I just bought my 5th pair of running shoes. In 14 months. It just might be an illness.
Although I feel really good about the success I’ve had running during this past year, it has not been free of bumps in the road. Over the winter I had shin splints off and on. By spring I was also noticing some heel pain which caused me to trade in my asics (shoe #1) for a pair of New Balance (#2). I tried to like those New Balance, really I did. But they weren’t for me.
Next up was a pair of Brooks Adrenaline (#3) that have done fairly well. But when I try to run faster, I always end up with a flare-up of my plantar fasciitis, feeling utterly heel-bruised. I also had a brief fling with sale-priced pair of Brooks Ravennas (#4). Several friends loved them, but for me they were too narrow. I’ve begun to feel like the bear in the book Old Hat, New Hat except I can’t seem to find my own ‘just right, just right, just right’.
My friend Laura (aka: Eldest’s MIL) is into barefoot running and has been encouraging me for months to look into lower-profile shoes to encourage better running form. I’ve been working on my form for awhile, hoping that form improvement alone would be enough to keep me uninjured. But that does not seem to be the case. So after yet another gentle nudge from Laura, I did a few hours of late-night research on the mechanics of barefoot running and low-profile shoes. I found this article to be one of the most thorough and succinct: Why I Run Barefoot. The more I read, the more I was interested in giving ‘barefoot’ running a try.
But I knew a few things about myself. At this point I am too wimpy for true barefoot running (Rocks! Doggie doo! Yikes!) Vibram Fivefingers would involve things between my toes (which I HATE), as well as questions and funny looks from people. I am too new to this running thing to field endless questions out in public. What I really wanted to find was some moderately normal-looking shoes that would be light and allow a lot of foot freedom.
I considered the Saucony Kinvara (review from Dorothy here) which is billed as an in-between shoe for someone working on transitioning to barefoot running. But I am sick of shelling out bucks for shoes, and was really afraid that they wouldn’t be enough different to improve my form. So after much review-reading and a very sweet and gracious OK from my generous hubby, I sprang for the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove.
Traditional padded running shoes leave foot and calf muscles weak, so there is an adjustment time while your muscles get stronger. I am the type of person who wears shoes as rarely as possible, and I’ve been working on good running form for months. So I had a secret hope that I’d adjust easily. But being the impatient person that I am, while I waited for my shoes to arrive, I decided to get a jump on the muscle-building by trying a few short runs just in thick socks.
I know, I said I didn’t want to run barefoot, but I was impatient. Besides, I already knew that my favorite ditch bank running route was free of large rocks and is clean and thistle-free. My first run was only half a mile and felt absolutely lovely. Light and quick and smooth. Fearing I’d be unable to walk the next day, I quit long before I was tired. The next day I had a little soreness in the muscles in the tops of my feet, and some tightness in my calves. But nothing major. A short run two days later went just as well. Barefoot running felt just plain fun– I was going faster with less effort. Except when I tried to walk home on the asphalt in my socks. Then I quickly remembered the advantages of shoes, and put them back on.
Hopefully the new shoes would feel as good as running in my sock feet, but offer the protection I wanted.
(To be continued)