The Minimalist Starter Kit

You've decided to cast off the shackles of traditional, foam-laden shoes. But you can't just strap a piece of leather to the bottom of your foot and hit the road. Here's how to make the transition

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OK, you’ve decided to cast off the shackles of over-constructed, super-fly, whiz-bang-gizmo-from-outer-space running shoes and opted for the minimalist approach. Great! But you can’t just strap a piece of leather to the bottom of your foot and hit the road. The body has to make adjustments to your new-fangled running style. Here’s how to make the transition.

Preparing Your Body
Focus On Form
Strength and Agility
Easing Into It

See Also:
You Don’t Know How to Run: Inside the Barefoot Revolution
Making the Switch: Pros and Cons
Barefoot and Back Again: A Brief History of Minimalism

The Minimalism Starter Kit: Preparing Your Body

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Do these strengthening exercises daily for two weeks before your first run in your new shoes, then keep doing them three times a week.

A) TOWEL CRUNCHES: Use your toes to pull a towel toward you. Do three sets of ten with each foot.

B) WEIGHTED-SOCK SWINGS: Loop a long sock with a one-to-two-pound weight between your big toe and other toes, then wrap the rest around your foot. Sit on an elevated surface and raise and lower your foot as much as you can, as if you’re stepping on and off a gas pedal. Then swing the sock through a wide pendulum. Do ten reps of each exercise twice, then switch to the other foot.

C) DONKEY KICKS: Get on your hands and knees. Raise one bent leg and then push your heel toward the ceiling by squeezing your glutes. Do two sets of ten with each leg.

The Minimalism Starter Kit: Focus on Form

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RUN TALL: Keep your head over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, your hips over your knees, and your knees over your feet.

KEEP IT QUICK AND LIGHT: Shoot for 165 to 180 steps per minute; imagine you’re running on hot coals.

STAY RELAXED: Keep your jaw, neck, shoulders, and arms loose but engaged.

The Minimalism Starter Kit: Strength and Agility

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Do these drills twice in succession two days a week for 30 to 50 yards on flat ground.

BACKWARD LUNGES: Helps activate your glutes and hamstrings, which improves coordination.

DUCK AND PIGEON WALK: To increase ankle mobility, turn your feet in 45 degrees (see above), don’t bend your knees, take long strides, and stay on the outside of your arches. Then turn your feet out 45 degrees, don’t bend your knees, take short steps, and stay on the inside of your arches.

SKIPPING: Try and come down fast, which helps speed your toe-off.

: Easing Into It

What you need to know to get ready

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First, walk around in your new minimalist or minimalist-inspired shoes during the two weeks you’re doing the daily prep exercises above. Next, gently run in them once during your first week, twice a week for the next two weeks, and three times the following week. Still feeling good? Ramp up the frequency and intensity of your runs. If at any time you experience pain, go back to square one: you might need to work more on your form or get a shoe with more cushioning—or both.

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