There are few things a runner looks forward to more than a new pair of running shoes. Well, at least I do. So by the transitive property of some branch of geometathermodynamomathematical science, it applies to all runners.
But new shoes can also have its dark side. It’s like getting a present at Christmas. Is it a new Ipod/Ipad/Icar or is it underwear, and I’m not talking the edible kind but the “practical” kind? Sure–they’re both presents, but which one do you want to open?
New shoes can be great, but at the same time, they can wreak havoc on your running body with pain in places you didn’t even know you could have pain in. I ended that sentence with a preposition. I am a blogger, not your freaking English teacher. And I digress.
I am a runner by virtue of the fact that I run 28-35 miles per week. Yes. I just go out the door and start moving quickly for no apparent reason at all. My house is not on fire. I am not on fire, though technically I should stop, drop and roll if that were the case anyway. I am not chasing a beer truck. I am not being chased by a bear. I leave my house, run around for an hour or so, and end up exactly back where I started. For some people it is insanity. For others, it is exercise. For myself, it is an obsession, or at least it is according to my loving wife.
Since I began running, I have lost over 20 pounds, lowered my cholesterol, improved my asthma and won the lottery. I did not save 15% on my car insurance though, and I made that up about winning the lottery. I am in better shape now than I was in high school. Seriously, I would have dropped dead running a mile in high school.
But back to the shoes. I love trying out new shoes (that is a blatant hint to shoe companies that want to send me free products to try on. I wear a mens 8.5 US in case you are wondering, and I prefer blue and white.)
A year and a half ago, I tried out the Vibram Five Fingers. I actually researched this funny looking shoe in great depth on the Internet (so the information had to be legitimate!) Seriously, I read rave review after rave review by runners who are more obsessed and faster than me. No one said anything bad about these shoes. (They all lied!) But I didn’t know that at the time so I ordered them online, put them on my feet, and went for a run. I couldn’t walk–without pain and looking funny–for about three days afterward. And I only managed a quarter mile in them! To date, I have only put about 26 miles on them (not more than one or two at a time) and have no real desire to ever run in them again.
But they did help me in a perverse sort of way. I discovered several things about my running form almost immediately. For one thing, the road is HARD. Seriously. It is really hard. Barefoot running is a big fad right now, and those who do it probably hate me for calling it a fad. I’m sorry dudes, but there is no way I am running on anything but a sandy beach without something on my feet. And even the Vibrams couldn’t protect my pampered tootsies from rocks and gravel. For the record, I am not a barefoot person. Except for the shower, pool or beach, I am always wearing shoes, flip-flops or slippers. I don’t even walk around with just socks on. Maybe my wife is correct about that obsession thing.
What I really discovered was that I am a heel striker. I landed on my heel first rolling forward onto the bottom of my foot and then pushing off with the toes. Apparently this is not a good form. If you get a chance to read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall I highly recommend it. For those who are not runners and perhaps don’t know what is up with this barefoot movement, I will sum it up briefly. Basically, we were born to run, but not with high priced running shoes that cause us to run differently. If you run down a street barefoot, or in Vibram shoes, you will quickly discover that heel striking is not good. Barefoot runners run more on the front of their feet or the balls of their feet. This places less stress on the bones, muscles and ligaments of the leg, knee and thighs. Better running form means less injuries.
I have been running regularly (at least 3x per week) since 2001. Initially I suffered various aches and pains including but not limited to achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints so bad I think I might have had stress fractures since it felt like someone was driving a nail into my shins when I was in bed at night. I had knee problems and spent time in rehab–physical that is, not because I did drugs for my pain. But after I switched my running form from heel striking to forefoot, I have had NONE of these problems. NONE. I amaze even myself.
And as a by-product of that change, not only do I run pain free, but I can now outlast my shoes. In the old days, I could start to feel more knee and hip pain after about 400 miles on most shoes. Some sooner. I almost always changed shoes at 500 just to try and prevent serious damage. I have always been fond of the Asics line, 1100 and 2100 series and I now also have a pair of gel nimbuses. I currently have two pairs over 700 miles and recently threw out a pair with over 1000 miles. I actually wore out the shoe–it had holes and was coming apart. It may not sound like a big deal, but all those shoes I stopped running in at 500 miles still looked good and presentable. (I now use them for mowing the lawn, working outdoors and around the house, and a stack in the basment that I will eventually donate to some charity.) But the cushioning in the heels had broken down to the point I couldn’t heel strike in them anymore.
So when I saw the advertisement for these Adidas Climacool Ride shoes, I just had to give them a try. They are supposed to be light (they are) and breathable. (I listened closely but couldn’t even hear a whisper of breath. I held a mirror up to them and there was no fogging, but whatever.) The ads say you will sweat less in them–20% reduction in in-shoe moisture and 12% drop in foot temperature. I ran yesterday, but the temperature in central Pennsylvania was only about 48 degrees, so I cannot attest to that aspect of them. I look forward to wearing them in Phoenix this summer.
Compared to the Vibram’s, I love this shoe. It has a light, minimalist feel, but I do not actually feel the stones or road. Unfortunately, they cost as much or more than the more heavily cushioned traditional shoes which is odd. There is less shoe, but the price is the same. I guess someone has to pay for David Beckham’s endorsements.
I am not giving up my asics, but I am actually looking forward to putting more miles on these shoes. I did 7 miles yesterday and had my best time all winter. More importantly, I am able to walk today without the pain in my calves that I got with the Vibrams.
Adidas, ya done good.