Monday, March 12, 2012

Going Minimalist

I'm no small person. I'm a solid 200 pound, 6'2" guy. Longer legs than I should have, given my height, make buying jeans and running pants a challenge. I run very, very upright and am sport-less for nearly my entire life. I can run, though, and I can run for hours and I love it. Since my first marathon in 1997, I've always been a neutral runner which basically means I don't lean much to the left or right and the soles of my running shoes through 500 miles on a pair will be worn fairly evenly. Most folks lean or out (pronate) but not me. Back 5 or 6 years ago, I ran the Akron Marathon and up until then, I was a diehard Asics running shoe wearer. But, Brooks was giving free shoes to all finishers. Simply take your bib to a sponsor-store and leave with a brand new pair of shoes. As they say, the rest is history as I switched to Brooks for all off of my road running needs. For the trail, I was still shopping for the best shoe for me.

Today, I'm in my 3rd year of sponsorship with Brooks Running. Before I say anymore, let me preface this with a statement: I'm a big believer in supporting companies and products I truly believe in. If I love the product but hate the company, forget it...and vice versa. Everything about Brooks is amazing as far as I'm concerned and I have a newfound love for their entry into the minimalist running shoe segment, spearheaded by the Vibram FiveFingers shoes a few years back. Read "Born to Run"? That book got it all moving. Today, every specialty running shoe company has a plethora of lightweight to minimalist shoes to choose from. Back to my big, 200lb frame: in the past, this frame of mine has caused me to get less life out of my shoes. In races, I often signed up for the Clydesdale division, or the big boy division. Well, Brooks new Pure Project line of minimalist shoes has literally changed my running in the very positive direction. For the trail, their shoe is the Pure Grit (pictured at right sidebar). It is, BY FAR, my most favorite trail shoe ever.  I can't wait to take them on my first 50K in less than a month. You'll notice the split toe on the shoe which gives freedom of movement and more connection with the road or trail beneath. Brooks has also introduced a fair deal of cushion in the shoe but you wouldn't know it if you picked it is SUPER light. So much so that you'd swear my 200lbs would tear it up. Nope! Anyway, the Pure Grit has been great so I thought it was time to give the Pure Connect a try, the neutral runner's road shoe in the Pure Project line. THIS was the test of all tests because unlike the trail which is super soft, the asphalt stood a good chance at shredding these shoes given all of the pounds force coming down on them. Right? Let's take a look at them at 100 miles on them to date:

So as you can see at the very last one, they are holding up quite well given how little is between me and the road.  One thing that running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe is that your body naturally changes its gait and the way you strike the ground/land. We as human beings were designed to run (whether you like that or not!) and the arch of our foot is a natural spring. So, as soon as you remove the regular running shoe and all the cushion underneath which PROMOTES heel strike, you begin to land mid-foot almost immediately. Why? You were made's as simple as that. So if you ask my wife, she can tell a distinct difference in my posture when I run in my Pure Connects vs. my normal Brooks Glycerins. I lean back more in my regular road shoe and strike towards the back. If I landed on the heel in this shoe, you'd see it above. I'd SHRED this shoe to pieces. Instead, you actually see the most wear mid-foot (as it should be) and at the front-center toe where I toe off (as it should be). Everywhere else is even wear. So will I get 400+ miles out of these like my Glycerins? Unlikely. But, I bet I'll see 200-300 on them...more on the Pure Grits. I'll be sure to report back.

As for me physically, this shoe is all that I've changed in my running except for running less miles. However, I have less aches and pains, my previous stress fracture in my hip no longer presents itself...ever, and my feet have really grown stronger as I've run more in these, both on the trail and on the road. Today, my Running Times came in the mail and they did a story on 4 tests to determine if you're ready to transition to a minimalist shoe. In all 4 tests, I passed with flying colors, even though the end of the article mentioned that most runners can't pass more than one or two. (4 tests: dorsiflexion of the ankle, dorsiflexion of the big toe, isolating the big toe, and single-leg balance...pages 40-46 of the April 2012 edition) Lastly, I won't say these shoes make me fast, but I'm running faster than I used to over 10 years ago and I'm not even doing speed work. It makes me want to find a local 5K and see what I've got in me! I think I can break 20 minutes again. I just ran a hilly 8.2 miler and averaged 7:30 per mile in these so I'm confident I can do it. These shoes just feel so dang good on me.  I love to feel the road like I do, I love to feel the muscles surrounding my feet working, and I like feeling practically nothing between me and the earth.

So Brooks...get those red ones to me quick, OK?! I just ordered a new pair of Pure Connects and Pure Grits...different colors, of course. :-)

Run Happy and Run Strong! Enjoy every step!

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