I have been having some hip pain on my runs and spent the last couple of months contemplating reading up on hip issues in regards to running, etc. Long story short I stumbled on quite a bit of information on the internet about bare foot running. Being that my feet are rarely exposed to elements and even a short walk to the bottom of my driveway to the mailbox barefoot presents lots of ouches, weezes and whining I figured there was no way I would be able to run around with my feet completely naked.
A quick trip to Google and as it turns out I am not the only one that is looking to run barefoot but will not opt for running around with them fully exposed to all of the glass, metal, poo and many other dangers that I regularly encounter on a run. Below is a little bit of information on what I was looking at and what options seemed to be the best for newbie’s like myself that want to try it out without going full on.
The Vibram 5 Fingers.
These basically fit on your foot like a glove complete with individual toe inserts. Providing the same level of protection you would likely get from a pair of beach/river shoes these are the closest thing to being barefoot without actually going there. To say they are weird looking is an understatement. However, if you could get beyond the strange looks they did seem to be the best option for getting the full barefoot experience without actually doing it. My only concern with them was the cost and what if I did not like them. A more traditionally designed shoe would at least be able to be used as daily wearers if they did not work out.
Which leads me to my second option...
Nike proclaims these shoes will let your feet be free like feet want to be. Not sure if that is completely true but all of the reviews and feedback supported these as a great option for running. Close to the feel of running barefoot with a small amount of padding for shock absorption. Tried on a pair at the Foot Locker and took them for a spin around the Mall. Nice roomy toe box and fit was snug but comfortable. I particularly liked the way you slide them on like a pair of slippers as opposed to having the tongue and shoe as separate pieces.
Finally I opted to visit my local running store to talk to some people that are more familiar with subject at hand. Not knocking the guy at Foot Locker but his knowledge on the subject of running seemed minimal at best. After speaking with one of the guys there and since they sell both the Nike Free’s and Vibram 5 Fingers he suggested I also look at a pair of Saucony’s. Not familiar with these at all but he explained that they might be a better option for a new runner as they have better designed cushioning in the sole that is also just as light and will provide the same feel as the Nike Free. Tried these on as well and really liked the design of the mesh inner shell surrounded by some other opaque material. Provided a nice snug fit and felt great and very similar to the Nike Free’s.
After some deliberation and a few quick trips to Google on my iPhone to check the reviews I opted for the Saucony’s.
Later the next week…
OK, I went out last night for a run in the park in my new kicks. While I had already tried them out on a 3 mile run on Saturday it was right after a long bike ride with lots of hills work that made it difficult for me to make a judgment. Monday comes and a much better run than the first in them because I was well rested and truly had the opportunity to see how they felt.
They are fast and light. Shifting my weight forward as described by the guy at the running store helped keep my feet landing right on the flats and balls of my feet. I spent the first mile just trying to run at different speeds, adjusting my landing and also my legs on the follow through.
If I ran slower 9.5-10 Pace my foot would slip slightly forward in the shoe with each landing. Almost like I was hitting the brakes with each impact. Because I was running on a crushed rock path I could also hear and feel the ground slipping slightly below the sole.
Speeding up to 8-8.5 pace the slipping stopped but then I was moving very quickly. However, the speed felt very natural and comfortable other than cardiovascularly. My calves had also been recruited to support this new impact and I was quickly feeling the burn there and also my glute’s. I think the glute stress came from my feet making a much higher swing than what is typical in my other shoes. Almost touching my butt with each stride rather than swinging more pendulum like using a typical stride.
So mile 1 behind me I decided to stop and stretch and then do another 3 miles at the pace that I found most comfortable. Mile 1 paced at 8:05, mile two 8:12 and finally mile 3 at 8:20. By the time I hit that third mile I was ready to quit but suffered through it determined to see how it played out. I am not ready to run those paces yet on a regular bases and started to wonder if these shoes would be right for me. The natural feel of the shoe and speed that they seem to want to make me run at comfortably left me exhausted. I am still not going to put to much into this run as it was my first and I have a feeling there is still going to be a learning curve on how to run properly in something that is offers such a minimal amount of support.
For the time being these will be used only on shorter distances of 3-5 miles until I can either get used to them or retire them to cross trainers. The shoes overall are incredibly comfortable and I do feel great in them just unsure if I want to go that fast on my ‘easy’ runs. Part of the joy of running is taking it all in but for slow people like me 8 minute miles are saved for race days not relaxing jogs through the park. If my heart feels like it just might protest and jump from my chest and leave me doubled over evacuating the contents of my stomach then I am not sure how much value these have for me.
Jury is still out on the Saucony Kinvara’s.