Monday, July 5, 2010

The great minimalist experiment

Shoe diversity makes for happy running


Today's run (street): 2.2 miles at 9:38

I've never been much of a barefoot guy and I'm still not likely to walk around with nothing on my feet. But barefoot running and its close relation, minimalist running, remains interesting to me. My experience running with the Saucony Kinvaras has restarted my focus on front foot / mid-foot striking. Yesterday, when running for a short distance in pool shoes, I wondered how well I'd do on a real neighborhood run. I had considered going to Stillwell this morning to take advantage of the shade from the woods but ultimately chose to run closer to home. I decided that I'd conduct the great minimalist experiment by taking to the streets with these un-padded and flat water shoes. I didn't wear socks but I did keep the very thin removable insole which felt good at the beginning but contributed to some uncomfortable friction near the end of my run. I mapped out a 2.2 mile course on Gmaps and went out using my Garmin as a stopwatch. I didn't use the foot pod because I didn't want to deal with attaching it to the stretchy laces. Since I already knew the distance I'd planned to run it was easy to calculate my pace when I got back.

I was pleasantly surprised with the feel of the pool shoes on pavement as I made my way around the route. The small rocks and pebbles that I encountered underfoot did not hurt my feet in any way. I liked that my arches were doing their job without anything to support them.  I knew I was landing mostly towards the front of my foot but I'm not sure if I avoided my heel for all of my footfalls. My stride felt natural and I moved along well without feeling like I was doing too much work. I wanted to keep the run fairly short in case there was an unintended consequence to running with very little protection and no support. The only complaint I had was the insole stuck to my foot due to sweat and that made me concerned that I could develop blisters if I ran much longer. Next time I'll consider leaving the insoles home and see how that goes. Although they're thin they do provide slight protection. Without the insole I'd be running on the same material as the outsole so perhaps I'd be better off with a very thin sock.

So what happens now? I still have well cushioned shoes like my Brooks GTS 10's and Adidas Response 15's. I have supportive and lightweight stability shoes (Saucony Grid Tangent 4's) and minimal but luxurious Kinvaras. Do I stop running with the Brooks and work closer to always running on the Kinvaras (and occasionally my pool shoes)? I'm thinking no. Every shoe I own has its benefit and as long as I feel that's true I'll continue to run with them all. I'm certainly going to keep a focus on the minimalist side because I do think there's something to that. Pool shoes as running shoes? Not as crazy as you'd think.

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