I had someone ask me about a recommendaiton on running shoes. I went back and searched my posts on running to see if I'd ever recommended shoes or really even shared my complete thoughts on shoes and realized that I hadn't! There are lots of posts where I mention shoes but I haven't really dug into what I wear and why and what I prefer. When I wrote about attending the Good Form Running Clinic in March, I shared a bit of my shoe history.
The most important thing about running shoes is that you have to find what works for you. I do have an opinion on traditional running shoes and I will share it. But whatever shoes you find that allow you to run without injury is what matters. Even in the minimalist world, there isn't one type of shoe that works for all.
I started in traditional running shoes. Heavy, very cushioned, designed to fix my step.
I ran well in them- at first. They got me started. Without those shoes, I'm not sure I'd be where I am now. However, because of my size and because I've always been hard on shoes, they started to break down in about 3 months- right before my first 5K. I started experiencing knee pain, hip pain. It was frustrating. I went for a sports massage the week prior to my 5K and had some intense work done to the hip muscle that was tightening so dreadfully because of my IT band.
After that first 5K, I knew I needed to do something different. I knew that there was something to all the reading that Christy had been doing on running form and shoe styles. I didn't know how far I'd end up going.
My next pair of shoes were cheap shoes from Target. Champion was the brand and I got them on clearance for less than $20. Lighter weight, thinner sole. Again, they started to break down within 3 months.
Now it is September. I go back to the running store, this time armed with knowledge about running form. I'd been working on my midfoot landing for months and knew that I wanted the lighter weight shoe, less cushioning, less rise in the heel. I was able to tell the salesguy what I wanted and how my foot felt. I ended up with another pair of Mizuno. 7 oz in weight vs 9 oz in the original Mizuno shoes I owned. They served me well for a few months.
At an after Christmas sale at a local sporting goods store, I got a pair of Nike Lunarfly. I still have these shoes and they are great for walking and cycling and general working out. However, they weren't great for running for me. I was getting arch and ankle pain that I'd never experienced before.
I started running in them in February 2011. I ran my half marathon in them. I did all my training races in them. I did all my training runs in them. I ran in them in the rain, in the cold, in the heat.
I still really like my Merrell running shoes.
The thing about a minimalist shoe is that it has to fit exactly right. Every foot is different so finding a shoe that is right for the specific contours of your foot can be a challenge. You have to be willing to try on lots of things and not just go with something because you think it's best. Granted, I didn't do that myself. I read a lot about various minimalist shoes and decided that with the available options and the timing of desperately needing to get new shoes, these would be my best option.
At the expo for the half marathon in May, I tried on a pair of Vibram Five Finger Bikila LS and I looooooved them. Really, really, really loved them. I'm contemplating sinking money into them as my next purchase. I think it would be great to have 2 pairs of minimalist shoes that I use for different types of runs.
Last, but not least, I've been doing a little playing around with something I never imagined I would take seriously. I thought Christy would go down this path, not me. Instead, she's shied away from it and I'm starting to embrace it. These are very inexpensive and custom fitted to suit my exact needs. These were designed specifically with me and my running style in mind. The technology is unbelievably intricate and sensitive to the needs of the runner.
I've done a couple of very short barefoot runs. The main reason I'm intrigued is that when I've been out for a run, I get a few miles into it and I want to take my shoes off. I have a strong urge to take off my shoes and go barefoot. Even though I love the shoes I currently run in, I want them off and I want to be barefoot. I've gone barefoot a couple of times- once for 1/2 a mile and once for about 1/4 mile. I feel lighter and stronger and faster when I'm barefoot. I feel more connected to running when I'm barefoot. I don't think I'm going to go full on barefoot but I do think that barefoot running will continue to be part of my training.
It's funny to scroll down this page and see how the shoes become less and less. Never did I imagine that I would be a minimalist runner. It was crazy enough to think of myself as a runner at all. But here I am. Minimalist. Sometimes even barefoot.