Sunday, July 29, 2012

Running Shoes: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Emphathize with Imelda Marcos

The Nike Vomero 5

In addition to changing my approach to training, one of my reactions to the stress fractures was to assess my footwear. I had been using well cushioned daily trainers for 95% of my mileage when I was injured. The Nike Vomero was my original shoe of choice, and I was on my second pair in early 2011. I had added the Mizuno Wave Rider 13 mid-summer, and alternated the two daily trainers leading up to the injury. The recent focus on minimalist footwear and smaller heel-to-toe drop intrigued me, and I figured that in order to strengthen my lower leg, it would be a good idea to acquire a number of different style running shoes, offering different drops and amounts of cushioning.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 15, with Road ID
I skipped the Wave Rider 14, but Mizuno released the Wave Rider 15 with a similar feel to the 13, so the Wave Rider keeps its place in my quiver as a go-to daily trainer. I find it is good to have a well cushioned shoe for the long slow distance runs where speed is not the focus and the cushioning helps mitigate the pounding of road miles. Both the Vomero and the Wave Rider have the traditional heel to toe drop of 12mm or more, so I began looking to smaller drops and bought my first racing flat, the Mizuno Ronin 2, with a drop of 9mm and significantly less cushioning.

The Mizuno Ronin 2
The Ronin 2 is a great shoe: lightweight, comfortable mid-sole and a durable out-sole. I wear it for road races only, as they no longer make this version, and I want them to last a long time. I have about 100 miles on them, and they keep getting better with age. I am curious if they offer enough cushioning for a road marathon. I plan to wear them in December for the California International Marathon in Sacramento, so I will have to put a couple of long runs on them this fall to determine if they will be my best choice.

The Mizuno Wave Ascend 5
For trail running, I use the Mizuno Wave Ascend 5. This shoe is very similar to the Wave Rider, with moderate cushioning, but has a more aggressive out-sole providing more traction off-road. I bought them for my first trail race, the 2011 Freedom Run 5K. The course included pine needle covered single-track, and the Ascend performed well. This shoe does not have a rock-plate in the mid-sole, so it acts well as a daily trail trainer. My wife bought me a Road ID pouch, which I keep on these shoes. The Road ID system provides the peace of mind that if something were to happen on a run, anyone providing assistance has access to my contact information and a brief medical history. Plus, the pouch is a convenient spot to keep a car key.
The New Balance M110
The New Balance M10

I wanted to get a trail shoe with less drop and a rock plate for more protection on technical trails. I have admired Anton Krupicka ever since I found a You Tube video of him using a steak knife to cut off the heels of his running shoes. He worked with his sponsor, New Balance, to develop a light-weight trail racer with only 4mm of drop, the M110. I bought this shoe for the American Canyon 15K and I absolutely love it. The toe box provides enough room for the toes to splay out, the rock plate protects against sharp rocks, but the shoe has a slipper-like feel and provides excellent proprioception. This is another shoe that has earned a permanent spot in the quiver.

I love the minimus feel so much, I bought the New Balance M10 for road training. I use the M10 for my speed work sessions, mostly fartleks and some mid-distance tempo runs. Both minimus shoes help with promoting a mid-to-fore-foot strike, which is something I focus on in every run to continue strengthening my lower leg and utilizing the natural shock absorption to be gained with such a stride. I cannot do too many miles in the 4mm drop shoes or my legs feel pretty torn up the next day, but I am building mileage in them as my fitness allows.

The New Balance 1080V2
To further the transition to lower drop shoes, my newest acquisition is the New Balance 1080V2. I am excited about this cushioned daily trainer because it has 35% less drop than the Wave Rider or Vomero. At 8mm, I hope it becomes my cushioned long run shoe while still promoting the foot strike I am striving for.

I will provide a full review after I put a hundred miles on them, but my hopes are high for this shoe. Plus, it came in orange, which will make it a good shoe for the Giant's Half Marathon in September (the race finishes on the baseball field at AT&T Park), which I am using as a supported training run.
The Vibram Five Fingers Kimodo LS
Finally, I have the Vibram Five Fingers Kimodo LS. This shoe (if you could call it a shoe) was one of the first barefoot trail running shoes available. I do not log many miles in these, 3-5 miles a week, but it provides so many benefits. Any niggles, aches or pains I may be feeling in my calves, ankles or feet magically disappear after a session running in the grass with these shoes. I feel they are the best feet-strengthening shoe in my growing arsenal, and I wear them while performing form drills in the park near my training grounds along the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond.

I am far from showing up such a shoe collector as Imelda Marcos, but at eight active pairs of running shoes, I have more than doubled my total shoe count in the past year. Having such a variety at my disposal has allowed me to keep my lower legs strong and adaptable.

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