Monday, June 27, 2011

Anti-minimalistic running shoes

I have always liked training in lightweight racing shoes and was certainly a minimalistic runner long before the recent fad of runners running in Vibram five-fingers or simply going barefoot. I recently spent a couple of years doing a large portion of my running and racing using  Puma H-Street "slippers"  and have not yet found a trainer that I like running in. I most like doing all my running in racing shoes like the Asics Hyperspeed. Last summer I attempted using trainers again, bulky ones at that, and I don't know if that helped make my hip worse or not. I haven't been able to run since last August due to a torn  labrum in my hip. I will have surgery to repair it next month. I think I always liked minimalistic shoes to help my hip and feet deal with the peculiar imbalances that I have had for years. Hopefully the surgery will clear up my stride and mechanics and let me run pain-free again.

I do think the minimalistic fad has gone a bit overboard, there are some great choices in shoes with a low heel drop and light weight out there now, something that was hard to find up to recently, but I doubt that minimalism and barefoot running is for most runners. It works for some, but many more end up injured.

Which brings us to a newer trend in running shoes: maximalism. A couple of companies are making shoes that oppose the minimalistic attitude with big cushiony shoes that are also supposed to help runners with their stride. The most interesting shoe is made by a company called Hoka One One.The ultramarathon trail-running  crowd seems to be gravitating towards these behemoths of a shoe. I have heard that some claim it is like going mountain biking when you run the trails in these. You can step over and on anything. Running Times says it is like using a hovercraft. Hoka One One claims it is like levitating:

By using an EVA 30% softer and increasing its total volume to 2.5 times that of a typical trail running shoe, we allow for more cushioning than any other shoe on the market today, dissipating up to 80% of the shock associated with heel striking when running. Allowing for as much as 20mm of compression in the heel, with a low ramp angle allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, as runners can now engage their gluteus and lower back as opposed to isolating their quads, relaxing the body and making running downhill

Despite their outrageous clown-sized foot plant they are also very lightweight. The first model made by Hoka One One is the Maffate which is their trail shoe.

Recently they have come out with the Bondi B which is not as severe a shoe, but still loaded with cushioning and meant to be also used for the roads, Many reviewers say that they can run 20 milers and still have fresh legs that don't feel beat up at all.

The Hoka One One shoes also have a rocker sole:

40mm high sole design enabled to design a 13cm rockering profile , representing 50% of the sole length. This design allows for fluid and natural stride transitions, lessening the movement of the knee by as much as 20%, increasing efficiency.

These shoes, although silly looking, intrigued me. I thought that the cushioning might be a good thing to have post surgery and the rocker sole sounded interesting for my functional hallux limitis (inability to bend the big toe when pushing off the ground). When I saw a pair of Bondii B's on eBay for far cheaper than the $170 retail price, I decided to get a pair. I am hoping that they may help me recover and get me back running much easier once I have recovered from my surgery. Now that they have arrived and I have put them on my initial reactions are 1) they are very big looking 2) they are very lightweight 3) boy, they are really cushioned, like walking on marshmallows 4) they seem a bit unstable walking around and 5) I think these might be very interesting to run in - I am not at all put off by them (usually a cushioned bulky shoe drives me nuts right when I put them on  6) I am going to try walking around in them - I really wish my hip let me run!

Here are some Hoka One One reviews:
Dan Empfield review of the Mafate on Slowtwitch
Dan Empfield review of the Bondi B on Slowtwitch
Runner's World forum reviews
Ultramarathoner Dave Mackey's review Minimalsitic Running and the Bondi B
Slowtwitch forum reviews

Ultramarathoner Karl Meltzer ran an average of 51.6 miles a day on his 2,064 mile journey across the historic Pony Express trail from Sacramento California to St. Joseph Missouri using 7 pairs of the Mafates.

Another recent running shoe that seems to be anti-minimalistic is the Mizuno Wave Prophecy seen here:

Mizuno says this of their shoe:

The result of seven years of intense research and development, Wave Prophecy is our most advanced, most dynamic shoe ever. Our engineers designed Wave Prophecy to match your running gait and the natural spring rate of your muscles and tendons. Whether you land on your forefoot, midfoot or heel, Wave Prophecy’s full-length Infinity Wave plates propel you forward with a smooth ride mile after mile. No matter how far and how often you run, you’ll always have the ride of your life.

This review on Ransacker mentions that:

Probably the most eye-catching and controversial design feature of the Prophecy shoe is the sole. It is almost completely separate from the rest of the shoe, connected by rubber posts. This creates 4 large holes that run right through the sole. A friend of mine joked that you could store your energy gels in there. The sole itself is shaped by the famous Mizuno “Wave.” This runs through the whole shoe and not just part of the sole as with previous Wave incarnations.

There you have it, you can go minimalistic or you can go maximalistic. The choice is yours.


Justin Hamade said...

I love the video of the heel strike.

aspen2cody said...

I ran in the Hoka Mafete at the Leadville 100, and have 2 pairs of the Bondi's. The Hoka's are very light and very cushioned. The only problem I have with them is the Bondi rub my instep. I also buy them 1/2 size larger than all my other running shoes. They are great for ultra running.

Anonymous said...

i was just digonsed with hallux limitus and i was thinking of picking up a pair of hokas what was your experience running in them? thanks!

Jim Hansen said...

Anonymous: I was diagnosed with functional hallux limitus last year, but have not run much since last summer due to a torn hip labrum. I had surgery less than 3 weeks ago for the hip and feel great. I have not however run yet. I did do the elliptical machine yesterday for the first time and did 3 miles. Today I did 5 miles. I used the Hokas and I think I like them. I can't wait to try running in them, but I don't want to push things. FHL might be different than HL but this page shows the orthotics I use: cutout under 1st mpt joint and this page shows my podiatrist and his videos on FHL. I am not sure it is the same treatment: ANyhow the Hokas seem like they may roll better over the ground and get the pressure off the toe.

Anonymous said...

thanks! great blog!