Minimalist shoes are not for everyone 

Problem is, not everyone joins the minimalist movement with a clean slate, as Taylor and Beattie did. Most have to transition out of regular shoes, and that can invite more injury and disappointment if handled incorrectly.

First off, a few disclaimers: While we all can take pointers from natural running, not everyone can, should or needs to go barefoot. Smurawa said many runners require the support of a traditional shoe, for biomechanical reasons. Others are running pain-free in regular shoes, and have no urgent reason to rock the boat. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether barefoot running enhances performance — if performance matters to you.

The real target audience: runners experiencing frequent pain and injury. They’re the ones most in need of an overhaul.

Undertaken too quickly, the transition to minimalism can be hazardous. If you simply switch or ditch shoes and keep running as much as you did before, you’re bound to strain a muscle or develop a stress fracture.

Opinions differ on whether it’s best to go minimal exclusively or apply minimalism as a tool. Either way, the change should be gradual. Start from about 25 percent of your current weekly mileage and build from there, making up for lost miles with other forms of exercise. Plan on the process taking anywhere from a few months to a year.

“You have to give your body a lot of time,” Hollowell said. “It’s like paying into an investment. It takes a long time to pay off.”

Going barefoot isn’t the only path to running prosperity. Methods such as Chi Running also can make a big difference.

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