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Can You Run Well In Running Sandals?

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When someone brings up running sandals, your mind might automatically wander to comfortable shoes for recovery. If you are like me, you were avidly into running for quite some time before you realized that people actually run in sandals. Now, the thought no longer feels foreign to me. You should know that the barefoot running trend is not for everyone, but many people swear by it!

Why Run In Sandals?

Christopher McDougall’s 2009 bestseller, Born to Run will give you fantastic explanation of why sandals are an exceptional choice for some runners.  With only a few straps to hold them in place and zero drop, running sandals help the athlete in a couple of ways. First, you feel every step along the way. It is as close to barefoot running as you can get without completely shedding foot protection.

Trail runners who swear by minimalist footwear insist that this switch will help you feel much more connected to the earth than running in traditional running or trail shoes. True, you have to be completely in tune with where you are stepping, but that does remain true for most trail running no matter what you have on for footwear.

running in sandals

Those who are proponents of minimalist running swear that once you allow your feet to move as they are meant to, you will not be willing to go back.

Sandals made for running allow your toes to experience a full range of motion. This means no limitations of movement and your toes can splay apart as they are meant to. In addition, the zero drop helps you to fully work your achilles. The human body is a miraculous machine and the achilles is intended to stretch, elongate and give running power.

People who regularly run in sandals state that you will experience an increase in strength and mobility in your legs, in particular feet, calves and Achilles. Minimalist shoes also promote a midfoot strike which many claim is much more natural.

Are Sandals Good For Running?

Even though your instinct may say no, there are many others who scream, “Yes!” Did you know that there are many trail runners who prefer wearing barefoot sandals? With your foot laying flat from toe to heel, these running sandals give you an excellent range of motion that is not replicated in most running shoes.

Converts to a more minimalist type of running say that the changes to their running style have resulted in far less injuries.

Less Footwear For Injury Prevention?

There are studies to validate this theory. Running without shoes (or while wearing minimalist shoes), can improve your form and change your foot strike.  If you successfully change your foot strike from heel to mid-foot, you are likely experiencing less impact with each step.

Barefoot running often helps the runner to improve their cadence. The reason is that when you work on your form, you likely find yourself landing differently. The runner is forced to land with their foot directly beneath them, which means faster turnover. An increase in turnover results in a faster cadence.

Getting your feet to land under your body instead of an increased stride length is a very specific form modification that keeps the runner landing softer. The result? Less stress on the body. The decreased stress in the body can mean less injuries!

How Do I Start?

So as you contemplate jumping into running sandals and how you should do it, the answer is don’t jump. Start wearing running sandals (or any minimalist shoe for that matter) gradually and in stages.

Knowing that shoes can have a variety of different “drops,” and that minimalist shoes are typically very little drop, some people prefer to transition their way there. In other words, work their way gradually to shoes with less drop. You certainly can work your way through the gamut of shoes in this manner, and some runners do.

minimalist running footwear

Other runners find themselves a pair of minimalist shoes and just wear them a little bit at a time as the acclimate. If you race in a racing flat, you may find the transition a bit more natural than someone who does all of their running in a basic pair of trainers.

The rule of thumb is to start out with the shoes for short runs. If most of your runs are 30 minutes or more, start out with 10 minutes of running in minimalist shoes. If you have the ability to do so you might want to warm up in trainers, change into the minimalist shoes for a short portion of the run, then change back to trainers.

While those who are married to the idea of minimalist running would suggest you do all of your run-in a minimalist shoe, there are some people who only do shorter runs or speed work in the low drop shoes, and then wear shoes with more support for longer runs. Really, the choice is yours.

Going Barefoot

Many runners are shocked to hear that some barefoot running is actually a great way to learn how to minimalist run. Yes, that is true even if you plan to run in a minimalist shoe such as a sandal or zero drop shoe.

running barefoot

When trying to barefoot run for the first time you might enjoy practicing on grass or sand. Find yourself a nice open space and just run easily for 10 minutes or so. Don’t push it too far, too long or too fast the first time!

Sandal Specific

When wearing a minimalist sandal for running, you should be prepared to experience the run differently. You likely will want to sunscreen the top of your feet. The straps might rub you awkwardly in the beginning. If you are running trails, you should expect to have leaves and other foliage brush against your feet.

You will feel every rock and stick differently in any minimalist shoe, more so in a sandal, than you would in a sneaker of any kind.

Should You Try It?

Honestly, if you have been itching to try minimalist running, why not get yourself a pair of running sandals and give it a whirl? Even if you end up not liking to run in sandals, the worse thing that happens is you end up with an awesome pair of shoes for kicking around! And what if you love it?

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