complete the sequence on the right leg.

"Single leg work is important," says Coster. "If you're in a position where you can do 20 Runner's Touches on a single leg, then you are probably in a position to safely do more minimalist running."

More: 4 Exercises to Strengthen Ankles

Tip No.3 Take Your Time With the Transition

"Now that you've gotten more strength and stability, you're ready to go into more of a transitional stage," says Coster. "After a moderate distance run, you might want to take off your [usual training] shoes and put on the [minimalist shoes]."

Coster suggests runners find a soft, level surface, and do some 100-meter or 200-meter strides at 5K pace. 

"If you start out doing this two to three times per week, and then transition to doing more and more, you will get to the point where you can try out your minimalist shoes during part of your normal workout," he says. "After this, go back to your usual shoes and see how you adapt over the next two days or so."

How quickly a runner is able to transition from traditional training shoes to a minimalist style may vary.

"Everyone is going to be different," Coster adds. "In general, it's a lot like building your mileage up in running. It's not as if you have to take a total baby-step approach all the way through, but use 'how you feel' as a gauge."

If your body begins to protest, "Be ready to move backwards," adds Coster. "Sometimes you reach your goals faster that way."

More: Benefits of Running Slow

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About the Author

Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke is an online video editor for Active.com. His favorite part of the job is covering inspiring races and athletes who push themselves to be the best they can be.
Michael Clarke is an online video editor for Active.com. His favorite part of the job is covering inspiring races and athletes who push themselves to be the best they can be.

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