There has been a ton of hype around the minimalist running movement lately and I must say I’ve been intrigued. I have friends who swear by their Vibrams or lightweight 0 mm drop shoes, so there must be something to this. I’ve been fitted for running shoes numerous times and a minimalist shoe has never been recommended for me. Maybe it’s because of my weight, my gait or how I pronate…I never really asked and I haven’t been steered wrong so I went with what was recommended.
Recently I had the opportunity to try out the new Saucony Virrata, which is a 0 mm drop, minimalist shoe. Better time than any to give this a shot! But before I get into the shoes, let’s back up a little to go over heel drop and the benefits of minimalist running.
Heel drop (or heel-toe drop) refers to the amount of height between the heel and the toes in a running shoe. Typically, the more supportive the shoe, the higher the heel drop which can range from 0 – 15 mm. Now, I know you’re thinking… millimeters?? Does that really make a difference? The answer is a big ole YES!
When I first started running, I was fitted for a pair of Brooks Adrenaline (at that time GTS 10). These are considered support shoes and depending on the model have a 10-12 mm drop. I went through 2 different models of these shoes, 3 5Ks and my first half marathon. I loved them, but sadly they are what caused my psoas injury last year. Generally the more you run, the more efficient you become, so unfortunately these shoes were too much support for me.
When I was refitted for shoes about a year ago, I went with the Brooks Ravenna 3 and was instantly in love. These were an ounce lighter and the heel drop was about 3 mm less than the Adrenaline’s. I felt like I could fly! Clearly, a lighter weight and a lesser heel drop were a benefit to how my stride has changed. This is what got me looking into the why heel drop mattered and the possible benefits of minimalist running.
Research has shown that a higher heel drop can lead to many common running injuries because it promotes a harder heel strike when running and can lead to overpronation. Minimal shoes promote a mid-foot strike which is a more natural form and they are generally lighter in weight which can help with speed.
So that brings me to the Virrata. These shoes are so light that when the box came I didn’t think anything was in it. They are 6.5 ounces of mesh and rubber that make you feel like you aren’t wearing anything. The heel drop is 0 mm, which is completely flat, but there is 18 mm of cushioning below your feet so it’s not like other minimal shoes I have tried on that feel like I’m walking directly on the pavement. They actually feel like they have a good amount of support! Oh and they’re super cute Click here for more stats about the shoes.
I first took these for a spin at CrossFit. I had the Princess Half Marathon coming up and didn’t want to risk injury by going for a run in new shoes before the race, but I thought CrossFit would be good. Typically, the flatter the shoe, the better when it comes to CrossFit because it allows for your weight to be more evenly distributed. This is crucial when doing heavy lifting because you want that stability. Because there is often running involved, I never went completely minimalist and instead wear Brooks Pure Connect for my WODs which have a 4 mm drop. But let me tell you, I love the Virratas! They provided enough cushioning for some of the aerobic movements, but were perfectly flat for the lifts. WIN!
After coming back from the Princess Half Marathon, I was excited to take these for a run. The snow was finally melted so I was happy that this didn’t have to be on the dreadmill. I was keeping it to a short 3 mile run because I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond to the 0 mm drop. Everything I’ve ever read about switching to a minimalist shoe has said that it needs to be done gradually to avoid injury.
I immediately felt a HUGE difference in how I was running. My stride felt awkward and I could feel a lot more pressure on my knees and ankles. It felt like I was just pounding the ground. Whoa. So I knew I really had to focus and pay attention to my stride, which I think was a very positive thing for me. If I focus more, I can work towards becoming a more efficient (and faster!) runner!
Overall, I felt pretty good during the run and kept an average pace of 12:35. After getting home and taking the shoes off, I definitely felt tight and sore around my ankles. After doing some research, I’m pretty sure it is the Inferior Extensor Retinaculum that’s hurting and a few days rest from running should alleviate the problem and avoid this turning into a major issue.
Switching to minimal shoes like the Saucony Virrata for running is going to be a long process for me. I know I will have to lose some weight to avoid excess stress on my joints and I will need to gradually work up to these shoes. I’m thinking about maybe going down to an 8 mm or even 4 mm drop first and getting my body used to that on longer runs. I’m actually very excited to try the new Saucony Mirage 3, which are also very light weight and have a 4 mm drop. So for now, the Virratas are going to be my go to shoe for CrossFit WODs that include a lot of running (a lot usually being a mile).
If you’re looking for more information on minimalist running, heel-toe drop and making the transition, I founds some great articles for you:
- Should You Run in Minimalist Shoes?
- What Is Heel Drop and How Much Do You Need?
- How To Transition to Minimal Shoes and Barefoot Running
I would also encourage you to check out Saucony’s Find Your Strong Project. This is a wonderful community to get inspiration, motivation and tips. I love to go and read some of the posts when I need some encouragement to get out the door. The fun thing is that when you use the hash tag #FindYourStrong on Twitter, Instagram or DailyMile, you will be featured in the project on their website!
How do you Find Your Strong?
Saucony via FitFluential LLC sent me a pair of Virratas free of charge for this Campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.