5 Exercises for Minimalist Running

As a follow up to my previous post on the surge in the minimalist running movement:


I wanted to dealve further into what types of exercises are helpful in preparing your body to run in minimalist shoes. The most important characteristics of a minimal runners body are what we call “functional dorsiflexion”- or ankle flexibility, strong feet, strong legs, and a shorter stride with quicker turnover.

I have grouped together 5 exercises that touch on each of these characteristics. These exercises should be done daily for 3-4 weeks before transitioning into minimal shoes, and maintained in tandem with running training.

As a note, I am 6 months pregnant, so in these photos I have to use handrails for balance in these photos as my center of gravity is a bit off! You may begin these exercises with handrails and transition to doing them in the center of the room for added challenge and to progress your balance skills which are also important in running.

Caveman Squat:



In the center of the room if you can, or using a countertop or handrail, stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bend knees and dip into a deep squat, all the while maintaining your feet flat on the ground, do not allow heels to lift. Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3x.

Midfoot lift:

IMG_0999 IMG_1000


Stand with feet shoulder width apart, feet relaxed. Tighten the arch of your feet, gently lifting the arch away from the ground while keeping toes and heel on the ground. Hold 5 seconds, repeat 10x on each foot.

High knee Skip



For the first week of this exercise, perform without an actual hop in the skip. The objective of this exercise is to practice quickly driving your heel up towards your bottom and then planting the foot and switching to the other side. This prevents a lazy, scuffling running gait which will contribute to injury in minimalist shoes. Drive the right heel up to your bottom then replace with the left, and repeat 10x on each side. After and week, add a little hop as you drive the heel up. The point is not height of the hop, but speed.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Stretch:


Many clinicians strongly believe that a runner should not be running in a minimalist shoe until they acheive a certain measure of ankle flexibility. In order to track this on your own, place your big toe 10 cm (about 4 inches) away from a wall, and try to bend your knee and touch the wall. Treat this as a tracking method of your flexibility, and as a stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and repeat 3x on each side.

Single Leg Heel Raise:



Minimalist running requires significant calf strength. 100 single leg heel raises per day will prepare a runner for the stability requirments of running. Stand on one leg, keep the knee straight, and raise your heel up towards the ceiling.

To begin, perform 30 reps on each leg for 3 sets consecutively, ending with a set of 10 on each leg for a total of 100. If you have not exercised your calves in this manner, expect soreness for the first few days, and consider doing 10 sets of 10 reps on each side.  Quality is important, if you cannot raise the heel up keeping the knee straight, take a break and then resume the exercise.

These exercises are beneficial for all types of runners, but specifically address the needs of the minimal runner. Remember to be persistent!

Make your day great,



About runningyourbody

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Certified Pilates instructor, and runner with celiac disease. I am passionate about educating people on running, pilates, and women’s health topics. I am trained in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as pre and post partum impairments. In my free time I can be found anywhere outside. I enjoy training for races with friends, cooking gluten free meals, and traveling with my husband. My goal is to share information with you in a lighthearted and enjoyable forum. I am always contributing fun and interesting posts on my blog. Feel free to check it out @ https://runningyourbody.wordpress.com/
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3 Responses to 5 Exercises for Minimalist Running

  1. James says:

    All look pretty good to me. Solid-looking legs, as well!


    – James

  2. Dan says:

    Amanda, thanks for the article.

    In caveman Squat should be the feet be parallel? When squat “natrully” then are about 45 deg’, meaning toes are farther then ankles.


    • Thanks Dan! Yes, feet should be shoulder width apart and parallel, depending on how stiff your ankles are, you may or may not be able to acheive a full deep squat at this time. Keep at it, and the mobility will come!

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