Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two over 500 and One on the Way

Talking (at great length) to myself about running shoes ...

At the moment, I rotate between four pairs of shoes.

Last night I wore my red and gray New Balance 767s for my four-mile tempo run at (attempted) 10-K race pace. The font that marks my shoe mileage on my running log turned to red, signifying that the shoes had surpassed 500 miles.

My blue and gold 767s crossed into that dangerous red territory last week during my track session.

My Brooks Adrenaline 7s, which I had retired after Cooperstown and then un-retired in February, are 33 miles from reaching the reddened 500 miles.

My Adrenaline 8s first touched pavement during my first run of 2009. Those have 417 miles until that fateful 500 mark.

Five hundred miles. It's the magical number that gurus say is the life span of your running shoes. (Or is it the shoe manufacturers who say that?)

After some field sobriety tests and reading this post by Vanilla and this post by Mike and this article, I'm starting to have my doubts about this 500-mile rule and the role of running shoes in general.

I chose to run in 2006 as an exercise largely because I thought it was cheap. Then I learned that I needed to buy running shoes. Then I needed a running watch. Then I needed running apparel made with technical fiber. We all know how expensive is the gear we "need."

I drew the line at socks. You all know by now that I pretty much stopped wearing socks when I run. I never understood why anyone pays $12-$30 for socks--one pair of socks.

On the occasions that I do wear socks, I wear that dreaded natural fiber, cotton. My only requirement is for my socks to be seamless, because I like to prevent blisters. These socks cost me $11 for a six-pack.

Furthermore, I refuse to bow to your Garmin god.

I don't need all this stuff. I want it. I want to feel more comfortable. I want to fit in with the other runners. I want to look the part.

Running is primal. We don't really need to wear anything to run. And no, I'm not about to start running naked. But I have considered taking one step closer to that, from sockless to shoeless. However, there's that whole problem of puncture wounds that scares me off.

I have seen the "barefoot" shoes, such as the Vibram FiveFingers, showing up at races. While I find these funky toe socks intriguing, the price of $75 a pair seems to defeat my purpose of running cheaper. I might as well stick to shoes.

But do I really need all the stability support of my current shoes?

In my quest to get faster, I have started to consider the weight of shoes. Motion control and stability support typically adds one to three ounces to shoes. What if I started wearing neutral cushion shoes? Or racing flats, for that matter? I'd be running lighter, and therefore faster.

But wouldn't I get hurt?

Our bodies are incredibly adaptable. Most runners notice the changes in their physiology that running causes, the sturdier knees and stronger calves. Our feet adapt as well.

Running has strengthened the structure of my feet. Since I have been running sockless, my soles have gotten tougher. As my shoes get older and continue break down after each run, including the deterioration of the stability support, my feet (and ankles) must adapt to this as well. So how important are the stability elements to my shoes?

This is the chicken-and-egg argument. Do I need stability support because my stride is out of whack? Or is my stride out of whack because I wear shoes with stability support?

In short, I'm not buying shoes until all of my current pairs wear out. When they do, I'm buying neutral cushion shoes. Or racing flats. Or maybe I'll even try those funky toe socks. And I'm buying them from the cheapest place I can.

Got it? Good. Hiccup.


Ian said...

It's all just a big scam by the running industry. I too have considered running flats for their savings in weight, but then I realized if I wanted to run lighter I should just shed a few pounds.

Mike said...

I salute you, Master of the Scientific Method!

joyRuN said...

No Garmin?!

You might as well run naked.

C said...

Nice to know I'm not the worst cheapskate in the RBF community. Score!

Marcy said...

LMAO at Xenia!

We're on the same page my friend. I've been thinking of this as well. I'm going Nike Free. I KNOW my legs will scream out in pain but hey they're cheaper than my normal kicks $85 vs $100 (probably don't last as long though)

Spike said...

well, I am surprised to see a thoughtful and well presented post here. :) I've tried barefoot, but I get too many cuts and it was very uncomfortable. When I can, I get to a beach or other 'soft' ground and will run barefoot (including our local track). But I’m also a mid-foot striker, so I don’t really need the heal support.

Al's CL Reviews said...

How odd you and Marcy both wrote about this, and I was wondering when a pair of shoes was past its prime.

Thanks for the enlightenment.

Aileen said...

I draw the line at $30 socks as well...it just doesn't make sense and I'm pretty sure the benefits are all psychological.

But in terms of shoes...I really do think the reason I could never really run before was because I was wearing the wrong shoes. After I actually got fitted for a pair of motion control shoes, I was able to run and run faster too.

Ms. V. said...

Here me when I say this was a great post. It was. I would love a Garmin, but really...my $20 watch from Big Five is all I need. Will a Garmin make me faster? I doubt it.

Free stuff: Runners World Training Log, The Daily Plate.

I do need shoes, but was roped into buying Mizunos Regengade, which were like orthopedics...and my feet hurt. Because of the shoes. I have a different pair now and I can tell the difference, but I always crack up in running stores when I hear, "You are overpronating"....doesn't everyboday??

Nice job Viper.

Sun Runner said...

I read an entire thesis at work (which I almost never do; I normally only read the abstracts) about running barefoot vs. running with shoes. The author found that the study subjects (all moderately to very serious runners) expended less energy when running barefoot as opposed to running with shoes on. It was quite an interesting paper which lends credence to the notion that "less [or none at all] is more" when it comes to running shoes.

I'm curious to try this out for myself. But only AFTER my marathon is over!