Showing posts with label minimalist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label minimalist. Show all posts

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.

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!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Running shoes: Less is more (and more are coming soon)

An interesting line of minimalist shoes coming soon from Merrell

Today's run (street): 3.85 miles

I'm really loving the blog Minimalist Running Shoes where they review some of the lesser known brands and models on this eponymous site. Like the shoes they cover, the site is simple, with a handy method of rating the shoes against a number of criteria. I just read about Merrell's upcoming (for 2011) line of "barefoot" running shoes: the Trial, True and Tough Glove models. There are also woman's versions called Pace, Power and Pure. There are many minimalist shoes on the market or coming in 2011 and this conflicts me greatly. I already own seven pairs of running shoes (plus a few pair of retired trainers) and it's hard to justify another purchase.

I've been fortunate to acquire a number of these pairs through the review process so that's another channel to pursue. I love the Saucony Kinvaras that have helped me transition to a more neutral, mid foot, style of running and the smart thing would be to buy another pair after my current ones wear out. However, if I do that I won't have the opportunity to try the Merrell's, the New Balance Minimus, the Brooks Green Silence and a bunch of other minimalist models that sound compelling. Borrowing from that old cliche: so many running shoes, so little time.

This morning I went for my third run with the Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Rides. My plan was to go out normally and adjust my pace with the conditions. I started out well and the shoes were fine, although I do wish the differential between the heel and front foot was smaller. The mid-sole is chunky and that helps with impact with a mid-foot strike but I've become used to a lower riding shoe. I ran in my Brooks on the treadmill yesterday and while that has a fairly built up heel, the GTS 10 feels more stable. I enjoyed the run for the first few miles. It helped to be back on the street in the cold (but not frigid) air. I did need to be careful in some spots where snow, ice and slush remained on the road. I stayed hyper alert for cars and trucks on those narrow sections but happily there were no close calls.

By the end of the third mile I began to tire and worried that I may be getting sick. The anniversary of last year's illness and the multiple times I've caught the flu during the last week of the year make me a little paranoid. I finished just shy of four miles. I'm mildly concerned that I've lost a little base conditioning over the last few weeks but I'm certain it's related to other factors. My hope is to do at least one more long distance run before I return to the office next week. In the meantime I've been focusing more on getting in a few extra daily miles during this week.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Minimalist running shoes, one year later

Mizuno Wave Universe 3
Around this time last year I was reading about two models of running shoes from Brooks that were due to hit stores in early spring of 2010. These shoes, the Brooks Green Silence and the Adrenalin GTS 10, were interesting to me for different reasons. The Green Silence was the first of many shoes since marketed as "minimally constructed", a niche that was created (or helped along) through the popularity of Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run." I was intrigued by the concept of running in the mid-foot style and Brooks played up the small difference between the heel and forefoot height of this shoe. The flatter plane facilitates front, rather than heel striking. Brooks also played up the Green Silence's environmental friendliness through its heavy use of recycled materials, soy based dyes and water based adhesives. I was hooked and counted the days until the Green Silence shipped to stores.

Brooks Green Silence
Besides the Green Silence I was also interested in the GTS 10, the successor to the GTS 9's that I had worn and appreciated for their comfort and durability. When I visited Jackrabbit Sports to try the Green Silence I was dissuaded by the salesperson who said they lacked the structure I needed. I was then steered first to the Brooks Ravennas (that I didn't like) and then to the GTS 10's (that I bought). All was well with the GTS 10's until Saucony sent me a pair of Kinvaras. I started off running shorter distances (5 miles or less) with these shoes but slowly worked up to longer length runs. I expected to have soreness due to less cushioning and lack of stability control. However, I've never had a problem with these shoes and they are now my go-to trainers and racing shoes.

NB Minimus

Brooks has just launched the GTS 11's that are supposed to be even better than the 10's but, surprisingly, I'm not that interested. The higher heel of conventionally constructed shoes don't feel as good as they did prior to my running in the Kinvaras. I think that when my Saucony's wear out I'll either replace them with another pair, try the Green Silence or go super minimal with the Mizuno Wave Universe (3.8 oz. per shoe). Saucony just announced the Mirage, sort of a Kinvara for people who need stability and New Balance will soon have the Minimus based on the Vibram Five Fingers. So many choices now. I like this type of problem.

The Saucony Kinvara - my go-to shoe

Friday, August 27, 2010

Long runs and minimalist shoes

Today's run: Central Park (planned)

It's only been one day since I've run but two mornings in a row without a workout seems too long. Tomorrow's planned run will be relatively long but we'll be keeping the pace moderate. Today I'm going to Central Park to put in a few fast miles. The weather predictions are making me think it will be cooler and drier than my last CP run and I'm hoping that's the case. I'm not all that pleased to see the summer coming to a close but as a runner who prefers cooler conditions, I am looking forward to the fall.

I have my Brooks today but I may wear my Kinvaras tomorrow because I'm curious to see how they feel after seven miles. The longest run I've done with these shoes is 5.25 miles and I had no problems on that day. Adventure Girl ran a tough trail half marathon in Oregon earlier this month while wearing her Kinvaras. She liked them a lot, even over that long distance. Today on Runner's Tech Review we're posting an article from a runner who has been deployed in Iraq and has put many miles on a variety of minimalist running shoes. It's a great piece because his impressions are based on miles of running, not just the initial test findings you'd get from most shoe reviews.

Should be a good weekend of running starting today. Only 28 days to the Great Cow Harbor 10K so my focus is turning to distance and stamina.

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.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Super minimalist running shoes for less than $20!

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles at 9:30

What Vibrams should look like
Happy 4th of July! As you'd expect it's very hot but happily not all that humid. One of my work colleagues was due to participate in a 4 mile race this morning that had a starting time of 9:30 AM. I'm assuming that it was a scorcher and I look forward to hearing how he did when I return to the office next week. We've been busy this weekend. Yesterday, after dinner, the Emerging Runner family all went on a run together around the neighborhood. Everyone did well and my son led the way, maintaining a speedy pace under 10 minutes a mile. I'm assuming that because, in a rare moment of practical normality, I decided not to track the run on my Garmin. My daughter will be going out for track next year as a 7th grader and she's already planning her summer training to be prepared for the rigors of that activity. My son has discovered that playing the trumpet has yielded an unexpected benefit -- great lung power when he runs. It won't be long until I can't keep up with my kids. That's okay, I know my wife will still run with me.

We finished our family run and headed straight to the pool. I had already cooled enough to be reluctant to jump in right away (I refuse to put in a pool heater) so I slipped on my aqua shoes and ran around the pool area until I felt hot enough to take the plunge. My kids followed me through that exercise and before long one and then the other jumped in as they ran. I went on a bit longer and discovered (probably due to the Kinvaras) that I was very comfortable running in the pool shoes. The sole is thin enough to protect from rocks and other objects but with no real padding it naturally enabled front foot landing. I think I'll try to run a mile in the shoes to see whether the experience translates well to the road. If so, I'll have found a very inexpensive alternative to Vibram 5-Fingers. Although some disagree, I think the Vibrams look too ridiculous to wear in public.

In the spirit of minimal running I wore the Kinvaras on this morning's 3.6 mile Independence Day run. I thought about running four on the 4th but I decided to cut it a little short because it was getting too hot to run. I went directly to the backyard and stripped off everything but my running pants and dove right in. A perfect way to finish a pleasant run. I have one more day before I return to the office. With Colorado less than a week away, I'm thinking of hitting the trails tomorrow.

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