I was very fortunate to grow up in a somewhat rural farm environment in the Western Cape, South Africa. Barefoot, most of the time – shoes were optional for school until age 13, yet compulsory for church. We also played sports, mostly rugby and cricket, without any footwear. Ditto for running around a grass “track” around the football fields.
Today still I’m mostly a flip flops and shorts guy. I own some shoes though. Too many running shoes, 1 pair of formal shoes and a few sneakers I just don’t use very much.
Our feet are one of the most sensitive parts of our bodies. They’re also the foundation for most of the physical activity we do. Each foot has:
* 35 joints
* 28 bones
* 120 ligaments
* a variety of muscles
* some 7000+ nerve endings
Thus during the duration of each gait cycle (transition of the lower limbs while walking or running), there’s thousands of inputs and messages being sent back to our body. More remarkably, all of these sensory inputs has been fine tuned by many thousands of years of evolution. We trust safety and warning systems in our cars, yet turn our own OFF.
… by wearing and mostly running with excessively padded shoes.
I’m neither a proponent of minimalist nor the Hoka cushioned movement. My running shoe collection is represented by both edges, with some in between that range. I also don’t think there’s a “perfect” shoe. If we revisit the foot stats above, there’s a metric ton of moving parts that can be adapted and trained. Joints, bones, ligaments, muscles and awareness of feedback from those nerve endings.
Stability and mobility of the feet are instrumental for a long and injury free running career. The feet has direct impact on the running gait. I believe it’s extremely beneficial to rotate shoes between workouts in order to avoid overuse injuries, emphasize different muscles and also tune sensory feedback.
In addition to swapping shoes, changing to terrain from street, to grass, to mixed, to stones and rough mountain amplifies such training effects. Ditto for gradients such as climbs and descents.
If you regularly train a pancake flat loop, with the same shoes, you’re in trouble!
My current state
I’m currently rotating between:
* Asics Gel Zaraca 2 (minimalist road)
* Haglofs Gram Comp
* La Sportiva Bushido (considered minimalist trail, but still has heavy support)
For the volume of running I do (60 to 120km+ per week depending on where I’m at in a training cycle), it’s important to strike a balance between mixing things up YET also be able to go out tomorrow or the next week without my feet being a mess. Therefore, heavier shoes with more support also has it’s place during higher volume weeks.
During your next run, “touch” the ground with your feet. Connect with it. Read and interpret. Feet never lie.
I wear contact lenses. They’re a tuned and optimized for my current level of eyesight. I sometimes also wear glasses to mix things up. If I wear neither, do I see well? NO. If I only wear thicker lenses, do I see better? NO.