Running Shoes, Part 2
I've got a layover in Denver on the way to Salt Lake City today so have a bit of time to expand on my comments below on running shoes. There have been a couple of comments posted by readers and I received a few emails on the subject also. So far these have overwhelmingly favored minimalism in running shoes selection with a few preferring barefoot and a couple the Vibram Five Fingers product (I hesitate to call it a shoe).
When I owned the running store mentioned in the previous post I soon discovered there wasn't one shoe selection that would work best for all runners. But gradually I came to realize that runners are less likely to have injuries and to perform better if they use the least shoe possible for them. Note that 'for them' is quite a broad qualifier. A 115-pound woman with excellent running technique and years of training injury-free can generally get by quite nicely with the least shoe possible. Whereas a 220-pound runner with flat feet and awful run technique who is in his first year of serious running will need something far more supportive on his feet.
I wish it was so easy as to say that we should all just run barefoot. Had we grown up like Kenyan kids - barefoot and running to school every day - we wouldn't need heavy-duty shoes at all. Our feet and legs would be strong and our technique would be excellent. Unfortunately, that simply isn't the case. We grow up wearing shoes as soon as the parents can dress the baby. I'm afraid the feet of most of us are not well-conditioned. But we can do something about that.
I think it might help if you got out of your shoes during the day whenever you can. I'm not talking about running shoes here, but rather your 'street' shoes. Taking them off around the house is a minimal but first step in strengthening your feet. Athletes who do this can progress to doing what I call 'barefoot strides' a couple of times a week. I start them off with doing 5-6 x 20 second sprints on a clean, grassy surface (with walk-back recoveries). If not ready for barefoot running try using a lightweight racing flat, Nike Frees, beach water shoes or Vibrams. The idea is to gradually do more walking and running with little or no footwear.
I doubt if you will ever want to do all of your training and racing barefoot, although some do. The real advantage to doing this is not necessarily to run with a minimal shoe but to strengthen your body so injury is less likely. If that eventually involves wearing a minimalist shoe that's okay. I don't happen to see that so much as a goal as a means to training injury-free and eventually racing faster.
Labels: running shoes