I’ve been trying out some new running tools and want to give you an update. I’ll start with shoes/sandals and go into some other areas in future posts.
I’m not getting paid for any promotions here and these have all been purchased with money from my own pocket. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy to get some product to test, but I just wanted you to know. Because of that, I have not made an exhaustive sampling of products, but am telling you about what is or isn’t working for me.
I’ve been wearing Luna Sandals for over 9 months now. They are my go-to running footwear.
The photo flash washes out the deep color, but you can see how the suede conforms to your foot after a while. I have also worn them as regular sandals through the summer. Once you get the tension on the straps set right they become second nature on your feet. I was never much of a sandal wearer because the always seemed so bulky and uncomfortable. These are great.
I use the ATS strap version. My older pair has the elasticized straps, which are nice, but ATS seem to stay in place a bit better. Over time I’ve trimmed them down to be a bit more custom to my foot. I wear an 8D in regular shoes and these are size 8, so they fit to size for men’s shoes.
I have several hundred miles logged on these (probably 400 or more) and the soles and straps don’t show any major wear. Yes, they are wearing, but I can easily see another 500+ miles in them. That is a lot longer than I ever got with regular running shoes. Since minimalist design doesn’t have cushioning to worry about, you can run the shoes until they literally wear out.
I would suggest anyone wanting to go minimal get a pair of sandals (there are a number of good options out there). They take a little getting used to, but tie back to man’s first effort at foot covering, so our feet actually feel normal in them. I love not having my toes rub against a shoe box. The downside is that you will build up a callous where the strap goes between your toes. In running, there is always a price to pay.
You will also find that every little pebble or sharp edge is transferred to your foot bottom. That is important because it is that sensitivity that immediately makes you run lighter. Listen to your body and adjust your knee bend and cadence and stride and you will feel an immediate change in how the foot fall feels. THAT is the key difference between sandals and running shoes. The amount of dampening in sandals is almost nothing. That encourages good form.
I have started to run some more trails. Around here they are strewn with sharp edged rocks and boulders or all shapes and sizes. I attribute it to this area having been at the tail end of ice age glaciers. We have a lot of stones and rocks! My sandals tend to shift a little too much on these ankle twisting routes, so I looked around for some minimalist, trail specific shoes.
The New Balance Minimus10′s came to the top of the list when I ran in them at Road Runner Sports. They are light, have a toe box that was comfortable for me and a slight heel lift (4mm). For some reason I wanted a bit of a heel in my trail shoes.
After logging my first trail in them as part of a 9 mile run, I was quite happy. I still felt the rocks and stones, but they were a bit dampened compared to sandals. It is a slight difference, but there is a difference. You want to have the feel. I also noticed that after any run I did in these, my achilles tendons felt pretty normal. That is the last physical adjustment my feet and legs are making. The 4mm lift seems to make it easier. They also help grip the rocks and wet areas nicely.
One note. I do find that I run about 15-25 seconds faster per mile in these compared to sandals. I’ve concentrated on my form to make sure I’m still on. It must be the dampening. I’ll see how that plays out over time as I start to do more speed work in sandals.
One of my first minimal shoes were from Stem Footwear. They have since changed their name to Leming Footwear, but the shoes are the same. These are not running shoes, per se, but I have logged running miles in them. They are very comfortable walking and general footwear shoes. They look good, wear nicely and just feel easy. The soles are very responsive and flexible, so they will naturally help you strengthen your feet.
The Lemings are made of natural fibers with a flexible sole. You can throw them in the wash (air dry, do not put in the dryer) and it refreshes them. The insides are nice enough to wear without socks although I wear socks for longer runs. For trail runs they don’t give much buffer. They are on par with the sandals for road feel. Maybe when my feet have adapted more to that experience I’ll be able to use these. They are also zero lift, so absolute minimal.
I’ve used running socks for a long time. I like socks that are just at ankle height, but that is personal preference. Since I transitioned to minimal, I’ve wanted less wrapping on my feet and have found that regular socks are too constricting in the toes. I used to crave the containment, but no longer.
When I do wear socks for distance running I wear ToeSox. It took me a little while to get good at putting them on. It is easier than putting on FiveFingers! The great thing is they can be worn with shoes or sandals. Admittedly, walking around in them while wearing sandals does look a little like you should be retired in Florida. They do a great job of adding warmth on cool days and for added protection on more wet venues. I like the lightweight ones. They make a series with a non-slip sole that are great for when I do TRX, P90x or yoga strength training.
Isn’t this a much better photo than my feet in a pair? There are several manufacturers of these type of socks. I have only tried ToeSox and liked them from the start, so haven’t felt the need to experiment.
So there you have it. I’ll get into hydration options and phone apps I can’t live without in the next couple of posts.
The bottom line is that anything you use should enhance your running experience. These are what have made it fun for me. Always listen to your feet and legs, not what is in the popular press. It really is all about the form, not the footwear.
Until then, Dig Deep, Run Free, Have Fun!