A Barefoot Runner Reviews "Maximal" Shoes
Now here at RunBare, we try to keep an open mind, particularly as we've seen at least one "minimalist" shoe suddenly become "maximal".
While we can think of at least a dozen reasons these may be "bad" for you, and explain a recent rash of running injuries by our friends who wear these moon boots, we thought what the heck, we'll give them a try.
And so we got in some top-of-the-line "maximal" running shoes, in order to give them a go.
First off, the positives:
1. Given their sheer size (or stack-height so-to-speak) they are light. Whatever technology they're using in their cushioning system, they're deceptively light for their size.
2. They have enough cushioning to run over a small elephant without hardly noticing it, at least until Mama Elephant comes calling.
3. You are taller, much taller. Jessica was standing almost eye-to-eye with me once she put these things on. Now I've never seen her in stiletto heels, but given their 3-inch heel height, I now get the idea.
So now that we have the positives, let's talk about the "real-world" challenges.
1. They are INCREDIBLY unstable. It's not JUST that you're 2-3 inches off of the ground, it's that the shoe is incredibly sloped from the rear to the front. In essence, you are trying to run in stilettos. Second, there's a subtle (or not so subtle) curve or rocker on the bottom of the shoe that not-so-gently rolls your foot, and thereby your whole body forward. It's a bit reminiscent of the nursing home look as caught by Jessica with camera in hand. (Actually these are all screen shots from a video Jessica shot, but we felt the footage was just too ridiculous for viewers to believe - minus the baby elephant above.)
2. By being so high up (and with such grippy traction underneath) it's incredibly easy to trip, roll and ankle, or twist and torque your knee or hip.
3. Because of the high heel, you have to get your butt back to balance your forward shift in weight. This not only strains the hamstrings and back, but tightens your back up, forcing any "impact" that comes in to be jammed right into your back. As someone who "thought" I had permanently recovered from a debilitating injury to L4 and L5 of my back (lumbar vertebrae) many years ago, my back is now KILLING me after just a short test-run in these shoes.
4. Since the heel is so high, it's incredibly difficult to land on your forefoot or even your midfoot for that matter. I couldn't do it at all, Jessica could, but with amazing difficulty. This means you are RELIANT on the cushioning of the shoe, rather than the natural shock-absorber mechanisms of the foot and leg (with proper mindful running or barefoot running technique, you can effortlessly use the leg as a 2-3 foot shock-absorber, not so in these shoes). Without the natural cushioning of the body, you basically jar and jamb force straight up through your shins, knees, hips, and straight into your back.
5. Because these shoes throw you so far off-balance, you're required to A. Learn a new gait to keep from falling down, and B. Overuse many muscle groups, such as your shins, to try and keep from falling. As Jessica experienced, you may get almost instant shin-splints in these shoes.
6. While these shoes may be light for their size, they are anything but lightweights. Jessica had to work hard to get her foot back up and out of the way with each step so she wouldn't trip, causing her to be winded at perhaps half her normal pace. For myself, it meant running uphills went from a dance, to a pretty serious chore. Any weight underfoot is magnified step after step. At 3/4's of a pound or more per shoe, and well over 100 strides per minute (preferably more), that means you're lifting about 100 pounds per minute with your legs, 1000 pounds in ten minutes, or a literal ton of weight with your feet and legs in only twenty minutes. How would you like to do 3 tons of extra work in only an hour? (Can you say FATIGUE, anyone?)
7. A last note, as someone with a hip injury, my right foot and leg track straight and land flat in minimalist shoes or barefoot, but with these on and my new titanium hip, my right foot (and thereby leg) want to roll to the outside, not only putting lots of force on the outside of, and above my ankle, but greatly stressing my IT band almost instantly, as it was forced to try and fight against the shoe to keep me from rolling out.
Here I am in utter disbelief that people are able to run in these safely and without pain. Enough is enough for me!
Now we're not trying to be overly negative here, we understand everyone wants less impact when they run, heck, we'd love less impact too. But running in these shoes, as Jessica describes, that feel like "full-suspension" comes at a heavy penalty.
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