As my birthday approached, I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a nice pair of shoes. I set out to get a new pair of shoes and decided to get properly fitted again at The Running Room.
Getting fitted for running shoes is important, for the obvious reasons, and I had been having trouble with my outer toes feeling numb-ish as I ran (which I figured was just due to the longer distances I’ve been logging).
However, I quickly learned from the helpful staff that this feeling was happening because when I step, I my outer heel hits first, putting more pressure on my other toes as my foot takes the step. I tried on about six pairs of shoes before finally settling on a pair of Asics. They were like walking on a cloud and I figured that cushioning would help.
After a one-hour run (on a treadmill, so I could try them and take them back if I needed to), my toes got the same numb feeling and I had to stop running. I took them back and my dad persuaded me to try some Nikes, since that’s what he has always worn and swears by.
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Now, I personally have always felt uncomfortable in running shoes. I’m used to activities such as yoga where I usually go barefoot or wear something super light and flexible. I was immediately attracted to the new Nike Free Run+ shoes. They looked amazing (coming in pink and purple) and I started reading about what people were saying about barefoot/minimalist running, such as Canadian Running’s barefoot blogger Kate Kift, to really see if it was for me.
I saw a woman on the bus wearing a pair and asked her how she found them. She said they were “great for working out, but absolutely kill my back when I run.”
She said she doesn’t wear them for running. Only for walking and training since they are really comfortable but don’t offer a lot of support she feels is needed to run.
The saleslady at the Nike store said they were great, but not something to jump into since it takes a while to get used to and since I’m training for a half-marathon, I could injure myself and risk my training.
However, she said eventually I should make the switch over since I might prefer to be barefoot.
I ended up on getting a pair of regular (and awesome, pink and white) Nike shoes.
But, all of this made me think of where the minimalist shoe movement is headed. The success of barefoot athletes is well known and I’ve seen people wearing the Vibram Five Fingers for working out and running. Many other shoe companies also have a running version of a “minimalist shoe”.
I read a great blog post by Pete Larson, who reviews tons of shoes, and he said these minimalistshoes are much different than running barefoot since they do have some sort of heel on them.
The heel is an interesting quality, he says, quoting an article that was published in Nature; “For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal footwear suchas sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning relative to modern runningshoes.”
All of the reading I’ve done has basically just left me feeling like I should stick to the normal shoe. Maybe, after I finish the half-marathon, I will treat myself to a pair of Nike’s for short runs and working out, since they are supposed to be comfy and I’ve been drooling over them for weeks.
However, I wanted to reach out to the Canadian runners out there to hear your thoughts on ‘minimalist’ running shoes:
Would you run a marathon in them? Or are we just asking for injury? And of course, are they just a fad?