A (Lighthearted) Case For (Partially) Minimalist Shoes
I love Nike free 3.0’s! So much so, somehow I convinced my co-worker to bring me back my fourth pair from Seattle this past weekend (GjG, you rock, thank you so much!). I’m clearly biased, yes I know. They’ve now carried me more than 1,200km. Why do I love them so? Easy – three reasons: one, they have visual appeal (I list that first as if it is the most important, haha); two, they appear to be curbing injury despite high mileage, and three; they have corrected my stride and footfall so I now glide quietly along the pavement (which likely plays a role in reason number 2).
Although I’ve been calling them minimalist, according to a study recently conducted here in Vancouver on minimalist footwear, my favourite shoes are actually only a partial minimalist shoe. I began running in them last August, 2011. Before that I was an Asics girl with a brief stint each in Mizuno Wave Ronins and Addidos Marathon 10s. But the minute I set foot in my Nike frees I knew there was no going back. I noticed a lot of frees running alongside me in the July 31st San Francisco Marathon (and plenty passed me too). Possibly the reason I noticed so many is because I had just bought my own pair the day before, simply because I liked the way they look.
This is precisely what you are not supposed to do – buy a pair of running shoes because you like their style or colour. You’re supposed to buy shoes that fit your feet. But I’ve never played by those rules. Before even taking my new brown frees for a spin I bought another pair, my white Nike frees, because I really liked the way they looked. And I was still in the States, so they were cheaper – smart shopping, really. When I returned home and found they came in purple too… well, you know what happened next…
Nike claims these shoes offer the best of both worlds – the benefits and feel of barefoot running, along with excellent support and cushioning. They have deep flex grooves for enhanced flexibility and stability (side note: stones get caught in the grooves when I run on gravel paths – my one and only complaint about these shoes, but the benefits far outweight this one downside). They are also super lightweight – only 6.2 ounces. And Nike claims 8 years of research studying the biomechanics of shoeless running went into the creation of these shoes.
I believe this research has paid off. Along with liking the look of Nike frees, I sing the praises of this shoe also because I remain injury free. It would appear my feet appreciate (partially) minimalist running shoes. I increased my mileage dramatically 8 weeks ago, now average over 100km per week, and I’ve never felt better! My legs, my feet, me on a whole – everything feels strong, healthy and resilient. The barefoot running debate is explored in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run. Ultimately, it is about learning to run lightly and with a natural stride, not so much about what you choose to put on your feet. We do need protection, but not so much as we’ve been led to believe. This leads to less injury, the ability to run longer, and faster.
In my Nike frees I feel able to run longer and faster. I feel, well… free. My feet don’t slap the ground anymore. I glide quietly along the sidewalks and running paths. I’m a free girl now – and I can’t wait to fly over the finish line of the Vancouver BMO marathon in just under 3 hours and 35 minutes, in my new pair of pink Nike Free 3.0’s!