Friday, 2 March 2012

Running shoes. Minimal or maximal?

I was sat reading a piece in the newly arrived April edition of R.W. when Pat arrived home for lunch on Wednesday.  I'd just covered part  of Sally's 22 miler on the canal. I met her at the top of 5 Rise Locks at Bingley as she  scampered,  through having done 6 miles. We ran out  to Silsden and back to my start point so that she "just" had 5 to do by herself to finish off.  
  I'm sure I slowed her down a touch but she was on her feet for 3.09 so another good long run banked.
  The 8 page R.W. article I was reading was yet another one on minimalist/ barefoot running, the "Naked Truth" by  Sam Murphy.  Much of what she wrote we've heard before.  
  But I did highlight  3 sentences...........

" I began to wear lighter, more pared down shoes."
"But then injury struck: plantar fasciitis"
"And that mean going barefoot"

   So basically she was saying that  her injury was due to her lack of correct technique NOT her lighter, more pared down footwear.  Who am I to disagree?!!

  In complete contrast Pat brought home a catalogue which had just been presented in the Complete Runner shop by an agent selling a brand I had never of called HOKA, the "brainchild of two gravity sports enthusiasts
(Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud).
 It's said that "both men have been adventuring for as long as they rememeber and their trail running experiences have taken them across the globe....."   So presumably they have enough what I call "acquaintemce knowledge" to know what they are talking about.  One of their models shown here.

  At a time when there is a movement towards drastically reducing cushioning  as in the INOV-8
BARE-X 180's , they have designed shoes some of which feature EVA midsoles 2.5 GREATER than other running shoes
 "ensuring it is excellent at absorbing impact and providing a smooth, comfortable running experience"

   Don't get me wrong  we don't intend to stock the HOKA shoes which seem to me to go too far in the opposite direction to the many minimalist shoes we are being offered.   I only mention them to illustrate how crazy the  running shoe business seems at the moment.  It's difficult enough for us having to buy our ranges of shoes 6 months in advance.
   Do we invest vast sums in a new category of shoes, minimalist, whilst still offering traditional ranges of cushioning, support and motion control shoes?
 Having pounded the roads for 49 years I won't trying the BARE-X  any time soon. My old bones require a bit of pampering with some good cushioning. BUT neither will I be stacking up to the extent of the HOKA which look a tad extreme to me.  Certainly won't be stocking them!
 We have stocked a limited number of minimalist shoes but only the NIKE FREE (which I wear in the house)  have really sold in any numbers.  
 I will however be trying shortly the new SAUCONY TRIUMPH 9 which has a new slant on the conventional heel to forefoot differential.  Look out for preview videos and  a review shortly.
  As always..........if you are racing this weekend , have a good season has yet to start!


  1. Have shoe companies moved towards the 'minimalist' side of things because there are no other gimmicks to try anymore?

  2. Possibly. I certainly think that in the R.& D. offices of the shoe companies the designers go in and think "What can we come up with today?" rather than "That shoe's not working, we need to sort that out".
    The problem for us as retailers is that this "tinkering" every 3 or 6 months costs us money as the "old" model is deemed inferior and we have to reduce then to sell them through.

  3. Personally speaking, rarely has the "tinkering" that you mention resulted in an improvement in any particular model of shoe that i've favoured... And i've seen a LOT of "innovations" come and go over the years.

    Off the top of my head; some of the things that were going to 'change the face of the running world forever':
    Adidas' Delinger Web.
    Reebok's ERS (Energy Return System)... That one nearly crippled me!
    Reebok's Hexalite.
    Brooks' Kinetic Wedge.
    Brooks' Hydroflow.
    Reebok's Pump System.
    Nike's Huarache (sandal) shoes...
    And many more.

    I started to think a long time ago that running shoe design hasn't really moved on since the late 80s/early 90s. Most of the innovations have really turned out to be marketing gimmickry; stimulated more by production costs than by footwear evolution. All of the 'good' shoes have been replaced with 'superior' updates.

    1. Couldn't agree more. How many times have we read ..."this is THE ultimate shoe!" I have a file called "Running A Risk" which features adverts for some of the shoes you list and more. Keep an eye on the blog and I may starting covering them. Thanks for the comment.
      You can always add your name to your comment if you wish.

  4. I remember, as a competitive runner, that there was no better feeling than turning up at a race and changing into either spikes or racing shoes. Putting on the lighter footwear, after having run in ordinary trainers during the time leading up to the race, made me feel like I could fly – well almost! A great sensation.
    If all running were to have been done in the lighter/minimalist shoes; the benefits felt when switching to the racing footwear would have been neutralised come race day.
    I still run in racing shoes about once a week, just for a treat, and to feel the benefit of wearing something lighter for a change. I know from experience that to do too many runs in this type of shoe leads to fatigue and stiffness.

    Another thought which comes to mind is how often, in recent years, I've come across the 'advice' (so often have I encountered this, that it's almost taken on the role of a mantra) that it's imperative to renew each pair of shoes after 500 miles of wear; as, by this time, the cushioning will have deteriorated to a point where to continue wearing them would invite certain injury. Now we are being encouraged to purchase shoes which have little or – in some cases – no cushioning at all. 'Old'/worn shoes, and minimalist shoes: are the injury risks the same?
    I dare say that I still have shoes that have done far in excess of 500 miles; but have more cushioning than the minimalist footwear on offer today.

    Maybe I'm too old, and 'set in my ways'?

  5. No just sensible and have knowledge based on your experience. You may remember that not only did we save our racing shoes for race day but we didn't even warm up in them! Race day would see us warming up with our lightweight race shoes one in each hand as we made our way to the start and they were off as soon as we had finished! Happy days, good times!!

  6. Yes, reading that has made me smile... Warming up with either the running spikes or the racing shoes in hand: brings back memories. I don't think you see that these days.
    Racing shoes on at the last minute – couple of fast strides out along the first part of the route – then line up for the gun... Good times indeed.