The shoes are minimal but the benefits are not

Today’s run (street) 2.65 miles

Today is supposed to get very hot with temperatures in NYC reaching 95°F. It was far cooler at 4:00 this morning and I took a different route than normal just to break things up. I was also able to take advantage of a slightly earlier start than usual. Today’s run felt much like yesterday’s although I didn’t push as hard as Tuesday and ended up running about 18 seconds/mile slower. But I covered more ground than my usual early morning distance and, once again, felt that the Hattori’s provided me with a much more efficient stride.

The biggest difference between these shoes and almost every other shoe I’ve run is the way they feel on hills. Credit goes to the mid-foot strike and the lightness of the shoe. It’s almost like downshifting for extra power and torque. While I don’t look forward to hills, I’m not looking to avoid them. At one point I thought the Kinvara was the best shoe I would ever experience but the Hattori’s seem to have an even more positive affect on my running style.

Going more minimal

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

The waiting is the hardest part
I’ve been waiting excitedly for my Hattori’s to arrive from Saucony. I was told to expect them early this week but, so far, nothing. I’m curious to see how I’ll run in a shoe that provides little in the way of cushioning and with zero drop-off between heel and toe. I’ve been running in “minimalist” shoes (Saucony Kinvara and now Mirage) for over a year without a problem. The Hattori represents a whole new level of minimal.

Last summer I experimented with pool shoes, running a couple of miles around my neighborhood to see how it felt. Unlike the shoes I was wearing, my pool shoes gave me no option but to land forward in my stride. The downside was that my feet quickly developed blisters. I suppose socks would have helped that but the pool shoes were far too floppy to seriously consider for distance running. I’m hoping the Hattori’s provide the same connection to the road that I got from the pool shoes but will also provide the protection and comfort of a trainer.

Is the Saucony Mirage for real?

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

My experience with running in a more minimal shoe has been good and I credit the Saucony Kinvaras for that. When I started wearing these shoes I had concerns that a less constructed neutral running shoe would cause me some problems. Before the Kinvaras I had been running in the Brooks Adrenalins as a daily trainer and I didn’t expect that to change. As it happened, the Kinvaras caused no issues with their lack of stability features and as a low arch pronator I’m questioning the need for stability control. The need for guidance support may come with runs longer than mine that top out at around 11 miles.

I’m still keenly interested in minimal running shoes so I asked the folks at Saucony whether I could review the new Hattori, a super light, zero drop minimal racer/trainer. There are a limited supply of these shoes for testing so Saucony graciously offered a pair of the new Mirages, the fraternal twin to the Kinvara. The Mirage has some stability features and a little more structured upper. If the fit of the Mirage is close to the Kinvara I will wear the Mirages during my half marathon. It might be a perfect combination for the 13.1 mile distance. I’ll document my experience and review it on Runner’s Tech Review.

Men’s ProGrid Mirage

Quick summary of the Mirage (per Saucony):

  • The perfect light trainer for a slight overpronator
  • Lightweight with great responsiveness
  • Allows the foot to move through the gait cycle unrestricted

Upper:

  • Hydrator collar lining
  • Memory Foam Heel Pods
  • EVA Sockliner
  • HRC Strobel Board

Midsole:

  • Heel ProGrid LITE
  • High Abrasion EVA (EVA+)
  • Supportive Arc

Outsole:

  • Blown rubber
  • XT-900™

Weights:
Men: 8.9 oz
Women: 7.9 oz

I’m not going to comment too much about my run this morning except to say that it was difficult and my performance was terrible. A friend on the running blogsphere (and a person who ran the Dirty Sock 10K in about half the time as me) commented that blood donation can have a real effect on performance for two weeks after the donation. I’ll accept that at face value and not dwell on today’s workout. I’m hoping for significant improvement tomorrow but I’ll settle for a mediocre run.

Write your own minimalist running article in ten easy steps!

I’m a true believer in the barefoot/minimalist “movement” although I’m not likely to ever run barefoot. The concept of minimal or natural running makes great sense to me. Our early ancestors evolved to run on their  forefeet so they could travel long distances without injury and to run down and capture prey. The modern design of most conventional shoes works completely against this genetic optimization. I’m not a physiologist so I can’t speak to whether a large cushioned heel and pronounced drop between heel and front foot promotes injury, but that’s a popular theory. I just know that since moving from my Brooks GTS 10’s to my much more minimal Kinvaras I’ve improved my form and avoided injury.

There have been many articles written about minimalist running and while I appreciate the attention to subject matter I’m growing weary of the sameness of the content. One reason for this may be that there isn’t much to say about it except that less shoe is probably better than more. Rather than read the hundreds of stories, features, columns and books about the subject I decided to construct a do-it-yourself minimal running article. Here’s all you need to write your own story:

1. Begin by acknowledging Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” as the probable source for the current minimalist craze.
2. Talk about how the $20 billion running shoe industry is waking up to the need to design more minimally constructed shoes.
3. Mention that when Vibram introduced their “Five Fingers” glove shoes they tripled their sales in less than two years. Also mention their unconventional look.
4. Put in quotes from Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman about the bio-mechanics of endurance running and how natural it is to land on your forefoot when running.
5. Quote a strength and conditioning physiologist to explain the actual mechanics of how barefoot and minimal running optimize stride and naturally diffuse shock.
6. Quote a podiatrist who suggests that evidence proving minimalist running prevents injury is inconclusive, and further, that some runners actually do need motion control and stability correction.
7. Mention that almost every running shoe was minimal until about 40 years ago and this is simply a return to a better design.
8. Talk about how Saucony launched the very successful Kinvara and how other major running shoe companies are now following suit.
9. Stress the importance of starting slow with your transition to a lower heel and a less constructed shoe.
10. Finish with a cliche like “When it comes to running, sometimes less is more.”

Good luck on your new career as a sports journalist!

A compelling reason to run on the treadmill

Frigid temperatures on Long Island this morning
Today’s run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

The news stations were reporting 18 degrees in NYC with colder temperatures in the suburbs this morning. The widget on my iPhone shows 14 degrees where I live. If not for the still icy roads, I would have liked to run outside today because I find really cold temperatures energizing.  But 14 degrees is not my idea of a good running experience.

Instead of the street, I ran on the treadmill this morning. I wore my Kinvaras that were a nice change from the Brooks GTS 10s that I’ve been using outdoors because they do a better job of keeping my feet warm. At this point I’m really convinced that a minimal running shoe is the key to better form. Of course with the chilly winter weather more substantial shoes have a certain appeal. I didn’t run too intensely this morning but I brought up my speed after my first mile and bumped up the pace every few minutes from there.

My judgement of treadmill runs follows a different scale than outdoor runs. My starting point when running outside is generally positive and if the run is good things are even more positive. My starting point on the treadmill is the opposite and the best thing I can say about a treadmill workout is that it didn’t suck. Today’s run didn’t suck, so yay! I’m really hoping to get some outdoor running in this weekend. Next week is supposed to be warmer but with rain and even some snow. I’m traveling to a warmer climate mid week so I may get to run outdoors in shorts. That would be a welcome change.