Showing posts with label minimal running shoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label minimal running shoes. Show all posts

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Born that Way (running shoe version)

Mister minimal at Bethpage this morning
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 5.2 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

We are who we are, no matter what we're told to be. After the minimalist running shoe movement started by the book, "Born to Run", I broke from the traditional style of running shoe (Nike Turbulence, Brooks Adrenaline, ASICS 1130, Saucony Grid Tangent, Adidas Response) and took delivery of a pair of Saucony Kinvaras. It was love at first run.

I put 500 miles on that pair of Kinvaras before retiring them. It was a new design and Saucony hadn't yet figured out how to make the soles more durable. My last run in them was a nine miler at Belmont Lake the weekend before the 2011 LI Half Marathon. I finished that run with a sore knee that plagued me throughout the race and for a couple of months after that. Despite a bad end to a great experience with the Kinvaras, I was eager to explore more minimalist shoes.
The original Kinvara
I am not what most people would describe as an efficient runner but I do really well with lower, less cushioned shoes. Following the Kinvara, I ran almost 400 miles in the zero-drop Hattoris, followed by another 500 miles in a pre-production pair of Brooks Pure Drifts. I liked the connection to the road that I got with those shoes and followed the Pure Drifts with a pair of Kinvara 3s. I used the K3s on the road for over 700 miles before making them my treadmill shoes. They probably have 1,000 miles on them by now.

Last year I managed to snag a pair of ASICS Kayano 20s for the astonishingly low price of $64. I know people who swear by the Kayanos, calling them the Lexus of running shoes, for their highly cushioned but stable ride. My speed was suffering and I thought I'd change it up with a return to an old-school shoe design. My initial experience with the Kayanos was disappointing, but I like them better now, mostly as a casual weekend shoe.

Saucony provided me an opportunity to test the new Triumph ISO, a shoe similar to the Kayano but modernized and lightened. All the same, it's a lot of shoe and it's neither low nor minimal. With both the Triumphs and Kayanos in my stable, I should be happy, but I've find myself going with my semi-minimal Saucony Virratas that have close to 700 miles on them. The Virrata's out-soles are very worn at this point and I don't want to invite injury.

(I'll) take Five
Yesterday I looked at shoes at one of the big box sporting goods stores and didn't see much that excited me. They didn't have Virratas or Kinvaras and I didn't like the current models from Brooks, ASICS or New Balance. I may order the Kinvara 5s online (the 6s got some bad reviews because of a new lacing feature). I'm not sure they even make the Virratas anymore. Too bad, I thought it was a great shoe.

I ended up wearing my Kayanos on today's run. The original plan was for the Runsketeers to get together at Bethpage but my buddies weren't able to make it this morning. I parked on Colonial and ran south for about 2.5 miles before turning around for the balance of the run. Conditions were good, with no direct sun but the humidity was 83%. I brought my water bottle and that worked fine. The only problem was that 21 ounces of water is heavy to carry. I was wishing for a smaller bottle by the second mile.

Tomorrow I return to work after what felt like a very long vacation. I was happy with my running and the distance I covered. I also got in a couple of good elliptical sessions because I have some slight sciatica and the no-impact workout seems to help that. I may visit a couple of running stores next weekend in search of my next minimal running shoe. What can I say? I was born to run minimally.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The downside of minimal running shoes

Minimal shoe with maximal wear
Today's run (street) 4.1 miles

I was looking at the latest Runner's World shoe guide and noticed that the average weight of running shoes has begun to rise. The recent minimalism movement prompted most running shoe companies to develop lighter, lower and more flexible shoes to meet the new demand. I was an early adopter, switching from my heavier Brooks Adrenalins to the then-groundbreaking Saucony Kinvara. I went even more minimal with the Hattori and a pre-production pair of Brooks Pure Drifts.

The pendulum has swung the other way and new companies like Hoka are building market share with 12+ ounce ultra-cushioned models. These trainers remind me of 70's era platform shoes and I wonder about their stability. I like to stay as close to the ground as I can when I run. The downside to staying in the minimalist camp is that, when you buy less shoe, you'll likely wear it out faster than a conventional model.

I just noticed that my year old Saucony Vittaras (now with 425 miles on them) are starting to show some serious heel wear. These are low platform running shoes, with a 4mm drop and are very lightweight because the out-soles are mostly soft EVA with a small amount of carbon rubber. I love the shoes, but I'm concerned that this wear will lead to a shift in the way that the shoes land. That could affect my stride and possibly lead to injury. I'll need to replace them soon, but I'm not going to move to the Hokas.

I ended up working from home today which allowed me to get in a rare Thursday morning run. I didn't get out as early as I should have, and it was 80° and very humid by the time I set out. I could tell from the start that this would not be a performance run. Although the air was thick, I had no trouble breathing. I didn't feel weighed down, but I couldn't generate the will to push very hard.

With hurricane Arthur making its way up the east coast, I'm not sure what my options will be for running on Friday. I can always use the treadmill, but the machine (like my Virratas) is wearing out quickly. Since the treadmill is my wife's running method of choice, I don't want to contribute to its demise. With such a limited window for running, I may be forced to use it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mid-foot running, what used to be right is wrong

Coffee bad good, land on your mid-foot heel
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

There are some things that are constantly reported by the media in terms of safety and/or health benefits. Coffee is one. Years ago I read that consumption of coffee is tied to nervous system impairment and hyper-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Recent studies now position it as a super-food with minimum health risks related to the over-consumption of caffeine.

Another subject is barefoot-style running. Back in the olden days (pre-80's), running shoes were minimal in design and people suffered injuries when running. The answer to that was generation after generation of over-built and highly cushioned running shoes with corrective technology to control pronation. But the injury rate remained exactly the same.

Following studies at Harvard University and publication of the book Born to Run, minimal shoe design returned to the marketplace and an emphasis was put on mid-foot landing and "natural" running style. These shoes have captured almost 10% of the market and I'll admit that I've bought into it as well.

Today, the New York Times published an article in their Well blog, with research supporting heel striking as the "more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin." What!?? I was very surprised to read this, because the minimalist approach seems more logical. Why wouldn't a shoe that supports a bio-mechanically correct stride be the better choice?

According to the studies, heel striking seems to facilitate more efficient energy expenditure. This is the opposite from everything I've read before about the subject. I'm not sure what to do with this new information. I'll probably continue to use lighter, flatter and more minimally constructed running shoes because I prefer them. Besides that, despite all my efforts to run with an efficient mid-foot stride, my outsoles still show quite a bit of heel wear.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The pendulum of minimalism

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

I was reading an article that said the demand for minimal-style running shoes, once a growth segment, is beginning to decline. The book, Born to Run, made many people curious about barefoot-style running, and it forced us to reconsider the merits of the shoes we've always bought.

A few years ago, I saw a video of myself on the treadmill at Jackrabbit Sports. That clearly confirmed that I'm an over-pronater. The salesperson recommended that I buy a beefy, medially-posted "stability" shoe to correct that tendency. After all, they said, my stride made me susceptible to knee and IT band injuries. I wished at the time that I could wear a lighter shoe, but I feared the consequences.

I thought about all this on my run this morning. The idea that shoes with lots of cushioning would prevent certain types of injuries has been increasingly debated and challenged by many. That includes me. I wore out a a pair of Saucony Hattoris after 400 miles and I now run primarily in the Brooks Pure Drifts, Brooks' most minimal shoe. The Hattori and Drift are both simple designs. Each shoe weighs less than 6 ounces and neither has any stability features. After more than 700 miles running in that type of shoe, I haven't encountered a single problem.

Pure Drift

The dash toward barefoot running probably got too many people into minimal shoes too soon. Many are now going back to more cushy footwear. But the game has changed, and now even stability shoes have lighter construction. I know that many people feel that the shoe makes the runner. After 3+ years of (mostly) injury-free running, in barely-there neutral trainers, I respectfully disagree.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Avoiding redundancy on a neighborhood run

Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

After yesterday's gloomy weather, it looked like spring was finally coming back. It was still fairly chilly when I stepped outside this morning, but it was mostly due to the wind. I stood in a patch of sun to stay warm, while my GPS took its time finding a signal. Today's route was around the neighborhood, and I thought about the combination of roads I'd have to take to meet my distance goal of five miles.

I wore my Brooks Pure Drift prototypes, rather than my Kinvara 3's. Lately, I've been wanting less cushioning in the forefoot, and the Drifts are similar in that respect to my old beloved Hattoris. I definitely prefer to run with shoes that have a low "stack height" and minimal cushioning in the mid-sole. The Kinvaras have been excellent, and I'm a stone's throw away from 500 miles with them, but I've been missing the feel of a firmer-landing shoe.

I felt great from beginning to end on today's run. It was one of those rare training runs where I felt I could just keep going all day. Adventure Girl used to call it "perpetual motion running." Since I only planned to run five miles, I figured I could spend some energy on speed. I opened up the throttle every few minutes without affecting my high energy level, and it paid off when I saw my overall time.

I managed to cover most of the streets in my immediate neighborhood without doubling up too much on any one road. For some reason, I dislike running on the same section of road twice during the same run. Even if it's just seeing different houses and cars on other streets, it's still a different view. I noted that my hip seemed completely fine, and I can probably stretch my base runs to six miles now. I haven't been to Bethpage in a few weeks, so it's a possibility for tomorrow. I guess it's as good a time as any to buy my 2013 Empire Passport

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brooks's PureDrift is good news for minimalist runners

A most minimal shoe - coming Jan 2013
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Last night I predicted that it wouldn't rain this morning, so I set up my gear for an outdoor run. When I stepped outside, I realized that wishful thinking wasn't enough to ensure good weather conditions. I decided on the spot to run, despite the light rain that was falling. I figured, if conditions worsened, that I'd just turn around and head for home.

I didn't know it at the time, but my Garmin showed that I'd covered the first mile extremely slowly. I thought I was moving well, but it's hard to gauge your pace when you're still half asleep. The rain had let up after ten minutes so I guess I'd picked up the pace from there. I ended up averaging 9:50 for the run, which isn't all that bad.

I wore my test shoes again this morning and appreciated their minimal construction, low platform and comfort. However, I wished they were a little roomier on the lateral side, at the top. My toes do get a little squished, but so far, I've had no issues with blisters or chafing. The shoe is pre-market, so the fit will probably change many times before they launch.

Brooks announced a new model this week, with an expected launch date of January, 2013. I'm guessing I'm going to like them ; )

Monday, August 1, 2011

I've found my minimalism threshold

Dare I say "a little too minimal"?
It wouldn't meet the definition of a "Two-a-day" but I did get out late in the afternoon on Sunday for a bike ride. My wife and daughter had gone over to the middle school to play tennis and I thought I'd surprise them with a visit. After I saw them I did a ride around the neighborhood and followed a route that I commonly run. Once again I was amazed how quickly I covered the roads on my bike compared to when I run them. It's also a lot easier to ride these roads, especially the hills, but there's something about the simplicity of running that I far prefer. Must be this minimalist mindset I've adopted.

Regarding minimalism, I made my second attempt to run in the Invisible Shoes huaraches yesterday and it didn't go well. I tried the sandals with socks (much to wife's horror) but kept in the backyard to prevent her any further embarrassment. I'd hoped the socks would protect my toes from the lace but it actually exacerbated the discomfort. I shed the socks and tried another run but it was so uncomfortable I had to stop.

I really wanted to reach the point of minimalism where all that existed between my bare foot and the road was a thin layer of rubber. The Hattori's get me very close to that and it feels correct and natural. The huaraches may be a good solution for others, but I know I'd need to invest a lot of time acclimating to the feel of these "shoes." The Hattori's work for me already. I think I'll stick with them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My running hauraches have arrived

The first pair of running shoes I ever received in my mailbox
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

A few weeks ago I was provided an opportunity to test a pair of running huaraches made by a company called Invisible Shoes. These shoes, provided either ready-made or in kit form, are copies of the sandals worn by the Tarahumara natives that were featured in the book "Born to Run." I decided to try the kit option which involves punching a hole in the supplied 4mm Vibram rubber outsoles and threading the laces to achieve a correct fit.

These huaraches will provide an even more minimal experience than my Hattori's and while I was confident that my transition from Kinvara to Hattori would go smoothly, I have some concerns about how I'll do with these sandals. It's not that the huaraches provide zero cushioning that concerns me, it's the form factor. I don't like open shoes or flip flops and I worry about the lace rubbing against the inside of my toes as I run.

In the past I thought that the lighter the shoe I wore, the faster I'd run. I've since changed my viewpoint and I'm not expecting to run faster with these huaraches. This morning I returned to the road at 4:00 AM and ran my usual course wearing the Hattori's. My pace today was no faster (actually a bit slower) than my normal pace, despite the fact that the Hattori's are half the weight of my Mirages and almost a third the weight of my GTS-10's. Despite these differences I usually run at about the same speed. Perhaps the huaraches will surprise me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Should I release my inner Tarahumara?

What Hattori's aspire to be
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I received an offer to test a pair of  huarache running sandals whose design is based on the shoes worn by the Tarahumara runners in Mexico. My first reaction was "Why not?" since I'm a fan of minimal shoes. I would like to try these shoes that got so much play in the book "Born to Run" but I am definitely not a sandals kind of guy. I would never have made it as a gladiator. I'm still deciding and if I go for it I'll write up my experiences on this blog and on Runner's Tech Review.

This morning I got back out on the road and probably had one of the best running experiences a person will have today. It's not that I ran especially well (though I didn't do badly), it was the cooling breeze and temperatures that were still in the low 70's. It is supposed to get oppressively hot so if you were hoping to run today you probably should have done it by now. Perhaps it would be a little more pleasant if you were running in sandals.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can't afford Hattori's or Vibrams? Try pool shoes

$15 minimalist shoes - and you can swim in them!
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

Almost a year ago I went on a 2.2 mile run in my pool shoes to understand the minimalist experience. Overall, I found these shoes to be a credible alternative to running shoes but with some serious caveats. First, I ran without socks and the subsequent friction came close to producing blisters on my mid-foot. Secondly, I had not spent time adjusting to mid-foot running and going from my Brooks to this shoe on a daily basis would have been a recipe for injury.

A year later it's a different story. I'm happily transitioned to the Hattori's that provide a level of minimalism close to the water shoes but are measurably lighter and designed for stride efficiency. I do wish the Hattori's weren't so snug on my foot but that is becoming less of an issue as I use them. Perhaps they are beginning to stretch.

This morning I decided to revisit the "pool shoe as trainer" idea and went out for a 3.5 mile run in the neighborhood. I wore thin running socks to prevent the friction issues I'd experienced the last time. I needed to be careful this morning because elementary school graduation was happening and I had to be vigilant with hurried, distracted drivers streaming up and down the road. Closer to the school I observed many people jockeying their SUV's for a closer parking spot. God forbid they should walk more than 100 feet.

I stayed on the sidewalks as much as I could. The pool shoes allowed me to nimbly avoid buckled concrete around the trees that are planted in front of most houses. There was no doubt that my feet were doing their part to cushion my footfalls and I had no unpleasant landings on my heel. I knew I wasn't moving very fast but I maintained a mid 9:00 pace throughout the route.

Running in pool shoes did create more work than an equivalent run in the Hattori's. In terms of comfort, the Hattori's come out on top, being lighter and better shaped, with much higher quality materials in the liner and mid-sole. I'm looking forward to my next Hattori run so I can complete the comparison. I'm expecting that to be a much more comfortable experience.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The shoes are minimal but the benefits are not

Today's run (street) 2.65 miles

Today is supposed to get very hot with temperatures in NYC reaching 95°F. It was far cooler at 4:00 this morning and I took a different route than normal just to break things up. I was also able to take advantage of a slightly earlier start than usual. Today's run felt much like yesterday's although I didn't push as hard as Tuesday and ended up running about 18 seconds/mile slower. But I covered more ground than my usual early morning distance and, once again, felt that the Hattori's provided me with a much more efficient stride.

The biggest difference between these shoes and almost every other shoe I've run is the way they feel on hills. Credit goes to the mid-foot strike and the lightness of the shoe. It's almost like downshifting for extra power and torque. While I don't look forward to hills, I'm not looking to avoid them. At one point I thought the Kinvara was the best shoe I would ever experience but the Hattori's seem to have an even more positive affect on my running style.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Even Saucony's website is minimal

Click on picture for larger view
I noticed that Saucony has changed the look of their website to super minimal this week to celebrate the launch of the Hattori. I just looked at a pair at the Super Runner's Shop in NYC. Can't wait to try them on.

Going more minimal

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

The waiting is the hardest part
I've been waiting excitedly for my Hattori's to arrive from Saucony. I was told to expect them early this week but, so far, nothing. I'm curious to see how I'll run in a shoe that provides little in the way of cushioning and with zero drop-off between heel and toe. I've been running in "minimalist" shoes (Saucony Kinvara and now Mirage) for over a year without a problem. The Hattori represents a whole new level of minimal.

Last summer I experimented with pool shoes, running a couple of miles around my neighborhood to see how it felt. Unlike the shoes I was wearing, my pool shoes gave me no option but to land forward in my stride. The downside was that my feet quickly developed blisters. I suppose socks would have helped that but the pool shoes were far too floppy to seriously consider for distance running. I'm hoping the Hattori's provide the same connection to the road that I got from the pool shoes but will also provide the protection and comfort of a trainer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is the Saucony Mirage for real?

Today's run (street): 3.1 miles

My experience with running in a more minimal shoe has been good and I credit the Saucony Kinvaras for that. When I started wearing these shoes I had concerns that a less constructed neutral running shoe would cause me some problems. Before the Kinvaras I had been running in the Brooks Adrenalins as a daily trainer and I didn't expect that to change. As it happened, the Kinvaras caused no issues with their lack of stability features and as a low arch pronator I'm questioning the need for stability control. The need for guidance support may come with runs longer than mine that top out at around 11 miles.

I'm still keenly interested in minimal running shoes so I asked the folks at Saucony whether I could review the new Hattori, a super light, zero drop minimal racer/trainer. There are a limited supply of these shoes for testing so Saucony graciously offered a pair of the new Mirages, the fraternal twin to the Kinvara. The Mirage has some stability features and a little more structured upper. If the fit of the Mirage is close to the Kinvara I will wear the Mirages during my half marathon. It might be a perfect combination for the 13.1 mile distance. I'll document my experience and review it on Runner's Tech Review.

Men's ProGrid Mirage
Quick summary of the Mirage (per Saucony):
  • The perfect light trainer for a slight overpronator
  • Lightweight with great responsiveness
  • Allows the foot to move through the gait cycle unrestricted
  • Hydrator collar lining
  • Memory Foam Heel Pods
  • EVA Sockliner
  • HRC Strobel Board
  • Heel ProGrid LITE
  • High Abrasion EVA (EVA+)
  • Supportive Arc
  • Blown rubber
  • XT-900™
Men: 8.9 oz
Women: 7.9 oz

I'm not going to comment too much about my run this morning except to say that it was difficult and my performance was terrible. A friend on the running blogsphere (and a person who ran the Dirty Sock 10K in about half the time as me) commented that blood donation can have a real effect on performance for two weeks after the donation. I'll accept that at face value and not dwell on today's workout. I'm hoping for significant improvement tomorrow but I'll settle for a mediocre run.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Write your own minimalist running article in ten easy steps!

I'm a true believer in the barefoot/minimalist "movement" although I'm not likely to ever run barefoot. The concept of minimal or natural running makes great sense to me. Our early ancestors evolved to run on their  forefeet so they could travel long distances without injury and to run down and capture prey. The modern design of most conventional shoes works completely against this genetic optimization. I'm not a physiologist so I can't speak to whether a large cushioned heel and pronounced drop between heel and front foot promotes injury, but that's a popular theory. I just know that since moving from my Brooks GTS 10's to my much more minimal Kinvaras I've improved my form and avoided injury.

There have been many articles written about minimalist running and while I appreciate the attention to subject matter I'm growing weary of the sameness of the content. One reason for this may be that there isn't much to say about it except that less shoe is probably better than more. Rather than read the hundreds of stories, features, columns and books about the subject I decided to construct a do-it-yourself minimal running article. Here's all you need to write your own story:

1. Begin by acknowledging Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run" as the probable source for the current minimalist craze.
2. Talk about how the $20 billion running shoe industry is waking up to the need to design more minimally constructed shoes.
3. Mention that when Vibram introduced their "Five Fingers" glove shoes they tripled their sales in less than two years. Also mention their unconventional look.
4. Put in quotes from Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman about the bio-mechanics of endurance running and how natural it is to land on your forefoot when running.
5. Quote a strength and conditioning physiologist to explain the actual mechanics of how barefoot and minimal running optimize stride and naturally diffuse shock.
6. Quote a podiatrist who suggests that evidence proving minimalist running prevents injury is inconclusive, and further, that some runners actually do need motion control and stability correction.
7. Mention that almost every running shoe was minimal until about 40 years ago and this is simply a return to a better design.
8. Talk about how Saucony launched the very successful Kinvara and how other major running shoe companies are now following suit.
9. Stress the importance of starting slow with your transition to a lower heel and a less constructed shoe.
10. Finish with a cliche like "When it comes to running, sometimes less is more."

Good luck on your new career as a sports journalist!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A compelling reason to run on the treadmill

Frigid temperatures on Long Island this morning
Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

The news stations were reporting 18 degrees in NYC with colder temperatures in the suburbs this morning. The widget on my iPhone shows 14 degrees where I live. If not for the still icy roads, I would have liked to run outside today because I find really cold temperatures energizing.  But 14 degrees is not my idea of a good running experience.

Instead of the street, I ran on the treadmill this morning. I wore my Kinvaras that were a nice change from the Brooks GTS 10s that I've been using outdoors because they do a better job of keeping my feet warm. At this point I'm really convinced that a minimal running shoe is the key to better form. Of course with the chilly winter weather more substantial shoes have a certain appeal. I didn't run too intensely this morning but I brought up my speed after my first mile and bumped up the pace every few minutes from there.

My judgement of treadmill runs follows a different scale than outdoor runs. My starting point when running outside is generally positive and if the run is good things are even more positive. My starting point on the treadmill is the opposite and the best thing I can say about a treadmill workout is that it didn't suck. Today's run didn't suck, so yay! I'm really hoping to get some outdoor running in this weekend. Next week is supposed to be warmer but with rain and even some snow. I'm traveling to a warmer climate mid week so I may get to run outdoors in shorts. That would be a welcome change.

blogger templates | Webtalks