Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Running Shoes to Mix it Up

Running has been my means of intense cardiovascular exercise. It burns calories with minimal equipment needed and can be done at practically anytime with no membership fee. Starting up a running training regiment can hit the pocket book when you realize that a good pair of shoes is going to run you right around $100. Sure you may pay less, but scrimping may cost you on performance and quality. It is best to have something decent if you are going to train, whether it be for a marathon or even a 5k. This is a whole other subject with a lot of research behind it, so just go to a quality store dedicated to runner's and get fitted with a shoe that meets your running style and feet to keep thing simple.

Brooks Adrenaline 12 Running Shoe
Soon after I started running I picked up some Brooks Adrenaline shoes. Luckily they worked for me despite not being properly fitted or doing any homework. I have gone from the Model 8 to the recently released 12 with only the 9 giving me some issues. These are my road running shoes and it will be hard for me to switch to something else unless I find something amazing for a substitute. I have tried some different options and nothing else has felt right. The Adrenalines have provided me with a few thousands of miles of running including over a dozen pairs covering the past 3 years with only a couple sprained ankles from stepping on curbs wrong. 

I am not endorsing the Brooks Adrenaline for you as your running style may not be right for them. They have provided me with relatively injury free running, but they don't work for everyone. I run on my forefoot, overpronate, have a high arch, and am large in stature. The key thing is to find a pair of road running shoes that will provide comfort and mitigate the risk of injury. It may take a pair or two to figure out what works. Hopefully, the company won't change the design drastically or discontinue them all together. 

Once you find the right road running shoe and get in some good training with a few races, I would consider looking into trail shoes if you have trails near by for running. It is great to experience a natural environment while running and can definitely make breathing easier if you are accustomed to running alongside cars in an urban environment. I picked up Brooks Cascadia 6 simply because I liked the Adrenalines and these are relatively comparable for my purposes.

Brooks Cascadia 7 Trail Shoe
The added traction on trail shoes is awesome for dirt, sand, or mountain running and rocks do not cause issues underfoot. I thought they felt like putting on slippers compared to typical running shoes and would probably use them more if I had trails more readily available. For now they go with me on Saturday runs along the desert mountain trails surrounding the city. They took me to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back with a 40 pound pack with no issues regarding my ankles, knees, or feet. Perhaps my previous road training helped in that regard, but the key thing is to just find some good trail shoes that will given you the ability to get off the road without slipping and sliding.

Desert Mountain Trail

After continual training for a half marathon or marathon, your body can get accustomed to road running. Throwing hills or any change in elevation that typically comes with trail running can really get the heart and lungs going, which inherently helps build speed. The danger of possibly plowing head first into some sand and gravel can help boost the adrenaline a bit. Inevitably this is a possibility, so become one with a trail before going balls to the wall and biffing it. Gloves to help avoid hamburger hands can also be a great investment as I have covered here in the past. I am on my second pair, which is the latest Cascadia model 7 and they are just as great for trudging up the mountain. Perhaps you can get away with only trail running for training, but a lot of races take place on the road. 

You already dished out hundreds of dollars on the best running and trail shoes, now we suggest plopping down another c-note for minimalist shoes. These can definitely take some getting used to as they don't provide the same support of your typical running shoe. Less weight typically means less padding and support in these cases. Perhaps you might try out out the popular toe shoes from Vibram, but I made the switch from my Adrenalines to Brooks PureConnect and am now on my second pair. They definitely make you feel like you are building up your foot muscle by not relying on the support of typical running shoes.

Brooks PureConnect Minimalist Running Shoe

The weight reduction is great and there is noticeable improvement in speed though other factors may have played in, such as extended training and running hills. I don't think I have fully developed my running style for these shoes as they have caused foot pain after extended training or I haven't found the right minimalist shoe for me. I switched back to the Adrenalines for most runs but still opt in the PureConnect for short 3 miles just to get some speed training in each week. I will definitely use them to go all out for any race as the weight savings is amazing.

Having three pairs of shoes going at the same time will lessen the need to buy new shoes for a while, which does help feel a lessened blow to the wallet. This post is by no means an endorsement for Brooks and only relates my experience with the shoes mentioned. They work great for me, but I can't say my feet feel amazing everyday. Running for long distances can cause discomfort without regular rest. I have continual improvement in my speed through various distances without injury, which is all that matters to me. Trail running and training with minimalist shoes have both given me the perception of improved performance with speed. Having these three style of shoes has really mixed up my training and keeps things interesting. The proper tools are just the start, with correct training allowing for improved performance Let's save that for another day.

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