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Published March 28 2011

Wagner: Minimalist running shoes worth a shot

As a kid in elementary school, I can remember lining up in phys ed with my classmates playing games.

Simple running games – like racing to be the first to the other side of the gymnasium.

No medals or ribbons, just bragging rights.

If you won, it was because you were sporting a new pair of shoes. If you didn’t, then something was probably wrong with the ones you were wearing.

While I can laugh now at our third-grade logic, it does bring up a good point.

Can a pair of running shoes make you faster?

With nearly every running shoe manufacturer experimenting with new models, the minimalist shoe movement is going to be around for a while.

Nearly every running magazine now regularly features reviews and articles about the barefoot/minimalist shoe movement.

And that’s a good thing.

About 14 months ago, I began experimenting with minimalist shoes after reading a New York Times bestseller. My intentions weren’t to go barefoot, but I definitely wanted to try something new and find the perfect race shoes.

Now I’m a big fan of the minimalist movement.

About a week ago, just before heading out for a morning run, I laced up a pair of shoes used during speed workouts last year. It turned into one of my best runs in six months.

And the connection for me is simple: Minimalist shoes help me run more efficiently and with better form. Efficiency and form translate into comfort and speed.

That doesn’t mean I’ve thrown away my high-mileage training shoes, those heavily cushioned ones I wear on long weekend runs.

But a couple times a week, I slip on a pair of minimalist shoes – when the streets are clear of ice and snow. To run fast, you have to practice running fast.

There’s plenty of debate about whether minimalist shoes are good for our sport, but they’ve made a big difference in my running.

Slowly, I built up my tolerance for wearing a less cushioned shoe. It’s made me a better runner through efficiency and form, allowed me to have more fun on the run and resulted, in part, in better race times.

Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at http://runningspud.areavoices.com/. He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com.