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Last summer, I posted about my plans to transition to a flatter (less heel-to-toe drop) and more minimal shoe. I started with the Nike Free as my transition shoe. I started having persistent calf muscle soreness and other foot problems, so I became nervous about going Free full time. I then found the Saucony Kinvara and worked my way through three pairs of those. However, I noticed that I was warping those within the first few runs. No lie. The entire sole at the front of the shoe would flatten out like a pancake within 30 miles of wear. I then tried the New Balance Pure Connect and that's about the time I really started to slide into injury oblivion. My calf muscles during this entire flatter/lighter shoe phase were on fire constantly. I blamed the calf soreness on my hips being out of alignment.
I really, really, really wanted to wear flat, light shoes. Why? Because it made so much sense!!!! I thought my body would adjust to the changed footwear and that I would be left with stronger feet and lower legs as a result. Let me be clear and state that I know I can't blame all of my injuries and soreness on my shoes. I'm pretty sure I made some stupid decisions about my training that contributed mightily to my constant state of body pissed-offedness.
Starting this next round of training, I wanted to find a shoe I could stick with. I read a review of the Saucony Cortana and it was describe as the Kinvara with a little more cushion. Perfect!!! I really loved the Kinvara but they just wore out way too fast. I started wearing the Cortana once I started back up to running in late January. Within two days, I had a sore right achilles. Dr. Ball surmised it was related to the treatment he was doing at the time and advised me to do the eccentric heel drop exercises to make it go away. I did the exercises, but the soreness sort of came and went.
On one of the days that it came back, I switched shoes to my old Mizuno Wave Riders, a beefy, high-heeled, neutral shoe, and like magic the soreness was gone. I continued to run in the Mizunos and do the heel exercises and the soreness did not return. Always the experimentalist, I decided to try out the Cortanas again to see what would happen, and, bam, the achilles was instantly sore again. So, this was clear enough evidence for me.
Of course, I don't know whether it was truly the flatness of the shoe or some other feature. However, I had clearly been having problems with my feet, shins and calf muscles since I started experimenting with minimalist shoes. I wanted to be able to wear them so badly, that I ignored the evidence right under my toes. I did this with an ill-fitting pair of Doc Martins back in the day too. Lost toenails to those suckers, but oh how I wanted to fit in them!
I think this tale is a good one for people who, like me, want to take advantage of all the new choices in footwear and all of the anecdotal as well as some scientific information suggesting that a flatter and lighter shoe is the key to running without injury. I think it's great to experiment with new gear, but there are risks we have to accept when doing that. I was so sold on the idea that a more minimal shoe was right for me that I was blind to the evidence staring me in the face to the contrary.
I'm currently wearing the Mizuno WaveRider 15 and the Wave Precision 12. While I can't say that these are the perfect shoes for me, they fit well and don't make me hurt. The one slam dunk perfect shoe that I own is the Nike Lunaracer. I have tried other shoes for racing, but these are the best I've found. They seem to work for me in every distance from the 5k to the marathon. I won't change those out. Well, not until something really, really exciting comes along. Like maybe the new Nike Flyknit.
Hi Jaymee, my name is Meagan and I found your blog via Nichole Porath's site. I also ran in the Trials in Houston and am friends with Ruth Perkins, who you ran much of the race with. At any rate, I wanted to respond to your post because I also work for a running shoe company, Karhu, and I believe our shoes would be a good fit (literally and figuratively) for your issue. Traditional running shoes, like your Mizunos, have a heel-to-toe drop of 12mm. "Minimal" shoes such as the Kinvara can be as low as 6mm, 4mm or even 0mm in some cases. As your experience confirmed, this can lead to strained Achilles and calf muscles. Karhu actually goes a bit in the opposite direction with a 14mm drop. We believe--and our testing has proven--that this higher drop, combined with a fulcrum we use in the midsole, helps move you forward more efficiently without putting any additional strain on your muscles or ligaments. The shoes are still very lightweight and in fact we make a lightweight trainer (the Flow) and racing flat (the Racer) that are comparable in weight to the Kinvara. Might be worth exploring if you're interested. Feel free to check out our web site, www.karhu.com and email me if you have any questions or want to discuss further! email@example.comReplyDelete
Best of luck with your training and recovery!
Hi Meagan, Congrats on your Trials race! Thanks for letting me know about Karhu. I had not heard of that brand before you mentioned it. Sounds like an interesting concept and design. I'd be happy to try them if a pair came my way:) I actually "liked" Karhu on Facebook and signed up to be a "gear" tester. Hopefully, I'll be selected and can try them out.Delete
Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale. I think it's so easy to blame ourselves rather rather than the newest latest thing that everyone is raving about. I experienced something very similar to what you describe when I switched from the Brooks Ravenna to the Pure Flow and Pure Cadence. I was having piriformis and psoas issues and so I blamed my crazy tight calves and achilles on that. Then my butt\hip issues got so bad one run I had to accept that I was injured. When I started running again I started back up with just the Ravennas, but then I tried the Flows after a few days and my achilles was really sore after a short run. Now I wonder if the lower heel drop was what sent my butt and hip over the edge. I think I am going to go against the grain and stick with the high heels!ReplyDelete
Thanks, The Salty One, for sharing your story. It sounds very similar to what I went through. To be honest, I've heard more injury and pain stories about the Brooks Pure line of shoes than any other. They may need to rethink that one. Glad you figured out what was going on. When I sat down and thought long and hard about why I wanted to change shoes, I realized that it was all about the hype and the quest for the next best thing. I had no good reason to switch. The old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies time and time again.Delete
listen, i have tried the fly-knit. i tested them back in august but couldn't talk about them (it was a very hush hush operation). i absolutely loved them. they are very similar to the racers but better in every way. lighter, smoother, faster, more flexible, no irritation.ReplyDelete
Oh wow. I cannot wait!Delete
So glad you got to the root of these issues! As a fellow Mizuno-wearer (Wave Nirvana...you think the Wave Rider is clunky? The Wave Nirvana looks like it could star in a Monster Truck Rally!) I totally agree with the ain't broke don't fix it philosophy. It's so easy to get caught up in gear-mania, especially with so many runners swearing by "minimalist" footwear, and forget that 1. it's not for everyone, and 2. maybe not for all the time. Like, I totally believe that a certain amount of barefoot or minimalist running is a good thing for pretty much everyone, but the right amount for me is definitely limited to 1x/week strides on grass. I own (and love!) Nike Frees but if I run in them too far or too often I have calf and plantar fascia issues. They're great for walking around in, though, and I think that alone has helped strengthen my feet and calves.ReplyDelete
As fabulous broads of a certain not-advanced yet possibly no longer dewy-skinned (?) age, we might need to accept that a lifetime of wearing the "wrong shoes" (heels, flip-flops, doc martens, whatever) might have changed our foot structure enough from its natural state that we will never be able to log a lot of miles in minimalist or barefoot shoes, no matter how cool they look :( I have no scientific basis for this statement...just my opinion
Heather, your theory intrigues me. With such loud hype and praise it seems kind of weird that these supposedly miracle shoes hurt so many of us. I wonder if it's mostly women complaining about them. Fascinating!Delete
PS Shoes "look like they could star in a monster truck rally" is priceless! I call them marshmallows, but stars in a monster truck rally is much better hyperbole :)
Really interesting post got me thinking hmmm.....on this minimalist stuff. I saw a therapist last fall and she addressed my strength imbalance issues that were aggravating my left achilles from time to time. My feet were weak and there was lots of compensating going on in other parts of my legs as a result. Basically my big toe and its neighbor had been doing nothing all these years and the left foot was especially weak ...hmmm connection to cranky achilles? The first thing she said was to stay away from super minimalist shoes for now. First off, she said to strengthen my feet and weak inner thighs. She gave me a series of exercises to do for my feet,calves, and thighs I have been doing religously all winter. I have always had crummy form and this is what I need to do to get more efficient because I lose buttloads of time due to crummy form. Once my feet and those little piggies get stronger, I will start doing part of my cooldowns after workouts barefoot in the grass in the infield of the track(about the only safe place I can do this where I live). I have observed top Russian runners doing cooldowns in the grass of said infield for years to strengthen their feet. They do not run or race in things like VFF though! Coaches of those runners have told me for ages to give it a try barefoot in the grass for a couple k but I was always skepctical.Doing speed workouts in flats and spikes(depending on workout) is good too so long as it does not aggravate feet, tendons, etc. Going cold turkey into minimalist shoes can do more harm than good like my therapist said. Plus, the barefoot thing is not for everyone.ReplyDelete
Regarding the Lunarracer-this is also my racing shoe of choice for the road. I use them all the way up to the 100KM but just size 1/2 size up for races beyond 50k as feet do swell. I ran in these at the 100K Worlds last yr and will again this year and despite being 5oz featherweights, they worked out fine.
Good luck finding the right shoe.
Thanks for your insights, runnerchick. I found an interest interview with Dr. Jack Daniels a couple of weeks ago where he was talking about shoe weight versus speed. He did some studies back in the day on this where they came up with some good correlations between shoe weight and running efficiency by gradually adding and subtracting small weights from each shoe. The shoe used in that study was the same for each trial. Generally, speaking the result was the lighter the faster. However, he also talked a bout a study they did where they tried shoes with different weight and different amounts of cushioning. That study showed that you get faster the more minimal you go up to a point. Once the cushioning gets below a certain level, though, it takes more energy from your body to go fast and you start to actually get slower. That changed my view of minimalist shoes and made me realize why the Lunaracer is so great. They are lightweight but they have all that fluffy lunar foam in them that makes your body work less when running on hard surfaces. Anyway, I don't need to make my body work harder at running than it already has to. I agree with using BF running as a strengthening aid, though. I do mine in the form of barefoot walking. I never wear shoes at home.Delete
Interesting post and comments. It does sound like shoe selection is a major contributor to your injury issues. The Karhus sound like a possibly good option. I think you should still go for light shoes, even if they have a 'normal' drop.ReplyDelete
On the Sauconys, saw a bloke (very good local A/G runner) who had a highly modified pair of Kinvaras - he'd cut the heel counter away and replaced it with a duct-taped up softer and more cushioned version. That's my experience too - rubbing of the high part of the counter area on the achilles can cause it to flare up, so worth going with a shoe that's well padded in that area (or not too high).
Thanks, Ewen. It became even more apparent when I looked back at my running log for the months of Sep-Nov and realized that all of my running was in the Kinvaras. I think they just weren't the right shoe for me. The problem I had with the Kinvara was anterior shin splints. I don't think the achilles issue with the Cortana was caused by rubbing on the counter since they fit similar to my WaveRiders in that regard. I still don't know exactly what it was about that shoe that strained my achilles, but I don't want to continue testing to find out!Delete
Thank you so much for this blog post. Last month I stumbled upon it and it rang a bell as I have been struggling with lower leg problems and was completely blind to the evidence that it was due to my low drop shoes. I really needed this blog post to wake me up.ReplyDelete
Cool! Glad you found it!Delete