My Transition Plan to Minimalist Running Shoes

I have documented “how not to transition” to minimalist running shoes in my Who is the Running Minimalism Dummy Now? post. Where I plainly say what I did was stupid and looking back, I believe that even more now, than when I wrote it.

The calf strain that I re-aggravated and am suffering through because of running too much, too fast, too soon in my MT20s was totally preventable. I should have listened to the advice given out by other runners who have transitioned to minimalist running shoes, New Balance and other minimalist shoe companies, about the need to transition slowly to this type of running shoe and form.

If I had – I would have run without interruption and not have my calf be re-injured and feel worse than it did in the original injury. As my dad says should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, doesn’t mean rat’s ass when you already have done it.

So I over-did my initial running in my MT20s and am living with the consequences – the question is now that I have learned my lesson, what am I doing about it – since I have had a few forced days off from running to reflect on what happened?

I have been

Doing a lot of research on how I can make the transition to my Minimus Trail 20s a better experience.

I really believe that the running form associated with minimal shoes/running whether it is called Good Form Running, Bareform Running, Merrell Barefoot Running, Natural Running, ChiRunning, Flow Running, Easy Running or any of the other labels that have become associated with running in minimalist running shoes is the direction that I need to go for my personal running style.

New Balance

Since I am running in New Balance shoes, I figured I would go ahead look at the New Balance Site first:

Unfortunately, the New Balance “making the transition” site did not really give me what I was looking for – an actual daily transition plan to break me into to my new Minimus shoes (you notice that it is not the other way around).  So I went looking elsewhere on the Internet to see what I could find for transition plans to minimal shoes.

Several sites had detailed transition plans, but the best site that I found information for transitioning to minimal running shoes was Merrell.com:

Merrell

Part 1

Part 2

iPhone App

The best part for me, was that Merrell has developed a free iPhone App that has a transition plan that you just use to get you transitioned to using more minimal shoes. This is the route I have decided to take.

No Instant Gratification

Like most of the transition plans to the minimal type running shoes, this plan is not going to be done in a week or two, the plan is around 40 days in length and you can repeat workouts if you need a longer transition period.

For someone who is impatient (talking about myself again) and just wants to run in his new shoes, this plan acts as a governor to slow me down. I am not saying that I will follow the plan exactly all the time (no I know me too well), but at least I have a daily idea of where I am supposed to be and I will remember what happens if I start to do too much, too soon – that is the plan any ways.

I Just Want to Run

Unfortunately, for some of us, transitioning to minimal shoes is not that easy and we have to stop and find a transition plan that will work for us. I really, really dislike that I have to go slowly to transition to my new MT20s, but at the same time I want to be able to run in them without re-aggravating my calf injury or causing other unnecessary aches and pains.

That I can’t do this quickly and easily is very frustrating for me, but I also knew when I bought the minimalist shoes that many people were not able to just run in them and had to go through a longer transition period. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t need the transition period.

I was wrong.

To be honest a few years ago, I would not have been willing to go through the transition process, just to wear a pair of damn shoes and would have taken the shoes back and stayed higher on the minimalist shoe ladder and kept running like I always had.

The reality is that

I see many possible positive results coming from this change in shoes and running form, so I want to do it right. I will work through the transition plan, mostly as Merrell’s iPhone App recommends, try very hard not to do more than my body is adapting to and run in my other shoes until I can get the mileage in my MT20s up to the where I can run 20-30 miles a week in them without re-aggravating old injuries or causing new ones due to training errors. Hopefully, my other shoes and my feet hold up to this change – we will see how this works out.

I really do like my New Balance Minimus Trail Shoes, but I don’t like the long transition that it is going to take to be able to wear them as my primary running shoe, but the quick start didn’t work so well. Now I have to show wisdom and patience. Damn – does that mean I have grown up? Nope, just that there are too many good things about minimalist shoes in my opinion, that I am willing to go through the transition process.

My Advice

My advice to anyone who wants to switch to lower on the ladder minimalist shoes like the New Balance Minimus, Vibram 5 fingers, Merrell Trail/Road Glove or any of the many others out there – that you seriously think about getting them a couple of months before you plan to really start needing to run in them full-time. That way you have plenty of time to find out your personal transition needs, if you are like me and one of those unlucky “soles” (sp on purpose), who need a longer transition time, you will have the time you need.

Thank You Merrell

Thank you Merrell for putting together a very good educational series on transitioning to minimalist shoes and the iPhone App that I will be using to keep me a little more honest in my transition to my minimalist running shoes. I don’t think Merrell will mind me using their transition plan to transition to my New Balance shoes – after all it is a free App. Plus using their educational series and App will make me think about looking at their products a little more, the next time I decide that I need a new pair of running shoes. :-).

Here is to hoping that my shoes break me in without further displays of “told you so”. 🙂

Originally written by Harold Shaw published at “A Veteran Runnah” © 2011 – All Rights Reserved. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harold Shaw and A Veteran Runnah” with appropriate and specific directions or links to the original content.

Narrowed the Choices Down to 5 Running Shoes

I knew this day was going to come, it is the bane of most runners – my current running shoes are wearing out. We know that when we buy running shoes that they have a limited life expectancy. When our primary shoes have 200-300 miles on them, we usually need to start to thinking about what our next shoe is going to be. My Saucony Peregrines reached that mark a few weeks ago and unfortunately I had to start to think about new shoes then.

Here are my earlier posts in this series:

I have researched many shoes over the past few weeks, thought about what I want/need in a shoe – a lot, looked multiple shoe company and running store sites, blogs and reviews about different running shoes. Based on everything that I have learned while doing this research, I have come up with the following list of 5 Running Shoes that seem to meet my requirements for running this spring, summer and hopefully into the fall.

First my Background and Requirements

My requirements for new shoes are:

  • I just went over 30 miles a week and would like to be running 40 – 50+ miles a week consistently by the summer. My goals this summer are to race a sub 20:00 5K and possibly run in a 1/2 marathon (we will see how that goes), which are very different goals, with different training needs.
  • I am still working to change my running form back to being a forefoot runner. I liked the Peregrine’s 4MM drop (no injuries) and would like to stay with a zero to 4 MM drop in my new shoes. This style seems to be working a lot better than other shoes have for me.
  • I do a lot of running on both tar, dirt roads and during the spring, summer and into late fall, I will be running non-technical trails 1-2 times a week.
  • No treadmill running, strictly outdoor running.
  • Cost – Unfortunately, I have a limited budget for running related items and cost is a limiting factor that I have to consider when purchasing a new pair of shoes.
  • The last thing is that I would like them to last longer than a couple of months.

A tall order for a single pair of shoes, everything from roads to trails, to include eventually running 50 miles a week.

I am not asking very much of my new shoes am I {sarcasm}.

Narrowed the Choices Down to 5

I have narrowed the shoes down to which shoes that I am going to learn more about:

1. Altra – Instinct – From everything that I have read and watched they seem to be a shoe that meets my requirements, but looking at the outsole design, I wonder how they will work for me on the non-technical, but hilly, rocky and roots strewn trails that I tend to run on. Other than that question, they are neck and neck to the Newtons in how interested I am in them.

Altra has been very active on the Internet and answered questions for me when I have asked them, when other companies have ignored my inquiries. Also in a Twitter conversation the other day, some people I really respect, without prompting – talked very highly of these shoes in response to my blog post, which to me is a very important consideration. Altra seems to focus on function over being “pretty”, which is pretty much who I am. However, the price tag, while competitive is at the top of my price range.

1A. Newton – Momentum Trail Guidance Trainer – This shoe appears to meet all my needs very well. I really like the idea of a shoe that promotes forefoot striking, which I think either of these shoes would help me improve my efforts in this direction – significantly and still be able to run on trails with them. The reviews that I read were mostly positive and the negatives were more about the person’s running style than the shoe.

However, for a guy on a fixed income and a small budget, they are simply out of my price range, but you never know, there might be a closeout sale that I can scoop a pair of these or another Newton model for less. Unfortunately, the price of the Newton shoes is a real tough piece for me to get by TheWife, who thankfully reigns in my needs versus wants.

3. Brooks – Pure Flow – I am very impressed with the looks and reviews that I have read/watched about the Pure Flow. Some of the people who I talk with on Twitter, really like these shoes and I take a lot of stock in what they have to say. The soles look similar to Saucony’s Propel Plus, which I have used in a variety of running situations, with acceptable results on the trails that I run on. Which means that I could probably use these as a hybrid shoe with good results. The sole looks as though it would last fairly well and I haven’t had heel wear problem with Brooks shoes.  I am slightly concerned about the reported narrowness of the forefoot, so this is one that I would really want to try on. The price is comparable to the Kinvara and Instincts.

4. Saucony – Kinvara – I really, really liked the Peregrine, until the last week or so, which is the sister trail shoe to the Kinvara. If the wear in the left heel hadn’t occurred, I would have been very tempted to just get the Peregrine again. For trail use I have used Saucony road shoes with the triangular lugs which the Kinvara’s do have on my non-technical trails with very good results, so they could be a very good hybrid shoe.

One thing that stops me from looking at the Kinvara differently is that between 200 and 300 miles, I have worn a hole in the left heel of the last 3 Saucony shoes, which eventually leads to blisters on that foot. It is unfortunate, because I was very impressed with the Peregrines until this happened and would have put Kinvara ahead of the Pure Flow except for this issue. I do have some concerns about how long the shoes would last, due to the  reports that have the soles of the Kinvara 2 wearing relatively quickly compared to other similar shoes.

However, when I was looking around yesterday, I could have bought a pair of Kinvara 2 for $59.00 on closeout. With the close-out pricing, they are much more reasonable than the ones ahead of them, but if I waited for the Kinvara 3, they are in the same range as everything, but the Newtons.

5. Mizuno Ronin – This was a lot of a surprise, when I started this research I had never heard of the Ronin, but the more I read about it and the way that some of the reviews talked about the Ronin, the more impressed I became. I have owned one pair of Mizuno shoes and while they were a nice shoe, the WaveRider was a motion control shoe and wasn’t what I wanted from a shoe. I am concerned a little about how the sole will wear, but otherwise the shoe sounds bomb-proof. One of the reviews I read really had good things to say about how it worked on trails, which really got me to thinking about this shoe as a possibility. The Ronin is a shoe I would have to see before I make a decision, but it intrigues me. The pricing is similar to the others, except of course the Newtons.

Honorable Mention: Adidas – Original Blue Marathon Trainer with Dillinger Web – I would love to find a pair of these shoes again, they are after all the shoes that have come the closest for me to being the “perfect shoe”, see my post on “In Search of the Perfect Shoe”. A guy can dream can’t he. 😉

Why Not More Minimal

I am still only months removed from my knee surgery last May and I want to make sure that the shoes that I use have enough padding to protect me from myself – when I get tired and revert to heel striking, which I still do – all too often. I don’t want to have that knee hurt any more than it has too. Therefore shoes like:

  • Merrell – Trail Glove, Road Glove
  • New Balance – MT101 or 110
  • Saucony – Hattori
  • Vibram  – I really want to try the Vibram Five Finger shoes, but am concerned about the amount of time it might take me to get acclimated to the shoe and if I decide to do longer distances, would it have enough support/cushioning for me to be successful in them. To be honest – I am rather scared to pull the trigger on this one and not have other shoes to run in, if they don’t work for me.

These more minimal shoes were taken out of consideration, due to the lack of cushioning this time (I know heresy for a budding minimalist), but I don’t believe that I am ready to move to running in this level of minimal shoe at this time, especially as my primary running shoe (who knows maybe I will win a pair in one of the many contests that I have entered).  I am being conservative and cautious in my approach to moving down the minimalist shoe ladder, but I would prefer to go slowly, than move too quickly and not be able to run for an extended period again.

The reality is that

I am going to try to milk my Peregrines through the end of this month, which gets me out of the worst of the winter running season and gives me time to research these 5 shoes more. I just hope they hold up for another 90 or so miles that I need to get out of them, without blister issues.

A Road Trip

This means at some point after March 1st that I am going to have to go down to the Maine Running Company in Portland (yes I know there is one in Brunswick), try these shoes on, to see what fits me best and what I will end up with for a new shoe to run around Back Cove in (at least one lap).  However, all bets are off as far as the timing, if my Peregrines begin to cause blisters on my foot, then I might have to make an emergency trip south or stay local and get a shoe on special.

Possible Running Shoes – List Narrowed Down

Last week I talked about starting the process to research which running shoes I should get for my next pair – probably sometime in March, but sooner if my Peregrines start to really bother my heel.

The big reason for the research is to narrow down the shoes from everything that is available to about 20 or so, that I would want to look at more closely to see how they match my running needs.

Background and Requirements

My running information and requirements for my new shoes are:

  • I am currently running 25+ miles a week and would like to be running 40+ miles a week by the end of the summer. I do like to run faster (even though I am still pretty slow now) and my goal this summer is to run a sub 20:00 5K and possibly run in a 1/2 marathon (we will see how this goes).
  • During the past two months I have worked hard to change my running form back to being a forefoot runner, to help reduce the impact and stress to my knees. I have had great success with the Peregrine’s 4MM drop (no injuries) and would like to stay with a zero to 4 MM drop in my new shoes. This seems style to be working a lot better than other shoes have for me. I like the lower heel height.
  • I do have shoes that I can wear for racing or track interval workouts, but not an extra pair of shoes that are in good enough shape to wear as an alternate daily trainer. I have some older shoes that I could wear occasionally if my new ones need to dry out or something, but I wouldn’t put them into a regular shoe rotation.
  • I live in the country, so I do a lot of running on both tar and dirt roads.
  • During the spring, summer and into late fall, I will be running non-technical trails 1-2 times a week. Initially I might be able to still use the Peregrines, until they really start to bother my heel.
  • Luckily winter will be mostly over by the time I get these shoes and I won’t have to worry so much about snow and ice during most of this shoe’s running life.
  • No treadmill running, strictly outdoor running.
  • Whatever shoe I buy, probably will be a hybrid running shoe style, to do everything that I will ask of it. Since it will be the shoe that I will wear running 90% of the time.

Narrowed the Choices Down

I have narrowed the shoes down to certain companies and the shoes that I would like to learn more about over the next few weeks:

  • Adidas – Original Blue Marathon Trainer with Dillinger Web – A guy can dream can’t he. 😉
  • Altra – Instinct or Lone Peak – These are still a new shoe company.  However, their presence and engagement on Twitter has been a very good selling point (I have talked with their rep more than a couple of times and they have been very helpful) and many of the reviews I have read have nothing but positives to say about them
  • Brooks – the shoes in their Pure Project series – I have heard a lot of very good reviews about these shoes, but that they are supposedly a little narrow for some people
  • Merrell – Trail Glove, Road Glove
  • Mizuno – Wave Universe, Ronin
  • New Balance – MT101 or 110
  • Newton – Newton Momentum Trail Guidance Trainer – The price scares me on the Newtons, they may be a nice shoe, but very pricey. However, I really like the idea of a shoe that actively promotes forefoot running.
  • Nike – Free – I have run in a lot of Nike shoes and always look at them before I buy something.
  • Saucony – Peregrine, Kinvara, Hattori  – I have had good luck with Saucony, until they get about 200-250 miles on them and then my left heel wears a hole in the back of the shoe, which eventually causes blisters on that foot. Can’t figure out why it happens, but it only seems to be with Saucony shoes? My Peregrines which I love, made it to almost 260 miles before the hole got noticeable, but haven’t started any blister action yet.
  • Vibram  – I really want to try the VFF, but am concerned about the amount of time it might take me to get acclimated to the shoe and if I decide to do longer distances, would it have enough support/cushioning for me to be successful. To be honest – I am rather scared to pull the trigger on this one and not have any other shoes to run in, if they don’t work for me.

Narrowing down the number of shoes that are out there to the ones above wasn’t easy, but I tried to stay with more minimal shoes that will promote a forefoot strike, have a lower heel height and had good reviews from other bloggers.

The Reality is that

I do think that it is important to do your own research on running shoes, because you are going to be spending a lot of money, time and putting many miles on your new running shoes, you need to be fairly knowledgeable about the choices that are out there for you. It is great to go to a specialty running store and have an “expert” help you choose a shoe that meets your needs, but in the end it is you that is going to be running in the shoe, not them.

Your Choice

Like the salesperson will tell you, which shoes you finally chose will be your choice not the salesperson’s. Personally I would prefer to have it be a fairly knowledgeable choice, instead of a momentary whim on which of three shoe models feels best and that were brought out by someone who has known me for 5-10 minutes.

Questions for Readers

  • Are there any shoes that I “have” to look at besides the ones I have listed above? Please let me know which one and why you recommend that shoe.
  • Do you have any first hand experience with these shoes, what was it? If I have talked with you about shoes before, you don’t have to repeat yourself again :-).

Finally

I know to buy some of these shoes it will either be done online (which I am hesitant to do if it is a shoe I haven’t tried on – I like to know how it feels on my feet before I buy it)  or I will have to go down to Portland to the Maine Running Company, which is okay – I like going to their store and then running Back Cove in my new shoes :-). Win-Win.

No I am not looking for a free handout or anything else, I just want some good, no great information on these shoes, that I am researching, hopefully information beyond the marketing hype on the websites and more to the point why I should be running in them and how they fit my running requirements/needs.