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Advocates of minimalist running shoes (which feature thinner soles and less cushioning) swear they’re the best way to stay injury-free, but the footwear also means changing your running gait, or pattern. Minimalist shoes can more easily allow a forefoot or midfoot strike, which can reduce stress on the knees and lessen impact, says Jonathan Roth, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia. But if you try to switch your stride up right away you can actually increase your injury risk. That’s because many runners in the U.S. tend to hit the ground with their heels first—a pattern that requires more cushioning than the minimalist shoes can provide. Here’s how to safely evolve your foot-strike pattern if you want to make the shoe switch.
Swap your standard: Cushioned sneakers for ones that have a smaller difference in height between the heel and toes. These allow you to more easily land on your forefoot or midfoot without striking your heel first.
Try to run “quieter”: By increasing your cadence and taking shorter steps, landing lighter. Listen to your footsteps—you should be running as quietly as possible, which reduces the impact on your legs. Treadmills are a good place to try this.
Build strength: While strength training alone won’t help you change your gait, strong ankles and calves can help prevent tendinitis and stabilize your ankles. A strong core is also important to help protect your back.
SEE ALSO: Our Half-Marathon Training Guide