Monday, October 17, 2011

barefoot running update

Okay, this is an installment for the "runner" part of "faithrunner," so bear with me if you are more interested in the faith side of things. I'll come back to that next week. This week, I want to update where I am in running barefoot or in minimalist shoes. The evolution of footwear in my running continues...(at 58, I don't know how many more renditions there will be :-)

I bought my first pair of Vibram five fingers KSOs two years ago this month after hearing Christopher McDougall pitch his book, Born to Run, at the Dallas Cooper Clinic. (You can read of some of my journey in previous posts in this blog.) I bought into the philosophy and technology of barefoot running and took off running in them--never to wear conventional shoes again. (And, I haven't.)

What happened, however, was that the concrete of my suburb and the rocky terrain of North Texas only allowed me to go so far in this running footwear. I could only run about a maximum of six miles in the five fingers on concrete until the balls of my feet hurt, and the cumulative effect of the pounding almost ended my running in them altogether. Trails in this area were impossible in this footwear, even in the five finger treksport. (A costly investment with no return on my investment.)

I my frustration, I went to Luke's Locker in Plano, and a salesperson introduced me to the new Altra Zero Drop (Instinct). It kept the foot-on-the-ground theory I had come to like (require) and it gave me a slight cushion for the concrete roads I have to run upon around here.They said more and more five finger runners were returning to find some cushion for running on roads.

I ran 10+ miles this morning on the concrete trails of the Chisholm Trail in Plano to train for a half-marathon in a couple of weeks, and I ran at my normal pace with no residual issues I had experienced in the past.  I'm sold on these shoes. The larger toe box allows my foot to fall on the ground as they were created to do and gave me the foot-strike and feel as the five fingers. AND, the cushion kept the ball of my foot from aching on the longer runs.

My trail running has returned with the Merrell Barefoot True Glove. (Thanks again to Luke's Locker folks.) This shoe is built upon the foot-on-the-ground principle while providing a "rock plate" in the front of the shoe to deal with the rocks of North Texas trails. It, too, is built more to the natural shape of the foot and makes room for my wider foot in the toe box. (I'll keep my Montrail Hard Rocks for extreme terrain.)

I continue to be sold on  minimalist theory and technology, and I will not return to the traditional heal-strike shoe. What I wear are the natural alternative to shoes that force our feet to fall on the ground other than the way they were designed to strike it. But, the terrain and needs of runners in my part of the world require more cushion and protection than what barefoot wear provides.

I will continue to experiment, I'm sure. I am grateful, however, shoe makers listen and adjust to the needs of the runners as this trend continues to unfold.

How has your footwear needs changed as you have run?


Bill Martin said...

What would you recommend for running mostly on treadmills?

faithrunner said...

I still wear my five fingers on the treadmill. The give of the machine is more like grass than concrete! I also wear my Altras on the treadmill, too.

Rob Savarese said...

I'm pretty much a pavement runner and I love the Instincts. They are my #1 high mileage shoe and I've got over 500 miles logged over two pair so far. I've also been working in a little VFF mileage on the treadmill and on the roads for lower leg strength and conditioning. I've gotten up to 3 miles on the road and 5 on the treadmill. I'm curious if I'll hit that 6 mile limit as you have.

Altra has the Samson coming out in March which looks like a next-generation Adam and I'm looking to pick up a pair and see how it compares with the Vibrams on asphalt.