Running shoes have fixed my injuries, and caused my injuries. From 1995 to 2004 I ran in Nike Air Structure stability shoes, heel striking from injury to injury. In 2004 I read a magazine article about a Romanian coach, Nicholas Romanov, who advocated forefoot striking. I found that I could keep up with faster runners, with my heart rate lower. In 2005 Nike came out with the Free, with a flexible forefoot and a barefoot feel that makes forefoot striking easy. I ran injury-free in Frees until 2015. Then I got metatarsal inflammation in both feet. Physical therapists and a podiatrist saw my crooked toes and bunions and told me to do “yoga toes” exercises, to no effect. After more than a year, my massage therapist, Kevin Jordan, looked at the muscle chart on his wall to see what connects to the metatarsals — my plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is usually painful where your plantar fascia connects to your heels, but maybe I had plantar fasciitis where my plantar fascia connects to my metatarsals. I bought a new pair of Nike Air Structures and the inflammation and pain was gone in three days.
Over the years I’ve run less and less as I’ve passed my 40s and am in my 50s. In the spring of 2018 I decided to “turn back the clock” and do three hard workouts a week. By May my lateral quads hurt so much that I couldn’t run more than once a week, just 5K.
Months of “days off” didn’t fix the problem. In January I decided to get a new pair of shoes. Maybe a pair of those Nikes with the carbon fiber plates? The reviews raved about the Nike Air Zoom Fly 3. $160 was lot to try a pair of shoes I wasn’t sure about, but then I saw that Nike had marked down some colors that weren’t selling to $128. Three days later a pair of hot pink Nikes were delivered to my house. I can’t imagine why men aren’t buying this color.
My lateral quads pain was gone as soon as I ran in these shoes. And they’re the funnest shoes I’ve ever worn. I can’t run slowly in these. The shoes “pop” when I pick up the pace. I want to run fast.
This led me to buy Brian Metzler’s recent book Kicksology. Brian is another Boulder, Colorado runner, and founder and editor of Trail Runner magazine. I started reading the book, then looked to see if it’s available as an audiobook. It is, and I happily listened to the book while running in the Zoom Fly 3's.
Listening to a book about running shoes made me realize how little I know about running shoes. I just find what works for me and stay with it, until I’m injured. Chapter Five addresses the question of whether running shoes cause injuries, or, rather, what shoes cause what injuries. I read that no shoe can prevent all injuries, but a 2013 study found “that recreational runners who rotated among multiple models of shoes during a 22-week study had a 39 percent lower risk of running injury than those who almost always ran in the same shoes.” (page 103)
Metzler recommends going to a running store for a gait analysis and consultation with an expert of running shoes. I made an appointment with Greg Weich at In Motion Running & Rehabilitation. Greg listened to my history, looked at my feet, then brought out a half-dozen pairs of stability shoes. Running on the treadmill, some of the shoes reduced my pronation and others didn’t. Greg talked about medial posts, cut away or built up insteps, heels slanted or flat, different heel drops, and more technical stuff than I can remember. A pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 15’s looked best and felt, well, fine. I just ran without feeling any body parts moving around.
Then I ran in the Nike Air Zoom Fly 3’s on the treadmill. Greg cringed; the replay showed off-the-scale pronation. My hot pink Nikes are now restricted to one fast 5K a week.
Greg said that the real problem with monoshoeism is wearing worn out shoes. If you run in three or four pairs of shoes, and buy a new pair of shoes every few months, your shoes are less likely to break down and cause injuries.
What three or four shoes should you own? I asked Mark Plaatjes, 1993 marathon world championship and now a physical therapist specializing in elite runners, and owner of In Motion. Mark said to do your long runs in a more cushioned shoe, such as a Hoka; do your fast workouts in a lighter, responsive shoe; and do your regular runs in a medium weight shoe, like my Mizuno Wave Inspires. Choose three shoes that have more or less the same stability.
Shoe company reps from Brooks, Saucony, Hoka, Mizuno, and New Balance come to the In Motion Thursday night runs with samples to try. This is a great way to try a new pair of shoes every week (for free!).
I also have trail shoes to motivate me to get out on the trails. And every week I put on my New Balance minimalist shoes and race walk a 5K on the bike paths. This habit started one evening when my right leg felt wonky. I decided not to do my second run of the day, but I wanted to get out so I wore the minimalist shoes and race walked. Afterwards my leg felt fine, and the next day too. Another use for minimalist shoes is to go to the park and do strides in the grass either barefoot or in minimalist shoes.
No more monoshoeism for me!