Kicking it Minimalist Style.

Forget politics – it appears runners feel even stronger about their shoe brand and style. And it’s understandable – it is all about the shoes. A good pair and you’re floating on air (I’m a poet!). A bad pair, for me, means a bad run.

I’ve been a loyal Acsics wearer for years. So when I began running last year, I continued the trend. They’re good shoes that are well made and can easily last over a year of heavy cross training.

When J switched to barefoot running – with the “barefoot” shoes, he’s not hoofing it skin to asphalt – last December, he was stoked and I thought he was nuts. All the videos showed these really intense runners who were logging somewhere upwards of 60 miles a week on their bare, mud-stained twinkle toes. I have enough intensity in my life, barefoot or even minimalist running didn’t need to be on that list.

Fast forward 9 months.

My calves have hurt pretty consistently since I started running. It didn’t matter if I ran one mile or three or if I took off running from the front door or spent 20 minutes stretching. I tried rolling and compressing. I tried inserts and re-lacing my shoes. Nothing helped my achy breaky calves. Eventually, I just accepted the fact that my calves would always and forever be destined to hurt.

I noticed each time I hit two miles into a run, my feet began feeling like cement blocks. I felt like I was clodhopping along. What was supposed to be a natural movement felt forced. Then I saw another runner post a picture of her worn out shoes next to a new pair for comparison. The tread along her heels was gone, entirely worn. I looked at mine. Pristine. As the heels looked barely worn. The midfoot, however, was worn nearly flat.

Could it be? Noooo.

I have a midfoot strike. Despite my annoyance towards the intensity of hardcore mid-foot strikers, I was one of them.

I can’t run barefoot. Period. And the last thing I wanted to was to don a pair of those creepy toe-finger shoes. Thanks, but no thanks. J is fanatical about his barefoot trail shoes. But even they seemed too minimal for this stability lover. As usual, the folks at Fleet Feet to helped a sister out.

Check out my new kicks.

Sweet, right? They’re the Nike Free Run 3 and when I run, it’s like little cherubims are flying along side of me, adding a little lift to my step. Only I’m still running, which is hard and tiring and sweaty but my calves feel so much better.

These, like most minimal shoes, have a 4mm heel drop which you can feel as soon as you lace them up. Instead of a stacked heel giving support, your weight automatically falls to your midfoot. Since I naturally have a midfoot strike, I didn’t have to adjust my running form drastically but experts recommend that everyone, regardless of skill level, spend several weeks transitioning to minimal shoes (or actual barefoot, if that’s your thing). It’s no joke, my hamstrings were wrecked for a week after 2 miles the first time I wore them. I went up an entire size and have a comfortable amount of room in the toe box.

Do you know what else is crazy? You can create an entirely customized pair of Free Run 3s on Nike’s website. Granted, there is a 4 week wait period but, dang, I could get shoes that are entirely black, grey and beige to match the majority of my wardrobe.

So after three weeks with the shoes, I can definitely say I’m a convert to the minimalist shoe movement. My distances are increasing and I’m feeling stronger. I suppose I should never say never when it comes to barefoot running – maybe some asphalt-stained tootsies are in my future?

Maybe my new blog tagline should be “Life simply, run simply.” Catchy, right?

What do you think about “barefoot” running? Are you a forefoot, midfoot or heel striker?

For more information of barefoot and foot striking, check these out (because I really have no clue what I’m talking about):

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4 thoughts on “Kicking it Minimalist Style.

  1. Nice! I just recently started running, with a goal of completing a 5K on Thanksgiving! I wish I were as knowledgeable about it as you are…I have no idea where I strike. My friend, who is helping me train for the 5K, is a “barefoot runner” and she loves it; says she’s never going back.

    • I think that’s incredibly normal. I always assumed I ran “normally” and spent a good portion of my runs forcing myself into “proper” running form – heal to toe. I really, really recommend finding an shoe store like Fleet Feet that specializes in running/walking shoes. Or, ask your friend to watch your stride – run barefoot (inside or on grass) and see where your fit falls comfortably and naturally. And good luck on your 5k!

  2. Liz, you are so knowledgeable about running shoes! I should probably learn a bit more. I was a loyal Asics wearer for years, but I recently switched to a really lightweight Nike shoe, which has helped me on my runs. But I don’t know what kind of “foot strike” I have and I wish I did!

    • Ha, Jorie! You see, I really benefit from being surrounded my all these folks who are far more knowledgeable – I just pick up bits and pieces and regurgitate it for you lucky ladies 🙂 I think the numero uno thing for me was finding a shoe that fit my stride – not the other way around. I think that probably a lot more people have a natural midstrike than they realize but we’re taught to heel strike. Check your tread on your shoes after a few months, it should be a good indicator.

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