If you’ve read this blog since its inception, you know that I’ve spent the last year transitioning to minimalist shoes. I’m not quite the evangelical, radical barefoot advocate like many of my running associates, but I have really enjoyed the move from supportive, “main-stream” shoes to minimalist “alternative” footwear. While the science supporting my move seems valid, I’m enough of a sceptic not to have bought into it 100%. I didn’t move to minimalist foot-wear to reduce running injuries or improve my form. I did it simply because it seemed like common sense and it worked for me.
I love bicycle helmets; I wear them every time I get on my bike. I don’t wear them everywhere I go. Why? Because I don’t need that sort of head protection just walking down the street. Oven mitts are great inventions, but I only wear them when I’m taking hot things out of the oven. So why aren’t shoes the same? They are tools, and the same tools that make sense when you need them are not just extraneous but burdensome when you don’t. Walking around with a bike helmet all day would be ridiculous; wearing oven-mitts at all time would make most tasks impossible. If I don’t need supportive shoes (or shoes at all?) why bother?
Now that I’ve signed up for a 50K trail race in the mountains, I am looking for a protective trail shoe (most likely the New Balance MT110), since a pair of Soft Star’s won’t cut it. I need a bike helmet, so I’ll wear one, but I won’t wear one all the time. This isn’t a dogma or a philosophy, just common sense.
Of course, there are also tools that are redundant, useless, or even harmful. No one needs a quesadilla maker — that’s what frying pans are for. A Hair Max Laser Comb is a scam aimed at desperate balding men. And wearing an old-fashioned diving helmet while bicycling would most likely get you killed.
Which brings us to the Dick’s Sporting Goods 2012 Running Gear “supplement” that came with this month’s issue of Runner’s World. I haven’t been in the market for a “normal” running shoe for so long that I had forgotten how ridiculous mainstream shoes are, not just in construction but even more so in terminology. I actually loved the supplement, because I hadn’t laughed that hard in a while. Here are some of the highlights:
Brooks Pure Cadence
“The PureCadence gives runners who need more stability the chance to experience the feel of a natural foot strike in a lightweight, breathable shoe.” As if promising anything “natural” in what looks like a standard traditional shoe isn’t silly enough, there’s the caption “gives the feel of a natural footstrike” with an arrow pointing right to a heavily padded heel. Which, if you know anything about running form, is the OPPOSITE of a natural footstrike.
Brooks Glycerin 9
“Brooks DNA running the full length of the midsole sets the standard for out-of-this-world comfort, while Omega Flex Groves enhance flexibility and improve gait efficiency for a smooth ride.” I think I saw the Omega Flex Grooves open up for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the Prospect Park Bandshell two years ago. I’m not sure what they have to do with running.
Minuzo Wave Series
“Inspired by nature, Wave is the industry’s most effective midsole technology.” The Mizuno wave is perhaps the LEAST natural shoe I’ve seen — even before I was thinking of going minimal, I remember seeing someone in the Prophecy and thinking “are you kidding me?” The lingo isn’t as outlandish as others, but the fact that they market themselves by promoting exactly what they AREN’T shows you how ridiculous the industry is, how gullible their target audience must be, and also how strongly the ideas of “natural” running have taken hold of the market. “Lard — its a low-fat food!”
But the Oscar for “Most BS Per-Sentence” goes, without question, to Asics.
Asics Gel-Neo 33“Impact Guidance Systems is a design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot’s natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.” “Guidance Line is a vertical flex groove that decouples the tooling along the line of progression for an enhanced gait efficiency.” “Duomax Support System is a dual density midsole system positioned to enhance support and stability, positioned sport specifically.” “Rearfoot and Forefoot Gel Cushioning System attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle. ” “Space Trussic System is a midfoot stabilizer that that creates a pocket between the Trussic System Device and the midsole, allowing for controlled midsole deformation and more efficient foot function.”
I don’t need to even say anything after that barrage of nonsense, though I think if you read your Star Trek manuals, you’ll see that the discovery of the Space Trussic System was the technology that first allowed mankind to engage in interstellar travel.
You might run in one of these shoes — they are, after all, very popular. And that’s fine. I ran in Brooks Adrenaline for years, and didn’t suffer any debilitating injuries. I fully realize not everyone is at the point where they want to transition to minimalist shoes, and I’m open minded enough to think that maybe not everyone can — maybe some people do need all the support and pronation control that a company like Saucony can provide. But can’t we cut the bull-shit? Not only does no one need a “Duo Max Support System,” but it doesn’t exist. Shoe companies are engaged in an out-of-control nuclear arms race of jargon that has ended in the Emperor’s New Running Shoes — none of it means anything, but everyone just nods and buys it because it has to mean something, right? If it didn’t do anything they wouldn’t make it, right? Right? Right. Even if I hadn’t decided minimalist shoes worked, my contrarian nature would make me want to avoid these shoes just because the companies act like I’m stupid enough to buy their outrageous advertising.
Run in whatever works for you, whatever makes you happy — that’s cool with me. But are you just possibly wearing a bike helmet every time you leave the house or trying to tie your shoes while wearing oven-mitts? Maybe you don’t need to. You don’t need a flux capacitor — just a running shoe.