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!
Love your blog, very inspirational!
I am in school in Portland, Or and intern at Nike.
Is it the brown Nike frees that you put so many miles on?
Thank you Karen! Yes, I’ve put the most miles on the brown Nike frees – I wear them just about every single day – they’re getting pretty beat up (little hole in the mesh top now) but surprisingly they are totally fine to run in still 🙂
I work in a research office for Nike and I get to hear people’s Nike stories everyday!
Is the hole from your big toe? It’s a common problem!
Yes! The hole is right where my big toe hits! I suppose it’s nice to know it’s a common problem. I was hoping the mesh top of the nike frees would prevent me from losing my big toenail this marathon, but alas, it is purple 😦
I really like your pink pair too.
Do you wear no shows with your frees?
Pink pair are my favourite 🙂 Yes, I wear lululemon featherlight socks that don’t show, but they don’t sell them anymore. I have a lot of trouble finding no show socks! I found some from a Nike store but they slipped off my heel when I ran (they weren’t packaged as running socks though so I shouldn’t have expected them to).
What color are the lulumons? Are they thin?
I use Nike no shows too..
I have black ones to wear in my pink, brown and purple ones, and white to wear in my white ones. Yah, they’re really thin – hard to find a sock that thin. Do you run in frees 3.0?
Here’s the pair I just got. I get a free pair every other month if I want.
Send me a pic of the lulumons?
OMG, I love them! Must make a road trip cross the border (can’t find them in Canada).
Here’s a picture of the socks.
Not free, but really cheap..
And another, white ones too. I especially like them them cause one sock says run and the other one says fast 🙂
Wow, they look REALLY thin.
Have you ran marathons in them?
Do you ever wear white no shows with brown frees?
Hmm, nope never tried that combo!
Just one… This past Sunday! Other than that I’ve run in them every day for the past 3 months.
How did they do?
I would love to find some of those.
You don’t wear holes in them bein so thin?
They’re pretty amazing – no holes, not even close. Now that you mention it, all my other socks have gotten holes in them, in the bit toe usually. Nope these don’t even look that worn yet! Lulu changes their product so quick though, I went in last month to get more and they said they won’t be getting any more in but replaced them (with a thicker sock)… Get Nike on it, surely they can match Lulu 😛
You ran in the brown pair?
Guess those and the thin socks fit your feet like a glove.
I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed anyone who used 3.0s for a marathon, believe it or not.
I ran in the pink pair! Wow, really? I did see some nike free 3.0s running the San Francisco marathon, so I know I’m not the only one 🙂
Are you using the original insoles in the brown pair?
Yes, yes I am…
How many miles do you think you have on the brown pair?
I’ve logged all my mileage in a workout log, so going back I see I’ve run 1,800km in the past 4 months of intensive training, and I’d say about 75% of my training was done in the brown frees plus I ran in them a bit before January, so my guess is about 1,300 km – which is about 800 miles.
That is absolutely amazing, Sarah Jane. And they’ve held up.
I would love to do a paper in my class (and for work) on you and this brown pair!
Me and my Nike frees are honoured to be the subject of your paper!
That’s the amazing thing about the insoles
is they don’t seem to wear out. Of course I don’t put as many miles as you do.
I agree, I never stopped to think about it but they are well made!
From the picture I saw they look great other than being dusty; insoles look brand new.
I have talked to many runners about their frees but never anyone who used them for marathons.
I appreciate you talking to me about your running, shoes etc
If you need another pair let me know.
I would love another pair 🙂 But I’m in Canada…
It’s the stuff I love to talk about!!!
Oh, I think I could probably mail a pair if you knew color (and they’re available) you wanted..ha ha
Wow, that is awesome 🙂 Yes, the blue ones you just got I would just love! I’m size 8… Are they still available? I was just on Nike’s website and am freaking out a little bit because it looks like Nike changed the style of their free 3.0’s, and the colours they showed were all pastels 😦 Now I wish I’d bought one of every colour when I was in SF.
Does my email show up on here? If so drop me a line.
I’ll see if I there are any at work.
I’ve just bought my first nike frees 3.0+,
Running a half marathon on 19april 2014.
Would you say that is enough time to transition?from normal
To minimalist running?
Nice! Honestly, everyone is different and thus will take varying amounts of time to transition. My transition was immediate, however I know that doesn’t work for everyone. You’ve got just under 4 months to transition – and I’d say you’ll be just fine – that’s enough time. But most important is to listen to body and how you are liking them, how they are feeling. Enjoy! I still wear the frees 3.0, as well as 5.0, to this day 🙂