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How often should you run in minimalist shoes?

New research shows you should limit the number of miles you spend in barely-there footwear

Over the last couple of years, the new wave of super shoes has dominated the conversation surrounding running footwear, but it wasn’t that long ago that minimalist shoes were all anyone could talk (or rather, argue) about. Despite all of the carbon-plated, ultra-bouncy shoes on the market today, there are still many runners out there who prefer a barely-there shoe, but recent research says these runners should limit how many miles they’re running in this type of footwear.

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The study

The research, published in the Journal of Special Operations Medicineaimed to provide updated information regarding the minimalist versus conventional shoe debate. The study assessed 61 trained runners over the course of 26 weeks, with 31 of them wearing minimalist shoes and 30 wearing conventional shoes. Each week, the researchers increased the amount of training time the participants spent in their assigned shoe by five per cent, to see at what point the cons of wearing minimalist shoes began to outweigh the pros.

The results

By six weeks, runners in the first group were spending 35 per cent of their total training time in minimalist shoes. At this point, their energy costs were lower and their 5K times were faster than the group wearing conventional shoes. Beyond this point, however, they did not see any further improvement over the group in conventional shoes, but experienced more running-related pain in areas like their knees, shins, calves and ankles as their mileage increased.

Runner feet running - closeup on shoe.

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What does this mean for runners?

These results suggest that runners should limit the amount of training they do in minimalist shoes to 35 per cent of their total training volume. The researchers also suggest using this type of footwear in situations where you’re trying to achieve optimal performance, like a race, fitness test or time trial.