Gear Corner: Shoes

I’m going to take a minute to talk about the shoes I run in.  I enjoy running on non-paved surfaces because they seem to be gentler on my Achilles tendons (I generally wear cushioning shoes; I seem to have high arch and supinate while running -cushioning has kept most problems at bay).  I noticed a friend wore Salomon shoes that seemed ideally suited to both the road and the trail (indeed the Salomon XA PRO 3D Ultra are marketed this way).  I’m on my third pair from this series, and I’m very happy; I do 90-95% of my running in these.

For races, I have switched in the last few years to something approaching the idea of a ‘racing flat’ the Zoot Ultraspeed. Being lighter, it’s a little less weight to drag around, and they’re designed for fast transitions at T2, so they just slip on.  Without much cushioning though, I tend not to use them on longer distances, depending on how I think my feet and legs will hold up against the course.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably seeing that Barefoot running is growing in popularity.  This guy makes plenty of arguments that I think hold some water, but I am in favour of cross-training in ways that strengthen my foot and any other supporting players in the run.  So I got a pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes: the Merrell True Glove.

I bought the Merrell’s because they sponsor the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series, they were on sale, and I had concerns about those shoes that look like feet.  What if one of my toes (or other featurs of my foot) is outside the norm?  How would they fit?  I should have been more concerned about the Merrell’s.

I wore them for the first time on a trail near my cottage.  I tried to land mid-foot as is recommended by all the paleo/chi running experts, and have a forward body lean as I ran.  Some problems: people with long legs have a reason to over-stride and heel-strike: it’s the best way to run faster and use your advantage.  Taking shorter strides and having faster leg turnover is hard when your legs are longer, and the second my concentration slipped, I was heel striking again.  I also seemed to be unable to find my mid-foot, when I wasn’t heel striking, I was landing on the balls of my feet as if I was trying to do some kind of ninja-sneak run, and it was murder on my Achilles tendons (especially with all the hills in the area).  Finally, I ended up with blisters on the backs of my heels (I should have taken pictures).

I’m not willing to give up on the barefoot running (as cross-training) yet, and I’ve worn the shoes a couple of times since then.  Once was taking my son to the playground which didn’t involve much running, except when I chased him or carried him for a quick jog from here to there, and the other time was on a treadmill.

I think the treadmill is ideal for playing with the technique.  Right now it’s a little too cold for running with less/no socks and very little insulation/protection on my feet.  Furthermore, the treadmill stays at a constant incline and speed, with no bumps, twists or turns so I can focus on my technique.  Lastly, I find it so boring that I’m guaranteed not to overdo it, and build my barefoot strength slowly.

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