The Fleet Feet Fleet

Shoe-wonk post alert!!! Please disregard this post if you have an adversion to shoe nerdom.  You have been warned. <shoewonkishness>

Currently, I have six pairs of running shoes outside my door.  With the addition of the most recent, the Softstar Dash, I think i’ve got all the shoes I’ll need for awhile.  Each serves a different purpose, and I conservatively estimate that I can put around 2,000 miles on them collectively.  Since the most miles I’ve run in a year was 1,200 back in 2008 and I’ve only put 218 on the ones I have, that means I shouldn’t have to buy any shoes for around a year and a half at least.

Before I review the Softstar Dash, I thought I’d do a short walk through of my shoe array, from most traditional to most minimal.

Brooks Adrenaline (retired)

The shoe that I ran in for the first five years before discovering minimalist running.  I actually started in Saucony ProGrids, then spent a while in New Balance 757s, but they’re pretty much all the same thing: a traditional trainer with a thick layer of EVA foam and a 12mm raised heel to facilitate a heel-strike and some pronation control.  Honestly, I never had any serious issues with them — I didn’t move away from normal running shoes due to injury, but more due to a growing sense that they were unnecessary.  Also, from everything I’ve read, proper running form will decrease my risk of injury long term, and you just can’t run correctly in these sort of shoes.  After running in more minimal shoes, these seem heavy, bulky, and very restrictive. This pair saw a little over 400 miles, but I haven’t worn them since July 15th.

Altra Instincts

 Currently my go-to shoe for long runs and when my feet need a break as they build up to more minimal running.  I wrote up a full review, but in short the Altra is more like a traditional trainer than a minimalist shoe, but it has a zero-drop platform, so no raised heel, and has much more solid base, which allows for the a more natural, barefoot running form.  Much lighter than the Brooks, and it also has a wonderfully wide toe-box, making it more comfortable as well.

Inov8 155

This is the only shoe here that doesn’t really serve a real purpose.  I bought them thinking their 2mm heel drop would serve as a transition from the Brooks to the Altras, but really their heel is so slight and their padding so thin that they weren’t much of a bridge.  Practically speaking, I should have sent them back, but they are so sleek and sexy and fun to run in that I couldn’t do it.  As I said when I reviewed them, they are super light and make you feel super fast: you want to sprint.  They have enough padding that I can run quicker than I can in my fully minimalist shoes, but are light enough and flat enough to force you to run correctly.  The shoe I wear when I need a pick-me-up before a tired and reluctant morning commute.

Softstar Dash

My newest shoe, and currently my favorite thing to put on me feet.  I’ll be doing a full review of them, but they are about as simple as a shoe gets — a 5mm Vibram sole, with a un-reinforced leather upper.  No support or padding at any point, just a pair of laces to cinch it on your feet.  I run the 3.5 miles to and from work in them once or twice a week, teach in them during the day, and wear them pretty much everywhere.  They are my everyday shoe.

Vibram Five Fingers Bikilas

The shoe that most people think of when they hear the phrase “barefoot shoe” and the shoe that got me started down this path to minimalist running.  I wear them every week or so, but I actually prefer running in my Dash or Invisible Shoes, both of which I think do a better job, ironically, of mimicking barefoot running.  Also, my feet are wide, and the Bikilas are very snug on my feet.  Still, they are great when I want something a little less than the Dash, but I’m not quite in the mood for the hauraches.

Invisible Shoes Hauraches

As I said in my review, this is as minimal as it gets — 4mm of rubber tied to your foot with a string.  I ran almost 10 miles in them last Sunday and felt great, so I think I’ve got to the point they can become a regular part of my rotation.  Obviously they are super light and help you run light, quick, and easy.  It can take a little doing to get them tied just right, and I have to fiddle with them every few miles, but nothing worse than retying your laces.  I love them particularly on rainy days, because they don’t get waterlogged or heavy, and you can feel the rain on your toes . . .

Nothing At All

The unspoken seventh shoe — no shoe at all.  This sunday I ran 4.5 miles barefoot on asphalt at Governor’s Island and my feet felt great, so running fully barefoot for some real distance is now a possibilities.  Honestly, if I lived anywhere else, I think I would take the plunge and be largely a barefoot runner at this point, but being in Bed-Stuy just gives me a bit of pause.  There is more than a little broken glass and serious debris on the ground, though honestly a large part of it is that I feel I attract enough attention just running at all between here and where I teach.  I might try meeting up with a barefoot group, or at least just add some barefoot miles in Prospect Park on the weekend. </shoewonkishness>


Okay, I got that out my system.  I’ll be posting a review of the Softstar Dash in the next few days (preview — I loooooove them!) but I think I’m done with new shoes for a while.  Unless The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy‘s “Swag Ninja Plan” rubs off on me and Merrell and Somnio start sending me free shoes to review, but I suspect I’m too lazy to properly pursue that.

In the meantime, I’m running to work three days a week, and having thoughts again, so if I find the time, I’ll have more to write about.  I’ve got a local race, the Bed-Stuy 10K, in two weeks, so I’ve only got 14 days to decide which of my shoes to wear: do I go for speed with my 155’s or see if I’ve got the guts to do my first barefoot race?  Stay tuned . . .


About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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4 Responses to The Fleet Feet Fleet

  1. Hope says:

    I’m pretty sure the guy who won the 5K I ran in June was completely barefoot. If not the actual winner, he was 2nd or 3rd.
    I will need to get some new shoes soon, and I am definitely going to look into more minimalist shoes. Since I am just starting (well, I guess I can stop saying that since I have now been running since January and manage to do 2 or 3 miles several days a week) I don’t really know if I have any bad habits or anything, but the “regular” running shoes I have don’t seem to help my arches at all, or keep my ankles from getting sore after running around an indoor track for 3 miles. I try not to have too much heel strike… Anyway, I doubt I will be going full hippie nut job barefoot (too hot in the summer on the pavement, too much dog poo around here), but less shoe seems good. You are converting me…

    • Chris Van Dyke says:

      Luckily, most shoe companies are releasing “reduced” shoes these days. The Inov8 lines has some great shoes, but Brooks has the Greensilence, Saucony has the Kinerva, New Balance has the Road Minimus, and of course, there’s the Altra Instinct. All of which are great for roads, have reasonable amounts of padding, and other than the instinct, enough of a heel to work for someone who hasn’t been running minimal.

  2. Sarah says:

    I love the shoewonkishness.

    My current every day shoe is this new shoe from Stem footwear ( and man oh man.

    I can feel everything on the ground, and they really let my feet move & work. Plus, i was tired of the weird looks whenever i tried to get away with wearing vibrams off the running path. It looks like your softstar dash ones serve the same purpose, but I thought i’d share these other shoes with you, too!

    • Chris Van Dyke says:

      I’ve looked at Stem (and entered The Barefoot Society’s giveaway) but can’t really justify another shoe right now. I think Stem and Vivo both manage to look more like a real “shoe” than the dash. It can pass for a few minutes, but really looks like a leather sack tied to your feet, so it does get its share of comments if people spend any time around you. Not like the VFF’s, where strangers turn to watch you walk past, but still . . .

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