Running injuries: cadence and minimalist shoes

So… we’ll see what you think about this…

Went to see Kevin this morning, and he watched me run on the treadmill. He said if it weren’t for the injury, he wouldn’t change anything—everything looked good. However, because of the injury, he wanted me to try to increase my cadence. I was at about a 171 I think before he said anything about it. So with some effort, I got myself to about a 174. Then he had me take off my shoes and set the same speed on the treadmill. I immediately went to about a 178, which he said is what people naturally do, not liking the feeling of bare feet hitting the belt. THEN he told me to try to run more quietly… like I was sneaking up on someone. I was thumping away and didn’t even realize it, so when he told me to quiet down, the only way I could accomplish it was to shift my weight forward more to the ball of my foot. My cadence jumped again to about a 182. I also noticed there was no more tension in my hip.

Then we had a discussion about minimalist shoes— if that’s what they’re called. He explained that he’s had lots of runners come through with chronic knee and hip pain that they just couldn’t get over. Then he put them in these minimalist shoes, and the pain went away. He explained that the stack height of regular shoes is great for protecting the feet but often cushions the feet so much that the runner strikes much harder than they normally would. He then said, only if I wanted to try and promised to do the transition properly, he would make the recommendation for me to move over. He said it’s a slow process because stress fractures are a very real consequence. He THEN said that he has moved many people over into these shoes successfully, with an enormous improvement in people’s hip and knee conditions, but that there was one guy that he always felt bad about… a diabetic, of course.

He told me the story, and it sounds like after some trial and error the guy is back in the minimalist shoes and very happy, but it was not a smooth transition. Long story short, he landed himself a high risk stress fracture and needed a boot for 8 weeks. So the guy came to him with knee pain, got back into a running program with no knee pain at all, then fell to a metatarsal stress fracture. Buyer beware, I guess.

IF I get myself a pair, I will start with a 3 minute interval walk/jog. That’s it. The way he looks at it, if I’m getting a 180 cadence, that’s 90 strikes per minute times 3… so whatever that equals… 270 strikes. :smiley: I could do that once a day and then swim… I would obviously work my way up, but he says he estimates about 4 months from start to completing full workouts in them.

So?? I’m sure you have thoughts on this… should I get the shoes??? He’s recommending New Balance Minimus or Merrill Road Glove… or something like that… with a stack height of 15-20 cm??

I called my insurance today to inquire about pump stuff. So much good stuff… :two_hearts:

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Hi DN.
A higher cadence is definitely helpful, because it puts less stress on your joints. The thing to look at is where your feet are landing when you take a stride. They should be landing below your hips, not in front of them. If you take more small steps (higher cadence), you will see that your shorter strides make your landing closer to below your hips instead of out front.

BTW, a while ago (August!) I was asking you to check your cadence.
From August:

At the time your cadence was fine. 180 is great. But it was before you were hurt. Your lower cadence now is because you are compensating for the injury, and running differently. So I think the lower cadence is not a cause of your injury, but a result. If that makes sense.

I don’t think you need a minimalist shoe to change your cadence. You can get a shoe with less heel drop and less cushioning, but you don’t necessarily need that. I think the minimalist shoes are somewhat gimmicky. As long as your cadence is good, you can run with a more supportive shoe, and I don’t think that hurts you one bit.

BTW, your Garmin watch has your cadence. You can use that and set an alarm so that it will beep whenever your cadence drops below a certain number. It is usual to have a change in cadence as you become more tired, and it takes practice to keep your cadence high.

I still think you should go to the running clinic at UVA.

Any of the minimalist shoes are okay to try. But keep in mind, those shoes really don’t fix anything. They may force you to run a certain way, but it is the change in mechanics that is important, not the shoe. I think more support offers more protection in the long run. But certainly it is worth a try.

So in summary, I would say:

  • yes, low cadence can cause injuries, but I don’t think it caused yours

  • your cadence was better a few months ago, is probably worse now from the injury, so your cadence change was the effect of the injury not the cause

  • a higher cadence is better, so keep an eye on it

  • minimalist shoes - sure try them, but they do not work miracles

  • go to the running clinic and see what they tell you

  • small little runs are good, but keep them short and easy

  • set your Garmin to beep when your cadence is too low

Did I get it all?


Hi @Nickyghaleb, so, I’m obviously nowhere near the running expert @Eric is, but just wanted to weigh in on my experience with the minimalist shoes. I ran in those a few years ago and really liked the way it felt, until I tried running in them this year after a few years off, post-several-babies, and found that my toenails were bumping up against the front and I was getting toenail trauma. I think my feet have grown since I purchased the shoes (sob).

Anyways, I went to a running store and they gave me much more cushiony shoes to run in. I ran a 10-miler recently and here is my experience:

a) Minimalist shoes won’t prevent injury if you have bad form, and they do put more stress on your feet. I still developed hip and IT-band issues in minimalist shoes when I was lazy about my form or running overly long distances without proper training. For me, the key is having a strong core…doing planks and other stuff like that really helped me reduce IT-band pain this time around, shoes were basically unrelated to that.
b) I naturally ran faster in minimalist shoes. But I think that’s because I’m short and small, and the extra weight of the more supportive shoes always feels like it’s dragging me down. I really like running with less weight on my feet. For instance, this recent race in typically supportive shoes I ran at a 10:09 min/mile; I did a half-marathon pre-kids that was a 9:38 min/mile pace in minimalist shoes. Shoes or just the lack of babies and age dragging me down? Hard to say, but I trained more for this one than the other one, which I ran on a whim because I bought a Groupon for it. I try not to depress myself too much thinking about it, and just press onward.
I suspect you are much taller than me and so the extra pound or whatever associated with more cushiony shoes probably makes very little difference to you. Either way, if you have money to burn I’d say it’s fine to try out the minimalist shoes as they’re unlikely to be horrible and you might like them better and run faster in them if you’re like me. But they probably won’t solve your hip pain is my guess.


Thank you, @TiaG and @Eric for your responses! That’s great feedback. Still not sure what to do with any of it, but :grimacing:.

I’ll be back in a few minutes with questions and comments…

Eric, that was awesome!


I am responding in as few words as possible… I need to get to doing some exercise before I miss the opportunity, but I wanted to ask a few things…

  1. When you started with the minimalist shoes, did you do this big slow transition? My guy says it will take 4 months. I’m so sick of talking about things taking 4 months that I can barely stand it. However, I understand the risk of foot injury and wouldn’t want to do anything stupid. Did you transition?? Or did you just put your feet in and go?

  2. Not sure how short you are, but i’m 5’3”. And my current shoes look like moon boots. My husband bought them for me, and I think it was a sabotage purchase. Because nobody would buy big peach marshmallow looking shoes like that for any other purpose. I don’t think.

  3. I was doing core, and I thought that was making a huge difference right up until I completely broke. But that “lazy about my form or running overly long distances without proper training” sure does sound about right.

  4. And the thing about the toes… that’s real, too. I have no idea how, but I bruised up a couple of my toes before the big injury, and one of my nails fell off… So that’s a problem for me, too. Thanks for the heads up.

So much for few words or having questions really… except the one about the transition period…

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For the toes that are getting banged up, wrap them in Co-flex tape before long runs or hard runs. This is the good stuff.

  1. So, I just jumped right in – but I hardly ran at all prior to buying them. So I guess I started out slow by default – running a mile or two – just because I was completely untrained prior to that. I mean, I had not run more than a mile and a half EVER.

  2. I’m 5’4" if I stretch. So – given that I guess maybe it will be the same effect? Somehow you seem taller in your picture, LOL (maybe it’s your commanding presence?)

  3. Yeah, honestly for me the core is the big thing. And if I pay attention to how I feel in my core during my run, I can actually feel that when my core starts to weaken and there’s more slop in my movements, so to speak, I also start to feel more pain. So for me it’s like a direct feedback mechanism.

  4. I’d go to a running store and get fitted, specifically mentioning the toe trauma. The tape helps but for me I had to size up to a 7.5 running shoe; my normal shoe size is a 6 to a 6.5. Also, not sure about your foot width but I have a really narrow ankle and middle-foot, so there’s a tendency for my feet to slosh around if the shoelaces are not laced really tight. And I’m also lazy about lacing so that required more effort. You know how to do the runner’s loop in your shoes, right? That helped me keep my shoes on snugly.