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I started running a week ago. I also learned about fore-foot-strike running, and I'd like to try that. But I'm wondering what shoe I should use:

  • A minimalist shoe, so I'm forced to run "properly". If so, how do I know I'm to exhausted to run properly and should stop for the day?

  • A normal running shoe so I don't hurt my self, when I fail to run "properly"

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The vast majority of runners self select the stride pattern and foot strike that is best for them. Just run. –  JohnP Aug 21 '13 at 14:49
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2 Answers

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If you're just starting out running, you have a great opportunity to make the effort to learn correct form now before developing any bad habits. Minimalist shoes indeed can help to encourage a certain type of foot landing, because the lack of cushioning or heel rise makes it easier to land on the fore- or mid-foot and heel striking will feel uncomfortable or painful. But you don't get good form simply by wearing such shoes, you should invest the time to learn the nuances of proper form and specifically how it applies to your own body. A good book or trainer can be as valuable as a good shoe.

A normal running shoe so I don't hurt my self, when I fail to run "properly"

Maybe a traditional running shoe will avoid pain or discomfort in the short term if you run with incorrect form, but in the long term you are likely to develop stress injuries regardless of the type of shoe you wear if you have bad form.

It's easier to try out minimalist shoes if you're new to running. When experienced runners try switching to minimalist shoes, they need to be careful to start slow with the new shoes and gradually rebuild mileage, pay attention to changes in mechanics and form, etc. But if you're a new runner, you'll need to do that anyway, so there's nothing to lose in trying minimalist shoes.

Now is also a good time to try true barefoot running. It's easier to try this as a beginning runner. I said that minimalist shoes can help encourage some aspects of good form, but I find that full barefoot running can be more directly beneficial to good form, and what you learn while barefoot can carry over to any type of shoes you wear for the rest of your running. Unlike going barefoot, minimalist shoes still restrict the motion and flexibility of your foot to some degree, and still shield your sole from the sensation (either good or bad) of the ground. The additional feedback, if learn how to listen to it, can guide all sorts of very small adjustments to help perfect your form. For this reason I do a portion of my runs barefoot, as a means to adjust and perfect form.

Regardless of which you select—traditional shoes, minimalist shoes, barefoot, or an combination thereof—now is the time to learn good form, build up gradually, and find out what works for you.

How do I know I'm too exhausted to run properly and should stop for the day?

In general, it may be helpful to find a training plan for new runners, not necessarily as an absolute prescription for how long to run each day, but at least as a guide that you can adjust to your needs. This can give you a general idea of how much you could expect to run each week and how to gradually increase the mileage or intensity.

More specifically, if you feel pain in your feet, joints, etc., you should probably stop for the day. Like starting any sort of new exercise, it's ok to feel soreness or fatigue, but pain is a sign that you've either reached a limit for the day, or something is wrong. Perhaps your shoes aren't fitting correctly, or something about your form has caused too much stress to your feet or joints for the day, etc. Or, it could be that some of the small muscles in your feet or the larger muscles in your legs have just reached their limit for the day: especially with minimalist or barefoot running, there are adaptations your body needs time to make. Your feet especially need time to strengthen.

Update

Here are three great discussions on this site that go deeper into proper running form and minimalist running experiences.

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A minimalist running shoe would be optimal, but I doubt that you should invest in one of those just to try forefoot striking.
You can run and walk on your forefoot in every shoe, although the rigid sole or heavy cushioning might make things complicated. I started running on my forefoot last fall, the shoes I used weren't even proper running shoes (more like general purpose field and track shoes). Although this is not optimal, it worked for me. If you have normal running shoes you should be able to use them. However you will feel a difference when switching to minimalist shoes.

On your first run you should not try to even get close to distances you ran before, just try to run one mile or less. The leg has to adapt to the new technique as some muscles that haven't been used before are now put under stress. As you just started running this issue might not be as big, but I suspect you didn't walk an our forefoot and thus those specific muscles are probably still weaker than the rest of your normal running muscles.

Bottom line: Try to switch to forefoot running for a short distance in one of your normal runs and see how it feels like. If you like it and want to get more serious about it, buy minimalist shoes.

Alternatively you could try running completely without shoes as this will make you run on your forefoot automatically.

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