Some thrive on cushion "a lot of junk in the trunk" (as one of my athletes so creatively puts it) and others like the feel and free biomechanics in the 4mm and less heel drop category. I myself fall in between that continuum. Yesterday I got home to a box of Brooks Pure Connect 2's. Besides racing some in the Green Silence, trying these shoes out is a tad "out of the box" for me. No pun intended, of course! I will begin wearing them on my shorter days and I feel they will be a great shoe for my golf course runs. I tried them on immediately and loved the way they initially felt-and looked as I love the blue-green color scheme. Brooks has also introduced with much fanfare the PureDrifts, which have the unique option of removing part of the sockline to go from a 4mm to zero drop. If I like the Connects, I will probably make the leap to the Drifts as well. As I run in anything from the Ravenna 3 to now the Connect 2, Brooks knows how to provide a variety to different types of runners- something I really like about the company.
Now to introduce my guest poster, Mr. Matthew Kyle. He'll talk a little about hiking and minimalism, and give his .02 on the subject. He's a barefooter (in the shoe sense) and an avid hiker/climber. When it comes to climbing and the outdoors (non-running activities) the function of barefoot shoes is different than running. But I'll leave that to Matthew:
Athletes and entertainers easily spawn new fads through the buzz they create around any footwear they choose to popularize. Still, when it comes to a completely new running shoe construct, consumers want to know whether it is both safe and effective.
The structure and logic of barefoot running shoes feeds into the notion of providing the most effective running experience, as well as a natural positioning of the foot in the process. Our feet help to create and sustain our posture when we participate in athletic activities, so anyone who runs regularly takes the spine and breathing capacity into consideration along with the protection of the surface area contact point.
Consulting foot doctors is perhaps the best source of an accurate verdict. They will tell you that the effectiveness of the barefoot shoe is determined by the type of activity it is used for, as well as the type of surface against which it must protect the foot in the process.
For example, hikers and climbers have a strong affinity for barefoot running shoes. They feel that the foot is far more free and agile in this treaded sock, as opposed to the limited functionality and freedom that is available with a standard running shoe. On softer, occasionally wet, and always varied terrain, a barefoot shoe allows the hiker to grab at the surface more effectively and completely. This flexibility can add significant pleasure, as well as increased safety, to the experience.
On the other hand, running on hard and man-made surfaces with this shoe is cautioned. The foot and ankle position and level of protection can create vulnerability to injury and improper overcompensation.
Although the body is accustomed to creating its own shock absorption in these circumstances, largely through posture repositioning, it was not designed to do so on rigid pavement. Physiologically, the flexibility available in the toes and front area of the foot is meant to adapt to surface variations, while the heel remains stiffly structured to maintain balance and stability. When the heel strikes the ground, it also aligns through the leg and hip to then stabilize the entire bodily form.
Ultimately, running on stiff surfaces requires a cushion for the heel in order to protect it and its attached tendons. In comparison, the liberty to maneuver in compromising circumstances and across varying terrain means that barefoot running shoes may actually provide the greatest advantage to hikers and outdoorsmen, as opposed to strictly rigid surface runners.
While orthopedic doctors do recommend that serious runners stick with a more standard running shoe, for both protection and support, many can see the advantage of the barefoot shoe for other purposes. The ingenious design and comfort can not only enhance a climbing experience, but provide the ability to propel the participant to the next level of achievement.
As "multi-injury survivor" of sorts, I agree with the need for some degree of cushion on pavement, especially for longer miles for my legs. One recommendation I have is to run on soft surfaces most runs of the week-something I enjoy and seem to really benefit from. Bottom line: approach your shoe choices from a functional standpoint. Thanks Matthew for your input. Not sure I'll be out climbing any time soon though!
Now time to lace up my new pink Ghost 5's and hit the road for a bit!
Stay the course.