Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Alternative to Barefoot

Is there such thing as a shoeaholic?  My spell-check doesn’t think so.  I was a traditional, mega-industry, evil empire, running shoe wearer.  I became an expert on the differences between motion control and stability shoes; Asics and Mizuno were my favorite flavors.  I fell for every marketing ploy and new color; gads, I preferred my shoes gel-enhanced.  What guy doesn’t?
What a load of hogwash.  How did people run before Nike?  I am such a sucker for marketing.
So why then was I a perpetual gimp?  Not the season-ending, writhing in pain type, but the endless shin splints, IT band pain and arch barking gimp that I thought just came with running and getting older.  After taking to the trails, the issues just got worse.  I thought trails were supposed to be easier on my poor body?
What was it that Sherlock Holmes posited?  If you eliminate all other possibilities, the one that remains, no matter how unlikely, is the answer?  He used this to prove a gorilla was murdering people or something.  Elementary I guess.  So I started suspecting my shoes.  I did some research, and read Born to Run by Chris McDougall.  If you haven’t already, read this book.  Like right now.  Lots of great information covered in a book that reads like a novel.  Loved it.  I read about people doing 50 miles in tire treads.  Evidently people did run before Nike.
So I determined to get some minimalist shoes.  Without silly toes (those toes will take me a while to get used to).  Maybe a cool color.  I think I hit the jackpot on my first try.  I went over to Revel Sports near Wausau, WI and tried on a pair of Inov8 F-lite 230’s.  Halleluiah!  They fit amazingly.  I felt like I was wearing my bedroom slippers, only with kick-butt, summer racing tread soles and patented Aqua-tread grooves.  I almost ripped my back pocket getting to my wallet.  I plunked down my $100 and dreamt of cutting my 50k time in half!  I wonder if windburn will start being a problem?
Ha!  My first trail run killed everything from my kneecap muscle (I didn’t know I had one of these) on down.  My theory is that I was so “protected” by my stability gussets and gel cushioning, that my leg stabilizer muscles and tendons had atrophied.  But the pain somehow seemed right.  Does that make sense?  I really should have done this slowly.  It took me a month to be able to run on trails pain-free.  And now I’m doing it injury-free.  I’ve run two 50-milers and two 50k trail races in my Inov8s and love them.  Time to replace them, I know.  Sentimentality I guess.
The difference for me was the elimination of that ridiculous sole.  Now when I look at soles from Asics, I snicker.  They look silly.  How many swooshy foam whoopdidoos can they fit on there?  Without the mega-sole my body fell into a running form that felt more natural.  I was landing on my forefoot and was using my God-given muscles and tendons for stability.  My arch was doing what it had evolved to do: absorb and distribute the impact loading caused by running.  All I needed is something to protect the bottom of my feet from rocks and stuff.  Some might not even need that.  I have really wimpy feet, my kids laugh at me when I wince while walking over gravel.
So I declare myself free from traditional running shoes and their marketing wiles.  Hope to see you on the trails!

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