Friday, May 16, 2014

Still Searching for my Glass Slippers...

Or in this case, the perfect running shoes.

When we left off, my old Nike Vomero's had waaaaaaaaay too many miles on them and I was on the hunt for a new pair.  I went into the running store (Charm City Run) a few weeks ago with the intention of checking out the newly released Vomero 9's but also wanted to compare them with a few other cushioned/neutral shoes from other manufacturers. 

I've worn and loved Nikes forever - its really the only brand of running shoe I've worn with consistency.  I love everything about them, except no matter what, I still get shin splints.  This causes me to take a few weeks off a year.  What happens is I can run or train for a number of weeks or months but eventually they come back and then I am forced to take some time off until they calm down a little.  This cycle goes on an on.  I also have to pretty much always run in compression socks or sleeves to keep them at bay.  No one knows why.  I even went through PT for months two years ago but he couldn't diagnose the cause of the problem.  All he did was treat the scar tissue and inflammation and gave me strengthening exercises to do, which of course all worked for a time, but didn't solve the problem.  They eventually returned.

So I left the running store a couple weeks ago with Brooks Glycerin 11.  These shoes felt amazing on.  They were less bulky than my Vomero's and when I ran on the treadmill with them the transition after each step felt really smooth.  But after running in them several times at home, I developed pain in the ball of each foot and my forefeet.  I have no idea why.  The cushioning in the Brooks shoes felt a lot harder and stiffer than the foam/air cushioning I was used to so maybe that was it.  But I've never had tingling/numbness in that area before so I knew they probably weren't the shoes for me.

This week I went back to the store to try again.  When I explained my history to the nice gentleman who was fitting me, he said he could put me in a different cushioned shoe, or we could try to solve the underlying issue.  I was all for that!  He gave me a pair of cushioned shoes but fitted them with Superfeet insoles.  He said a lot of people use these insoles for shin issues.  He also suggested a more radical approach.  He brought out a pair of Newtons.  Now I've heard about Newtons and the theory behind them - they are built to encourage a mid foot strike - but I don't actually know anyone who wears them.  I put them on and they felt really good.  So light and so comfortable, but also surprisingly cushioned and springy feeling.  Plus don't they just look fast?!  I took them out for a spin at the store, twice, and really enjoyed the completely different feeling from my usual bulky, heavy, cushioned shoes.  I thought what the heck, let's DO THIS.

The man who was helping me thought switching my bio mechanics to a mid foot strike (which would definitely take time, work and practice) could alleviate my shin splints instead of just masking them as cushioning does.  This is the theory behind barefoot running, minimalist running, mid foot striking, chi running, zero drop and others in this category.  The Newtons are not zero drop but they are minimal (only 3mm differential between the heel and forefoot as opposed to the typical 10-13mm in regular running shoes).  They also have their trademark 5 'lugs' on the forefoot of each sole (which feel really weird initially!), to encourage you to pick up your feet faster. 

All of this requires that you change the way you run (theoretically, back to the way early humans ran before we started wearing shoes).  You need to shorten your stride (think baby steps), lean forward, land on the middle of your foot (as opposed to your heel) and up your cadence so that you are lifting your feet much faster than you are used to and taking many more steps per minute than you do when over striding.  My shoe guy demonstrated all of this for me as he runs in Newtons and also told me to stretch out my calves a lot before beginning.  I was also instructed to take them out for very short runs initially - no more than a mile or two.

So how'd it go?  Well, I got the shoes Tuesday night and have gone on two 2.5 miles runs so far in them.  I feel like I am learning to walk all over again.  Do you know how hard it is to change the way you've run your whole life?!  Lean forward, tiny steps, quick turnover, don't heel strike.  The runs feel restrictive to say the least!  Also my arches are on fire.  I believe this is an effect of the lower drop.  I also have been having a bit of pain everywhere, including my knees and inside my lower shins, and even in my buttocks (!).  No bueno.  The only place I haven't been sore is my calves, which is where you're SUPPOSED to be sore when adjusting to minimalist shoes and changing your stride.  So I'm pretty sure as much as I was trying to land in the middle of my foot, I was still probably landing on my heel. 

I'm going to give these bad boys a few more runs but I'm really not sure if my body is ready, or will ever be ready, to change the way it runs!  Wish me luck.  We may be back to square one again next week.  Who knows, maybe I'll just live with my Vomero's and gimpy shins forever!

Are you a running shoe brand loyalist or do you switch often?

Ever tried Newtons?

Are you a heel striker, mid foot striker or forefoot striker?


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  3. Mizuno, Mizuno, Mizuno!! Ever since I put my first pair on, I have not looked back :)

  4. I've switched to full minimalist shoes to LOVE them. So light, so natural to run in, no pain. BUT I wish the shoe store guy had told you it is a real transition. (Maybe he did, but I'll add my thoughts :) ). It takes time to develop the different feet muscles and get used to a new stride. You've figured that out already. The real key to a successful minimal transition is not running only in them. I've read a general rule of running 10% of you weekly miles in them, then 20% the next week, 30%, and so on. The horror stories from minimal running usually come from people just went 100% and didn't give time to build.

    I can speak all day long on how much I love my zero-drop Merrells (and they still have a nice stable sole) and how everyone should try more minimal running shoes that help keep you away from heavy heel strikes. It you want to take a real stab at the Newtons, I'd also have a second pair more like shoes you're used to wearing. It means two new pairs right now ($$ signs) but there's a good chance it means better pain-free running long term. Just my two cents. :)

    1. Hi Larissa!
      Thanks so much for your input! I realized pretty quickly I was going to need time to rotate these with my regular shoes as there was no way I could just steadily progress in these as quickly as I thought. I ended up returning them bc I can't justify spending $175 on Newtons plus $130 on my regular Nikes at this point! What I'm hoping to do is find some Newtons, Altras, or other minimal shoes on clearance somewhere and rotate them in slowly with my regular shoes. I will def come to you for advice now that I know you run in them! Thank you!

  5. Good luck with your shoe hunt! Buying new shoes is so difficult - they all feel so different! I hope the Newtons work out, they are really cute!

    1. Hi Kristen! Thanks so much! I ended up taking them back bc I was having aches and pains and realizing there was no way I could run in them full time. I'm going to get my regular shoes but hope to find some minimal shoes on sale somewhere that I can slowly rotate into my training!