I have been running for about 20 years, mostly 10-21 km over the past few years. This past year I've transitioned into running in Vibrams - in the simplest model I found - and about two month ago I stopped running in "regular" shoes altogether.

typically jog for the first few km, and then speed up for the last 5.5 km of my run, which is done on a flat, paved bike path/pedestrian walkway. I have more than a hundred times for this particular section, and since I started running it in the Vibrams, my average time has dropped dramatically. I'd say that for the past year, I've been doing it in 26-30 minutes, and in the past month from 25-27. Furthermore, in the past my times were all over the place- on a bad day I'd end up jogging it (hence 30 minutes) and on a good day it could be 26. In the Vibrams it feels like I can't really slack off and jog slowly, even on days I feel lackluster.

Does this make sense? Do minimalist running shoes force you into better form and improve your times?


4 Answers 4


Minimalist running shoes are shown to increase cadence and decrease stride length.

Decreased stride length - many heel strikers become forefoot strikers. This usually allows for more efficient pace because the leg lands under the body's center of gravity. It also means the big muscles are being used for propulsion and the small muscles aren't "braking" from too much overstriding.

Increased cadence means more foot strikes per minute. Without getting into the speed debate (stride length & speed vs force generation), increased cadence usually means increased speed in inefficient runners.

So, in the end, you are probably more efficient and with a better cadence. This can make you faster. BUT, accumulated fitness also may be a culprit. The more time you spend running, the better you usually become at running. Also if you have increased total body fitness say through bouldering and you experienced better spring weather allowing for more consistent running as well as higher quality running, well those are all factors too.

The minimalist shoes have probably helped you for a variety of reasons. I caution that many studies show that minimalist shoes have a limiting factor because in time your body adjusts to cushion the landing which reduces elastic recoil which reduces running speed. Maybe try a shoe around a 6mm heel to toe drop that is specially fit for you at a local running store. That will let you get the best of both worlds.


Your improvement makes complete sense.

By switching to the Vibrams, you probably changed from a heel striker to a mid-foot striker. You've also traded the stability, cushioning, and restriction provided by the shoes for strength in your feet and legs.

You are now stronger and have better form. If the shoes are the only variable you've changed and your times have improved dramatically, then it stands to reason that your shoes are the reason why. Congrats!

  • Technically, there is another possibility (in terms of variables that have changed). I started bouldering in January. But I was still running in regular shoes then, and the dramatic improvements in my times only began when I switched over completely to Vibrams a month ago.
    – Eyal
    Jun 18, 2012 at 5:45
  • Whatever the reason, keep it up. That's awesome to see a dramatic improvement. Jun 18, 2012 at 23:58

Think of it this way, if you have poor technique and then correct it don't you think your performance will go up? Less wasted energy, better movement, etc.

Do they force you into better form? they can, but you can still run with less then optimal technique wearing any type of shoe (or going barefoot).


No, not from my experience, minimalist shoes don't force you into good form or improve fitness.

In fact, since there is less protection on your feet you are more likely to injure your feet. If your not doing 5-10 hours a week running and running on soft trails - not gravel, stony trails, mountains, or pavement - then maybe you'll be fine.

I'd like to know how your experience has been. Hopefully in full contradiction to my post your running strong and healthy.

If you experienced any improvements then I believe it is more likely due to your attention of form due to your new footwear and maybe some additional running - and sprinting?

A good training program will make you run better and faster, and with this comes proper form. I've discovered the importance of cadence and heart rate through training first and reading second. I think Im on the edge of getting the technique for a longer stride, but Im waiting out an injury. I've discovered several different forms of injury from wearing minimalist shoes, and now I'm leaning more to the opposite side of shoe wear and might buy the extra soft / maximum protection shoes.

All the best to you :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.