Runners find middle ground in barefoot debate

Altra shoes feature a wider-than-average toe box to allow toes to nike free 5.0 splay as they would without shoes, as well as “zero drop” from heel to forefoot. The idea behind the reduced heel-to-toe angle is that it encourages a midfoot strike rather than heel-striking in a more traditional shoe that can have a 12-millimeter drop. Altra’s shoes also include an ample amount of cushioning more akin to traditional running footwear. The Saucony Virrata ($90) is one of 2013’s most anticipated shoes, featuring a zero drop and weighing 6 ounces. Better materials have lightened the load but still provide a degree of cushioning. Brooks’ Pure Flow 2 ($100), from its Pure Project line, follows suit. Weighing 7.2 ounces with a 4-millimeter drop, it employs lightweight construction methods that don’t sacrifice cushioning and stability. This means the shoe is light and fast but won’t allow you to feel every rock and rut you run across. Similarly, New Balance’s NB Minimus Ionix 3090V2 ($89.99), which launched in March, relies on a full-length bed of lightweight cushioning, dropping just 4 millimeters from heel to forefoot.

Minimalist Running Shoes: Slumping sales, lasting legacy

As runners and scientists realized barefoot-style running wasn’t a cure-all, both consumers and manufacturers pulled back from the minimalist market. Adidas has a line of barefoot-style trainers, but no running-specific shoes in the barefoot category. “No one shoe or running style is great for everyone,” says Don O’Neil, Adidas Canada’s product manager for specialty footwear. “Everyone who has wanted to give (barefoot running) a shot has done that by now, and that’s where (sales) come back into more traditional categories.” Born to Run chronicles author Chris McDougall’s time spent living with the Tarahumara, a reclusive tribe of indigenous Mexicans, who live simply and run obsessively, reeling off 160-kilometre runs in flimsy sandals. As the book became a bestseller, McDougall’s philosophy on running footwear — less is better and barefoot is best — also gained popularity. But experts say the recent slump in sales highlights the reality that barefoot-style running isn’t for everybody .

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1

It’s been suggested that this type of footwear can strengthen the muscles that aren’t used when wearing traditional running shoes, causing the arch of the foot to become higher and subsequently reduce knee, soft tissue, and related injuries. In a session presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 60th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Sarah Ridge, Ph.D., of Brigham Young University, and her colleagues discussed their investigation of minimalist running shoes and arch height. Dr. Ridge said: “Transitioning from running in traditional running shoes to minimalist running shoes should increase muscle strength of the intrinsic foot muscles. Strength of these muscles can be difficult to measure; however, increased arch height could be an effect of increased strength. Therefore, we measured arch height before and after 10 weeks of transitioning to minimalist running shoes. However, our results showed no difference in arch height after the 10 weeks in either group.” In their recent study, 10 weeks of transitioning to minimalist running shoes did not cause a significant change in neutral or standing arch height, concluding that the effect of minimalist running on arch height and/or injury rates is either negligible or requires a longer exposure time for significant effects.

Running Shoe Review: Zoot Ovwa 2.0

Japan-based ASICS approached MIT’s Randolph Kirchain to perform a “lifecycle assessment” to break down the various steps involved with one pair of running shoes to identify hotspots of greenhouse-gas emissions. The researchers divided the shoes’ lifecycle into five major stages: materials, manufacturing, usage, transportation, and demise (burned, landfilled, recycled). The last three stages contributed very little to the carbon footprint. More than two-thirds of a running shoe’s carbon impact can come from manufacturing processes, with a smaller percentage arising from acquiring or extracting raw materials. In particular, powering manufacturing plants located in China, where coal is the dominant source of electricity, contributes to a large part of the emissions. And, various manufacturing processes — sewing and cutting, injection molding, foaming and heating — are more energy-intensive for small, lightweight components, compared with materials such as polyester and polyurethane. This breakdown is expected for more complex products such as electronics, where the energy that goes into manufacturing fine, integrated circuits can outweigh the energy expended in processing raw materials. But for ‘less-advanced’ products — particularly those that don’t require electronic components — the opposite is often the case. The researchers spotted places where reductions could be made.

The carbon footprint of your running shoes

I view the Road N1 as delivering a cushioned firm ride on a par with the feel of the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoe. Cushioned but firm is not a bad thing. In fact, it may offer the best of both worlds to a large number of runners. I think that Pearl Izumi is correct when it highlights the shoe’s quick running sensation. When jogging on a crushed gravel trail, I felt I could run at a quick pace, especially because the midsole is highly, unexpectedly protective. Even though the Road N1 has no dedicated heel pad, the cushioning at its rear is mid-range, not too firm or too soft. The Road N1 produces an agile and pleasingly bouncy ride on a hard-packed dirt trail; it allows the runner to move confidently, even as the trail twists and turns. The shoe is just competent on a natural trail since the sleek, flat sole cannot generate much grip. This product also feels fast on urban and suburban sidewalks.

The Running Doc discusses the pros & cons of minimalist running shoes

The Ovwa sits on a semi-curved last, it’s slip-lasted under the mid-weight insole, has a traditional looking grey-colored medial post and weighs 8.8 ounces. The 10mm heel drop means that it’s friendly to heel-strikers, while facilitating mid-foot landings. The rounded toe box is medium-low, not too high or low. Some runners will elect to wear this model without socks, as it has a fully lined interior. The Ovwa is a very good track shoe. This shoe lets you land and bounce on the balls of your feet with relative impunity.

Minimalist Running Shoes: Transition is the Key

The switch from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes can lead to injuries that will interrupt training.  Think about it: the technology behind running shoes for the past 20 years has focused on increased support, cushion, and push-off energy return. Now the trend is to forgo all that extra support and cushion and go barefoot. This is a dramatic change.  If you have been a runner for years, your foot is conditioned to all this increased support, and suddenly taking it away while you are pounding the hard paved surface can lead to injury. Common injuries associated with a rapid change to minimalist shoes are plantar fasciitis, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, blisters, stress fractures, bone bruising and heel pain. One recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that runners who ran some of their miles in the Vibram FiveFingers minimalist shoes showed signs of bone stress reactions or injury in 10 of 19 runners after 10 weeks.  This was compared to 17 runners who continued to run in conventional running shoes.  Another study indicated that the minimalist style shoes actually mimic foot mechanics more closely associated with traditional running shoes, rather than barefoot running. The bottom line is that the transition to barefoot running may not be for everyone and needs to be considered carefully.  However, if deciding to go with the barefoot running style by utilizing the minimalist style shoe an extended transition needs to be implemented.  Vibram recommends a 10 week transition into their FiveFinger running shoe.  However, in light of the recent article cited above, I would suggest a much longer transition.  Various opinions weigh in on how long this transition should take and they range from 10 weeks to 2 years.  Obviously everyone will transition a little differently, but I would recommend that you begin your transition with the mindset that it will take about a year (if you are transitioning into an extreme minimalist shoe such as the Vibram FiveFinger).  This is very conservative, but a serious injury could lead to a stoppage in training that could last months. How you transition is very important.  If you are looking into an extreme minimalist shoe (one with virtually no heel lift) then you might want to transition into a less aggressive shoe first.  I would suggest beginning with shorter runs (25% of your average daily mileage) in the new shoes one to two times a week, and slowly build the mileage from there based on your body’s response. There are other things that you can do to prepare your feet and legs for the transition.  Increasing flexibility of the forefoot and ankle by stretching the plantar fascia, Achille’s tendon and calf will help prepare the lower extremity for the forefoot landing.

Shoe company eyes success by focusing running shoes

Not eight, 80 times larger than we are. Let’s just say we know we have to run fast.” Yet Brooks has a big rock in its slingshot. His name is Warren Buffet. His company Berkshire Hathaway owns Brooks and plans to grow it into a $1.5 billion running shoe empire. After all, avid runners purchase on average more than three pairs of running shoes each year. Weber says, “It’s not about being everything to everyone. It’s about being highly relevant to who you’re most focused on.” So Brooks puts its shoes through their paces, replicating the punishment customers will later give them.

‘Principles of the barefoot running movement have migrated into traditional shoes’

A study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology “found no difference in running economy between footstrike patterns.” Some barefoot runners or those who wear minimalist-type shoes have long believed this type of running is better and safer for the body.  Dr. Dusty McCourt is a podiatrist at Eugene Foot and Ankle Health center. “Barefoot running gets back to the roots of what we actually evolved to do – which is to use all those joints, muscles tendons and we don’t really use them,” said McCourt.  McCourt says he encourages people to run barefoot, but he said it’s not for everyone. “It really gets back to the fundamentals of using what the body was designed for,” he said. With barefoot or minimalist shoes, the foot hits the ground with the forefront of the foot. With shoes, the foot strikes the ground with the heel.


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