An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Another N=1 experiment on minimalist shoes

As I was doing my lunchtime walk yesterday, Eric passed me while he was doing his normal lunchtime run (and yes, he was doing his best to rub it in). We talked briefly, and then I sent him on his way so he didn't get too cold (temps around 44 degrees).

The trails and service roads around the property have been devastated by the recent snow and ice storms (the snapping trees and branches sounded like the 4th of July), which effectively leveled a good portion of the alder and cottonwood trees, and the subsequent partial clean-up by front loaders that have reduced what's left to a sloppy, muddy mess. Most of the off-road options are gone for the time being. Not so much an issue for me, as I'm not running yet. But for Eric, it's quarantined him to the roads around the plant.

I noticed that he was wearing his New Balance Minimus Trails, and remarked that he was wearing them on the road. He said that he definitely notices the lack of cushioning versus his other shoes (Pearl Izumi Synchro Fuel and Iso Transition), and finds himself running on the grass more often (something that he didn't do with his Pearls).

But as he was running away from me, I noticed something -- his foot strike was very flat, almost to a midfoot strike.

He's been working on his running form for a while now, upping his cadence and bringing his footstrike under his center of gravity, but even in doing so, he's maintained a heelstrike. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying a heelstrike is bad, given that the other already-mentioned aspects are in line. But Eric has stayed with higher-drop shoes, the Pearls being in the 10mm or more neighborhood. And the wear pattern on his shoe tells the story: the outer back edge of the heel was taking the brunt of the landing.

And here he was, with nice smooth midfoot landing, just cruising along... He wasn't even aware of it. I pointed it out to him later, and he was quite surprised. Does that make this a blind experiment?

Maybe it really IS the shoes.

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