For the better part of the last 2 years, I have run in what most would call a minimalist shoe. I don’t have the goofy toe-shoes that have cause all the controversy the last little while, but I was a big fan of my Merrell minimalist runners. As a training shoe they have been absolutely marvellous and I’ve done two half ironmen in them and at least one hand’s worth of half-marathons. The thing is, anything over 23km at a time or over 35km in a week and I destroy my body. Today was the first day I went back to cushioned shoes.
There have been grumblings for years about the decline of this fad towards less and less shoe for runners. Its future was questioned even as I got into it in 2012 and as predicted sales began to dive early in 2013. For me, it was a chance to learn how to run again. Take away all the crutches built into modern day shoes, think consciously about your running form and build strength where it was missing before. The minimalist movement allowed me to find both speed and a comfort in medium distance running.
But as I built up my distance for Ironman this year, I began to experience an inflammation of a tendon tunnel in my right calf/achilles. This is akin to a burning hot poker stuck into the back of your leg that someone kicks every time you flex your foot. It was sore, but manageable for months, but as the weekly milage crept over 50km, it became debilitating. Once bout of ART and a switch back to my neutral cushioned shoes, however and it’s all gone. 32km today and no pain at all.
While I see the movement as dead and my participation done too (I’m stubborn you know), I still think there was value in minimalist running shoes. I like to think that two of Brian Metzler thoughts on minimalist running were key: minimalism was necessary to curb the gluttony of the development of running shoes and minimalism helped runners think about their running mechanics. While I’ll keep the Merrells around for short runs in the future, for long distance I like my cushioning.