I recently read a post by balancedcleveland on her disappointing new running shoes and reflected on my own running shoe progression, and ongoing barefoot running transition. For the few years, I’ve been progressing towards barefoot running. I was initially inspired by an article I read in Men’s Health magazine by Ted MacDougal. Still not quite there.
My initial impulse was to give a long description of my barefoot running journey, but I’ll limit this to my shoe selections–with a better debrief on the whole experience in a later post.
Historically, I buy the lowest cost, quality running shoes I can find. This is an odd set of criteria, but cost is a major factor. As a result, I’ve never had any real running shoe convictions or consistent experiences.
However, with my interest in barefoot running (an its connection to warriorship), I’ve taken a decided turn. I still do search out clearance items, though.
My first move was to switch to ultra-light running shoes. At the time Nike Frees were still fairly novel, actually not selling too well, and hard to find retail, but I found a pair on clearance. Running in those required a major change in my running stride. No details here, but I will say take the recommendations about to working up to running in ultra-lights and minimalist shoes seriously. I took the progression seriously, and it still required some time to adjust.
Shortly after, I found a pair of Zoot running shoes at Marshall’s. Whereas, the Zoots were not technically ultra-light, they were, let’s say, very light. Additionally, they are designed specifically for triathlon racing, with special modifications for the bike to run transition. These have proven very handy in sprint distance triathlons (see my Georgia Vets Sprint Triathlon report).
My first pair of Nike Frees finally became super-stinky and nasty after a week of canyon running at the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas–brutal runs, by the way. So, I found another pair of Frees. The Frees had become popular as a style statement amongst non-runners, and were now more easily found in retail shops (also at regular retail price.) I was able to find an out-of-the-box pair for a discount. Those shoes are still in service.
In fact, all three pairs of ultra-lights are still in service. As I mentioned to balancedcleveland, I severely question the typical 30o mile guideline for replacing running shoes. I find that 300 miles comes awfully quick, especially when training for longer distances.
I have repurposed each pair. My first, rather stinky pair, I keep at my office, for those days when I need to go run, have brought my shorts, gym bag, but have forgotten my shoes (I guess that only happens to me), or those days when the weather is already particularly nasty. My second pair, I ran with recently in the Augusta 70.3 Half-Ironman, and now use for cross training & gym workouts. The Zoots I use in shorter distance races, where the zip-ties and other tri-specific features are especially helpful for quick transition times.
I now have a new pair of shoes. A few months ago I bought a pair of Vibram Five Finger KSO Treks. (I found them on clearance from REI, hence the wacky orange color.) Again, it took a train-up period to adjust to running in them. My calves were smoked for about three weeks. I dropped my mileage way down, and rebuilt about one mile or so per run. I’m still sort of adjusting. I did not race Augusta 70.3 in them. I trained in them, but went to my Nike Frees for the race. The 70.3 was a new distance for me. That distance run off the bike was too big of an unknown, and I didn’t want to chance it. Turns out, that was the right choice.
Alas, I am not quite barefoot running yet. But I am almost.
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