A word about shoe's...

This started-out as a comment in reply to my friend Luau's post on his blog today "Wrong" on Run Luau Run However, I realized it quickly turned into something that I could not, in good conscience just post as a comment. It's far too long, and probably rude of me to post in his comment section. It is HIS blog after all, not mine. So, instead, I'll post it here and link it in his comment section. Besides, I've had a bit of writer's block lately and maybe this is what I need to get the juices flowing again...

Great post today Luau! I think your learned lessons with VFF's translate ANYTIME you change shoes (and IMHO you SHOULD change your shoes, even rotate them regularly).

Case in point: Before I started training for the 2010 Boston Marathon (my first marathon), I did a LOT of research on running form, shoes, etc. I decided that if I wanted to avoid injuries that I already KNEW I was prone to (PF, ITBS, and I'd already had 2 knee surgeries) I had to run with a forefoot/midfoot strike. I decided that Newton's would be my shoe of choice. I found a coach to guide me and I spent a couple of months focusing on converting my stride by shortening it and increasing my cadence (in my Asics Gel Cumulus). I found that running this way in my Asics really put a huge strain on my calve and achilles and determined it was probably much like trying to run in high heels.

I finally broke down and bought the Newton Motion Trainer's on December 17, 2009. I went through 3 pair of them (a little over 200 miles each) during training. I had two "issues" with them. I noticed that on any run or race over 13.1, when I became fatigued, I tended to run "flatter." Unfortunately, the Newton Motion Trainer's are VERY unforgiving (re: painful) if you get sloppy with your form. The second "issue" was that I am a natural supinator (I land on the outside of my foot and tend NOT to roll inward on transition/toe-off). So, the outside lug (Newton's have 4 "actuator" lugs) wore-down at an accelerated rate comparatively to the others, forcing my foot to roll outward through toe-off and I had a tendency  to roll my ankles, especially on downhills.

So, one month prior to my first marathon, I knew I needed new shoes to run the marathon in and I found out that the Newton guys (Danny Abshire and Ian Adamson) would be in Cambridge at the Multi-Sport Expo. So I signed-up and went to talk to them. They watched me run back and forth across the Expo several times. They agreed with me that I am a supinator (and said it is actually "rare") and told me that with my size (6'1" 200 lbs), I should try the "Sir Isaac Guidance" trainer for the marathon. So, I bought a pair and headed home to try them out. I jumped into them. Running all of my training runs in them. On day seven I ran my 21-miler on the course and developed an incredible pain behind the inside of my left ankle that extended up my calf. My sports chiro said it was posterior tibialis tendonitis and a possibly a slight tear in my Gastrocnemius. I figured I had enough time to heal since I was officially in taper mode. I rested, Iced, elevated, compressed and jacked-up my intake of omega-3's.

During the marathon, not only did I get blister's on my right foot (I had NO issues with blistering in training) but my posterior tibialis started aching around mile 17, and my left calf completely seized (cramped-up, like those cramps that wake you up in the middle of the night) by mile 21.5. I had to walk, a lot, the last 4.7 miles and threw-out my sub-4 hour goal. Now, I'm not blaming the shoes, just how I transitioned into them.

Since then, I bought one more pair of Motion trainer's, a pair of New Balance MT-101's (minimalist trail shoes) and a pair of Saucony Kinvara's. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, right? Wrong. I did some trail running and racing in the MT-101's and LOVED them. I figured I had no issues in them because I'm already a mid/forefoot striker and I'd been running in Newton's so long I'm already a "minimalist" runner, right? Made sense to me. So when I got my Kinvara's I was totally psyched! I jumped right into running all of my training runs in them. I put 60 miles on them in less than ten days. And then it started. An intense ache on the outside of my right ankle. It went away after the first 1/4 mile or so during my runs, but within an hour afterward and when I woke-up in the morning, it was so painful I could barely walk. My sports chiro diagnosed me with peroneal tendonitis.

I've now been dealing with this problem all though my training for my second Boston Marathon. It's a pain in the ass (ankle). It nags, it ebbs and flows. I'm now using my Newton's for everything over 12 miles. I rotate between my MT-101's and Kinvara's for all of my shorter runs and speed work on the roads and the treadmill. This seems to be working much better for me. Funny thing is, the MT-101's are my favorite shoe now. I run on the roads and the treadmill in them with no problems. It is my sincere hope that I'll have built-up my mileage in the Kinvara's enough to run the marathon in them (I just fear the 101's won't hold-up over 26.2 on the roads). If not, I guess it'll be the Newton's again.

I know this is long and I'm sorry. but I wanted this story to serve as a cautionary tale for EVERYONE switching shoes. Not just trying to "go minimalist" but even with switching between shoes from the same manufacturer, it is of the utmost importance to transition PROPERLY. Take it easy, ease into them and build the mileage SLOWLY...


  1. Thanks for the post Doug.

    I've been transitioning to a midfoot strike over the past 18 months. I started with half-mile runs. Now I'm running 3-5 miles every time I go out.

    I alternate between two pairs of normal neutral running shoes. I'm wearing them in decently, but they still have a good amount of tread.

    Soon I'm gonna pickup some Nike Frees and start running every other run in those puppies. My plan is to go through a couple of those and then start to transition to something with less sole, maybe the VFF Kinvaras.

    I originally was going to just get some VFFs or similar and even tried a Kigo shoe last summer. But I realized I need to transition more slowly, and that I can make a lot of improvements to my stride while using normal running shoes.

    So I apply barefoot running and Chi Running techniques in my standard running shoes and I think I've become a consistent midfoot striker with a short stride and quick turnover. Now I'll start slowly transitioning to shoes with less heel/sole.

    Good luck in Boston my friend!!