Back to basics with Minimalist Running

minimalist running

Contrary to what some might think, minimalist running does not cause injuries because it provides an enhanced ability to feel what is beneath the feet. (image credit:

By Nicolette Mok

Running expert Corrado Giambalvo doesn’t care how you run, as long as you feel good doing it. In fact, halfway through his talk at the Singapore Sports Hub last Friday, he invited audience members to stand up and jog on the spot.

An athletics trainer, avid runner, and representative of minimalist shoe brand Vibram FiveFingers, the Italian was keener on acquainting those present with the option of minimalist running rather than recommending any sort of product.

What is minimalist running?

For those who are not in the know, minimalist running involves running while completely barefoot or with thin-soled, flexible, and glove-like shoes.

Speaking at a session co-organised by ActiveSG and Train Live Compete, Giambalvo explained that minimalist running is useful in helping runners to pay more attention to three key aspects – cadence, stride-length, and intensity.

This involves having a better feel of one’s running rhythm, taking care not to take too-large strides, and being able to calibrate the impact of body weight on the feet through direct exposure the ground.

Giambalvo’s introduction to this concept also came with a refreshing angle. He advocates a return to an organic state of physical activity – trying new things but ultimately sticking to one’s own preferences, and simply “[feeling] free to go back if [one] didn’t like something new”.

“It feels good, being without shoes, because you feel light, and we’re all concerned about being light and flexible. [However,] if you experiment with it and it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it,” he added.

Of course, it also allows runners to get in touch with how they move, as well as to “decrease inhibition” and be natural.

Asserting that humans were “born with feet, and not with shoes”, the bubbly athlete talked about how some African distance runners were too poor to afford shoes in their childhood, and had to make do without them. Indeed, running several kilometres in the countryside daily while barefoot moulded international marathon champions like Abebe Bikila and Tegla Loroupe.

Yet, engaging in such intense activity without the protection of designer sports shoes is surely harmful to one’s feet and limbs, isn’t it?

Is barefoot running bad for you?

That is but a myth, as Giambalvo will have you know.

Contrary to what some might think, minimalist running does not cause injuries because it provides an enhanced ability to feel what is beneath the feet. This causes a runner to naturally adjust his or her running steps to adapt to the amount of impact sustained.

In fact, this revolutionised form of running actually helps to reduce injuries, as some practitioners find.

“[If] you rely too much on your shoes it actually hurts your knees. Without shoes, you tend to be more careful, because you know that there’s nothing between the ground and you, so you end up being a bit softer on your feet and you take more care of yourself. I’ve been injury-free [since I began running without regular shoes],” professed Rasid Adam, an ActiveSG member who attended the event.

“I think it’s good, because it protects your knees and changes your running posture. It helps you fully utilise your foot,” concurred minimalist runner Victor Li, who was also present at the talk.

However, Giambalvo advised that minimalist running might not necessarily be suitable for all runners, as individuals are bound to have their own preferences. Encouraging the attendees not to jump straight into running marathons barefoot, he urged beginners to start with shorter distances and to bring a pair of proper shoes along, should they decide that minimalist running was not for them.

The audience also benefitted from a sharing session conducted by RacingThePlanet’s President of Events Samantha Fanshawe, who gave advice on how to prepare and train for marathons and ultra-marathons.

The two guests concluded the evening with a mass run. Going along with Giambalvo’s theme of keeping one’s options open, they offered their audience the choice of following either runner.