Reader Finds Pain-Free Running Success By Changing Her Approach

Going with a more barefoot shoe and gait helped this reader's running woes! Credit:
Going with a more barefoot shoe and natural gait helped this reader’s running woes! Credit:

We get so many inspiring emails from readers, and today we’re sharing another reader success story with you! Read on for Shannon’s super-cool experience from injured to running rockstar. Loving your healthy lifestyle, too? Feel free to share your story here!

I am Shannon, the girl who wrote in last year about the compartment syndrome issue. I no longer have ANY pain in my shins while running. But, let me back up: After seeing the doctor last year, a short stint in physical therapy and purchasing the slightly expensive insoles, I decided that all of the work put in was not paying off because I was still getting shin splints/compartment syndrome issues on a pretty regular basis (although not nearly as often as before). I stopped running in October. This past June, I got sick of not running again—this is my usual cycle. So I began to run again and experienced the same problems.

Even though I’m a seasoned on-again, off-again runner, I wanted to learn more about running. I found the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and learned about a Mexican tribe that was known as the running people. They run crazy amounts of miles each day, as a pastime, wearing shoes called huaraches. They make them out of old tires and some sort of string to tie them to their feet. That’s when I first learned about “minimalist” shoes. So I did more research and decided to give it a shot. I was already accustomed to running three to four miles at a time, but with the minimalist shoes I had to start in the tenths of a mile and slowly build up. They really work muscles in the calves that I never knew existed!

Basically, as I began to build up mileage, I never even felt a slight tingle in my shins. Ever! Pavement, hills, gravel—whatever condition, I had no issue. I also felt a change in my running form. Because there is absolutely no padding on the heels, I started to land on the balls of my feet naturally. I also lean forward more now (my whole body, not from the hips), which really helps with speed without expending too much energy. This is all great, but my main goal was to get rid of the shin splints/compartment syndrome issues. And I did!

I felt like I needed to write this because between the two orthopedic doctors, neither of them suggested taking away padding from my shoes—but adding more padding. This method may not work for everyone, and I know plenty of people who swear by their shoes with loads of cushion and springs in them. However, for those out there looking for an answer as I was, trying minimalist shoes is definitely worth a shot!

The shoes that I selected, with the help of Runblogger, were the Merrell women’s Dash Glove. I love them! Since getting them in July, I have run eight or nine 5Ks, including two mud runs (one was a zombie escape 5K!). I also did my first half marathon since 2006 just two months ago—the anniversary of my quitting running last year. True, I finished 20 minutes slower than my first half marathon six years ago…but I never thought I would ever be able to get back to running long distances! My short runs became five to eight miles. I have my sights set on a marathon (and hopefully an excuse to go to Hawaii!). I hope to accomplish this within the next year or so. Then it is on to triathlons.

So, anyone who has heard about the minimalist movement and is on the fence, I say take the plunge. Worst case scenario is that you don’t like them and go back to regular shoes. Not much of a loss there!

Happy running!

A big thanks to Shannon for sharing an update and congrats on her running success story! Have you ever overcome an injury? Has minimalist running helped you? Share time! —Jenn

Categories: Motivation, Running, Success StoriesTags: , , , , ,

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  1. This is good to know. I am new to running, but I am totally a no-shoes person the rest of the time. I have always gone barefoot or flat flip-flops. So, looking for a shoe was rough. Everyone kept saying, get one with padding, support, etc. And while my pair that I have seems comfy, when I run, I either get shin splints or some odd pain in my arch. So I take them off and walk/run home w/o shoes. I may have to give the minimalist shoe a try.

  2. I actually started running about 3 years ago on New Balance Minimus shoes. So I never had to go back to recondition my feet. But I LOVE the minimus shoes. When I’ve tried bigger shoes, I end up in pain. Also, the minimal shoes are cute and easy to pack!

  3. Just remember though that minimalist shoes aren’t for all runners. I have high arches and have suffered from chronic plantar faciitis for almost 4 years. I tried Five Finger Vimbrams but without the support to my arch, it was horrendously painful. Regardless of foot health, you should a) get your feet evaluated by a podiatrist and b) have your gait assessed.

    I wish I could run in minimalist shoes. They look so cool…

  4. My husband and I are big fans of Born to Run. We’ve read it several times and have gone started running in Barefoot Ted’s Luna Sandals. Not only did my husband cut 5 minutes from his 5K, but he’s been injury free! Best of luck!

  5. Oh yes, my sister has flat arches and must have support. She wishes she could try minimalist shoes but she needs to do a lot of arch strengthening work first before she can give them a try!