Good afternoon, from my fourth favorite locale in the world, trailing only Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Italy—Barnes and Noble! Every time I come here, I find about six more books I want to read, mostly in the math, science, and economics sections, and sometimes a new cookbook or two. I try so hard to tell myself that I can wait a month and they’ll be in the library, but it’s just not the same, you know? Something about having it on your own shelf, I guess. Breaking news: Barnes and Noble finally got free wi-fi, so now it’s even better! See if yours has it.
The Running Shoe Diaries
My legs are sore after the 20-mile run yesterday, but as usual, it’s the good kind of sore. No weird knee or hip pain like I used to get following long runs. Actually, the most painful part of my run yesterday was my feet; I even felt a blister developing on the foot that doesn’t have one yet, in the exact same place! I’ve been chalking it up to the “new shoes” excuse, but it just occured to me that my shoes aren’t exactly new anymore. I’ve had them for almost two months and put 200 miles on them. The fact that they’re still giving me trouble is probably an indication that they’re not the right shoes for me.
The shoes in question, by the way, are a pair of Asics Gel Cumulus. I ran my first successful marathon in an older version of these shoes; back then I dealt with major shin problems and I absolutely loved these shoes because of all the cushioning they provide. Once I got past the shin issues though and started thinking about running faster, I switched to the Brooks Defyance, a much lighter shoe with less cushioning, and therefore less energy loss in every step. I liked them so much that I bought them three consecutive times.
As part of my current training, though, I hatched a new plan:
Step 1: Do most of the training in the soft, pillowy comfort of the Asics Cumulus, minimizing the toll of the mileage on my legs.
Step 2: About a month before the marathon, switch to the lighter, stiffer, more energy-efficient Defyance to get it broken in, run the marathon in it, and qualify for Boston.
Step 3: Celebrate like a madman.
But this blister issue is making me rethink the plan. I never got blisters when I wore the Defyance during the training for my last two marathons. So I’m thinking about switching to it now, a little ahead of schedule. This would probably mean having to buy a new pair a few weeks before the marathon, too.
But I’m also really intrigued by something else I’ve been reading about recently—the Nike Free. The Nike Free is designed to simulate barefoot running, providing little of the support and cushioning of modern running shoes, which, shockingly, are thought to have increased the frequency of running injuries rather than lowering it. I won’t pretend to be an expert about this, but I believe the rationale for the Nike Free is that when we run barefoot (the way we’re designed to, or evolved to, or whatever you want), lots of small muscles in the feet are engaged. When we run in cushioned, supportive shoes, those muscles don’t have to work anymore. As a result, they don’t develop properly, our running form changes, and we get slower and we get hurt.
I can only imagine that incorporating barefoot or simulated-barefoot running into a training routine increases the risk of injury during the first few weeks, since it’s so foreign to our oh-so-pampered feet. Especially if it’s not introduced gradually. So two months before the biggest race of my life might not be the ideal time to make the switch. Nevertheless, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s so hardcore! Maybe just for track workouts? Anyone tried it? Whadda ya think?