Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gateway to Minimalism

It seems fitting that shortly after the death of Micah True "Caballo Blanco", that I'm dipping my toe in the water of 'minimalist running'. Chances are that if you've stumbled upon this blog, you've probably already read Chris McDougall's "Born to Run" and get the reference.

When this book first came out, I was running fast, injury free, and still 'enjoyed' doing shorter distance road races. I was perfectly happy with my Asics GT-21x0s, so I didn't think much about switching to Vibrams, which would probably look like monster feet in a size 13. I was intrigued with the idea of running an ultra, but always figured I'd go down that road once I had exhausted running personal bests in every other event.


Fast forward to 2012, and the picture is a little different. When the Asics 2160s were replaced by the 2170s, my first run in the 2170s were also the same run that put me out for over a month. I don't know if this was a coincidence, or the inevitable result of overtraining. Since then, I've only had one 20+ mile week, and that was the week I ran the MST 12. That run went surprisingly ok during the race, but became a progressively more painful experience as the day went on. I've been back in a knee brace since then, which makes me look like I've had some sort of soccer and basketball injury rather than some lame stress related problem. My goal is get back up to respectable training over the summer, but I'm moving forward... slowly. And the idea of getting up to finishing a 50K seems more appealing than trying to run a fast marathon.

I've read several blogs of people with similar issues. If anything, for me these issues have been a long time coming. I am notorious for overstriding, and was looking for a shoe to help correct this problem. Given that I am effectively starting from scratch, it seemed like a good time to try something new. Last week, I visited Bull City Running with hopes of trying out the Merrell Trail Gloves that are very en vogue among the local trail running community. They did not have the Merrell's, but they did have the New Balance Minimus MT20.

A few runs in, I'm satisfied with the switch.

1) First reaction (standing): very comfortable, surprisingly. I could wear these around casually, but you'll understand why I don't when you get to #4...

2) First reaction running (on concrete outside store): Not as much of a difference from my old Asics as I expected, but these shoes have a fairly sturdy sole. No issues with the band that goes across the forefoot, some people have had problems with this.

3) Is this a true "minimalist" shoe? Eh, probably not. My first run out was 3 miles, and I don't think my form was any different, and I wasn't sore in my calves afterward which would be the case if I really were running more on my toes. Maybe that defeats the point, but like I said, I'm just dipping my toe in the water here. Don't expect to see me out running barefoot any time soon.

4) Non-runner comments? "Wow, those are ugly. You look like you are wearing basketballs on your feet" - Megan
Basketball shoes. But not for playing basketball in.

5) Non-runner comments about my non-runner comments: "I think you portray me as a ridiculous character" - Megan

So for a runner switching over from a really cushy, traditional shoe, this is a pretty easy switch.

Rest in Peace Caballo Blanco.


Today's run: 4 miles on ATT, temperature 50 degrees, music: Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible"


  1. Merrell Trail Glove is awesome. I do a lot of runs in them...nothing near the distance you run.

  2. I just did my first run in New Balance Minimus yesterday. I liked them, but not as much as my Vibrams. Still, I think I might be able to go further in the Minimus than in Vibrams, which are for now usually a 6-miles or less (or mud run) shoe for me. I'm cycling through a bunch of pairs. My oldest shoes are Asics DS Gel Speedstar 2s and my newer non-minimals are Mizuno Wave Precision 12. I like all of them for different reasons. I am definitely a fan of the minimalist movement, and I do think the Minimus are a minimalist-ish shoe. Certainly less drop, though I agree, my calves didn't hurt.

  3. Welcome to the minimalist journey. It's different for everyone unfortunately, so expect the unexpected. I struggled with eliminating my over-striding and the only thing that eventually worked was barefoot running (on a paved track, not a rubberized track). I still do occasional sessions of barefoot on the track to maintain the form programming in my brain, but most of my miles are on trails, in shoes.

    Best of luck!