Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Minimalist shoes.

Let's talk about a very popular running topic these days: minimalist shoes.

I have a little bit of history with these. Back when I first started running, I got a pair of the Vibram Five Finger running shoes, and ran my first 5k in them.

While I think they're fantastic shoes, they're meant for short distances. Otherwise the rubbing between the toes gets way too bad. Feel free to dispute this, but I firmly believe they're meant for 4 miles absolutely max.

When starting to run again (after my month off), I was looking into the Nike Free 2 for a while. I had done a lot of research, and was pretty much sold. THEN Nike decided to endorse Michael Vick (aka dog-murderer extraordinaire) and while the rest of the country seems to be TOTALLY fine with him at this point and buy into the fact that he's "changed," I refuse to support that. I'm the ultimate animal person (hence my vegetarianism). And I'm a huge football fan (go Giants!!), and I think he's bad for the sport. They never should've taken him back. Also, my dog is a football fan, too. And he thinks Vick deserves to get slowly and painfully eaten by pitbulls.

So, because of Nike's decisions, I decided against the Nike Free 2. This meant that I needed a different minimalist shoe to research!

Kellie told me about the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove, and the research began. They had great reviews, they weigh an incredible 6 ounces, and when I tried them on in the store, they were incredibly comfortable.

I decided to go for it, knowing that I'd need to start out slow. Well this wasn't a problem, because I was starting out slow either way since it'd been over a month since I'd gone running.

I quickly figured out to NOT wear socks with them (even super thin ones that I started out with as a precaution), and stopped mid-run to take off my socks. I hid them behind a bush near a stop sign and grabbed them on my way back. After the first run I decided that I really liked them as shoes, but still wasn't sure about them for running purposes. The 6 ounce technology is impressive, but it means that your foot isn't really protected. Not from rocks, not from weak ankles, and not from muscles getting sore from the extra effort. However, there was one major perk I have to mention - the soles are made by the Vibram people and they ARE very resilient against gravel / silt all over the sides of the roads. It tends to be everywhere in New Hampshire, and it's unavoidable. (Which is why I highly respect barefoot runners, but I've never seen one in New Hampshire.)

After a couple weeks running in the Merrell's, I have to say that I still haven't figured out how much I like them. Sometimes they feel great, other times they make everything hurt. For example, on Thursday I had to stop running after a mile because my shin bones felt like they might come through my legs. However, running today, I had no shin pain. Granted, I spent the weekend treating them and taking it easy, but still - no pain in the shins today?

But I had a different problem today. Pain on the side of my foot. I didn't really feel it during my run, but afterwards I was limping all around the gym. It hasn't improved since I got home. I've had other foot pain from these shoes, but it was short lived. It was obviously muscular, and I assumed it was connected to my feet adjusting to the shoes. This time it feels like a bone, not a muscle. I'm not claiming anything's broken, but maybe too much pressure is on that bone.

Here's the problem with minimalist shoes. Any ache or pain that I might normally connect with my running form or just a sloppy/crappy day, I now have to wonder if it's my shoes. You always kind of have to wonder, but with minimalist shoes, you really have to wonder. So is it my shoes causing bone pain? Or my form? Or does the shoe mess up my foot strike and I'm hitting a bad part of my foot?

I don't know. I just have to wait and see, essentially. The only absolute truth that I can come to with minimalist shoes is that they're a great idea. But I still don't know if they're for me. I'd just like to figure it out before serious marathon training (i.e. long runs) start.

And now I'll leave you with today's favorite running song.

And favorite biking song. (Stationary bike at the gym. Don't wear earbuds while biking on the road! EVER!)



  1. Yeah, I feel like Vibrams are the cause of some of my foot pain. Usually if I just stay in regular shoes for a few days once I run into trouble, it goes away but it's taken too long this time. Still, I love them too much to give them up altogether.

  2. I think the biggest thing with minimalist shoes is breaking them in sloooooowly. A couple miles here and there while still wearing regular running shoes for longer or harder runs. That seems to be the key...you have to build up stronger ankles, and calves and so forth.
    Are you not feeling the Newton's anymore?