I’m both a distance runner and a big, heavy boy. Two seemingly opposite qualities. How can a big, 6’1″ 195lb ginger boy run marathons without dying from body jiggle and breaking his own knee joints? I tell you, it has a lot to do with the shoes, running form, and lube. Lots of lube.
So for the last few years I have been running in various forms of Asics running shoes. My last couple pairs have been the Asics Cumulus 11’s, each lasting me for a good 4 months of distance training and marathon running. The good things about these shoes were their lightweight, their flexibility, and their cool, soft upper. So why would I want to swap out of a perfectly good running shoe that my feet have gotten used to? Good question.
Over the last year of running, I started to change my running form. I’ve wanted to make my running more efficient so I don’t find myself wasting valuable energy on longer runs. I’ve learned a lot about how to change my stance and gait in a manner that not only makes me a more efficient, energy-preserving runner, but also a faster runner.
I’ll try to quickly break it down: I now run on my forefoot, mid-foot and have started applying some of the chi running technique to my form. A typical runner runs heel-to-toe — you throw your foot in front of you, hit with your heel first, and transition to your toe-off finish. If you think about it, you’re essentially slowing yourself with each step by stomping with your heel first in front of you only to use more energy to reestablish your momentum on the toe-off. My method is much simpler, easier on the joints, more natural and far more efficient. The problem is that it takes quite awhile to get used to and produce the strength in the calves that you need.
Here’s how you can start the process and see what it feels like:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Stand straight up, feel your spine lengthen and imagine a wire straight down your spine from head to tailbone
- put your hands on your pelvis bones (not your hips but rather your pelvis points just below your hips)
- bend about 5-10 degrees forward from this pelvis-point
- continue leaning forward, letting gravity take hold, until you’re forced to take a step forward
- You’ll notice that if you keep this up, your body defaults to mid-foot / fore-foot running. It’s the same as if you were running barefoot on grass – no heels. This is how I run.
Here’s a couple of points to notice. First, you’ll feel your weight transfer to the balls of your feet. Second, you’ll feel your upper body lead your legs forward. So when you run this way you begin to keep your upper body ahead of your legs, which keeps you on the balls of your feet, avoiding the use of valuable energy on swinging your feet in front of you during your stride.
With the change in my running style came the need for me to change my shoe and find one that was 1) light 2) had plenty of forefoot cushioning 3) plenty of toe-off spring and flexibility and 4) good on my big boy joints and body. Thus was the start of “SHOE SEARCH 2010″.
The Asics Cumulus 11’s were good, but didn’t have as much cushioning as I knew other shoes did. Also, I knew there were other shoes that would hold my foot better. The first new shoe I tried was the Nike LunarGlide+. First, let me say that I don’t want to like Nike running shoes. I don’t necessarily trust a company as large and multi-sported as Nike. I want my shoe company to SPECIALIZE in running shoes, not make them because it’s the last sport in which they haven’t cornered the market. Turns out, I was impressed with their overall lightness and liked the style, but for me, they were a horrible shoe. They lacked any sort of good cushioning; they had very little flexibility and the toe-off was completely awkward. They brag of having a revolutionary new cushioning material invented by NASA. Rad. Awesome. I don’t care. It felt like concrete. Shoes returned.
With the next pair of shoes I wasn’t going to make that same mistake, buying into some company’s marketing ploys to make my choice. I went to my local running store, got professionally fitted (in case my gait had changed over the last year) and found that it indeed HAD changed. I was now more of a neutral runner. (side note: If you do take up running, PLEASE get professionally fitted. It’s a crucial step in avoiding long term running injuries. It’s free, very quick, and any good running store should do it) After trying on a number of shoes including some Mizuno Creation 11’s (the plastic device in the heels of these Japanese shoes is far too noticeable. I feel like I’m running on some “device” and not cushioning), Saucony Triumph 6’s (which I liked, but knew the Triumph 7’s were due out in a month so I couldn’t buy into), Nike Vomero+ 4’s (which were incredibly soft, but I let the store clerk talk me out of because he said Nike’s breakdown fast), and finally Brooks Glycerin 8’s. The Glycerin 8’s came highly praised by the store clerk and – after a lot of online research – many online shoe retailers like RunningWarehouse.com and RoadRunnerSports.com. Everyone seemed to be saying they were ‘the new cushioned neutral runners shoe’. How could anyone be wrong!?
Fail. I bought a pair online, ran in them a few times, and found them incredibly heavy, heel-favored, and stiff with very little flexibility. They were designed for the runner that doesn’t take shoe weight into consideration as well as a runner that needs tons of heel cushioning in their stride. That extra padding in the heel just felt like gobs of lead. Granted, they hugged my feet amazingly well and feature one of the most comfortable uppers I’ve ever felt in a running shoe, but the ride feels clunky, heavy, and makes me feel like a downright elephant. I needed to keep looking for a new shoe.
At this point I knew exactly what qualities I wanted in a shoe, and figured I could find it in either the Nike Vomero+ 4’s or the Saucony Triumph 7’s. I did more research and found out that there was a new version of the Vomeros due out in 2 weeks. The choice came down to either the Vomero+ 5’s or the Triumph 7’s. Reminder: I hadn’t run in either of these shoes, only their younger counterparts, the Vomero+ 4 and the Triumph 6’s. This would mean more research and I would ultimately be taking a risk.
The further research lead me to find out the Triumph 7’s increased their weight over the 6’s (boo) as well as reduced some of the forefoot cushioning (double boo). My choice was made. I pre-ordered the Nike Vomero 5’s. I now have 2 4-mile runs in these shoes and I have nothing but praise for them. I was able to decrease my mile average (according to my lil Nike+ sensor) by a staggering 20 seconds on my first run (which I attribute to adrenaline and excitement from the new shoes)! As I run more in these bad-boys, I will keep you posted on how they perform. My main worry at this point is that they will wear out quicker than other shoes. If that’s the case, then I will know to either go with the Triumph 7’s or go back to my original shoe, the Cumulus 11.
Bottom line: the Nike Vomero 5’s kick fucking ass and I cannot wait to take them for a nice long 12+ miler. These babies are soft as clouds and still have a fantastic transition. They’re soft and springy with decent toe-off. I find myself wanting to land on my heels since the padding is so damn absorbent and fun to run on, but I’m forcing myself to stay upright and forward. A nice bonus feature over their predecessor is the added cusholon material right in the smack dab middle of the outer mid-foot area. This is making mid-foot running a comfortable breeze and fully stable.
Now if you don’t mind, I have to put some more miles under my feet…my soft, pillowy feet of Nike Vomero+ 5 greatness! If you have any questions about any of the running shoes I’ve discussed here, don’t hesitate to contact me. Also note that every body, every foot, and every runner is completely different. This just amplifies the need to be professionally fitted. Last thing I want is for one of you to train for a marathon in the wrong shoe and do permanent damage to your body. That’s just fucking stupid. Fucking fucking stupid. LUVUKBYE!