Friday, September 5, 2014

Cushy Workouts

Anyone who has run has likely read or at least heard of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury either barefoot or with minimal support.

During the course of Born to Run, McDougall highlights the Tarahumara’s ability to run barefoot or with not so much as a single piece of leather or rubber as pseudo shoes.  While trying to identify why is he was prone to injury while running, McDougall’s book is credited by many as igniting the “minimalist” running craze. 

Minimalist running is running with minimal cushion and support for the feet. Vibram went  so far as to create their five toed running shoes that were little more than a five toed sock with a piece of rubber for a sole.  While Born to Run was extremely popular, many people tried to make the move to minimalist running, often times with injury and frustration.

While I am not a believer in ultra-minimalist running like the Vibram Five Toed shoes, for me I like a shoe with some cushion that still allows me to feel the road. At 130 lbs., I am applying much more pressure and force on my feet, knees and hips than larger runners and thus the need for less cushioning.  It should also be noted while the Tarahumara and our distance ancestors did run barefoot, they were also running on softer surfaces and not the concrete jungle most runners use today.

It’s almost ridiculous how a hot trend goes cold and another pops up in its place virtually overnight.  While good minimalist shoes have their merits, the fact is most runners shouldn't wear them due to size, conditioning, form, injury or all of the above.  Today the pendulum has swung from ultra-minimalist to ultra-maximalist shoes – shoes that are ultra-cushioned, have a wider toe box and provide a very comfortable and spongy ride, something many runners prefer.

According to Brian Metzler of Competitor Magazine, thanks to new midsole foam materials that are lighter, more resilient or more responsive, plus new design configurations – the same details that spurred the minimalist movement – some of the leading maximalist shoes are lighter than traditional everyday trainers and also promote natural gait tendencies.  With the added benefits of less impact and quicker recovery from long runs, many runners are giving shoes with oversized cushioning a try.
Hoka One One Clifton

Altra Paradigm

Two popular brands to check out if you are interested in beginning running or want less damage from the repeated impact running provides are the Altra Paradigm and the Hoka One One Clifton or Hauka.  Both are very light weight, provide great support and cushion and still give you a good feel for the road.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.  

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