Since I’m such a hipster, I began wearing minimalist running shoes long before minimalist running shoes were a thing. In high school in the late 90s, I wore middle distance track spikes for cross country meets, and eventually started wearing them for general training on trails, and sometimes even on paved roads. I liked the light weight and feedback. Just like how I like my cars, I guess. Sure, I always had a pair of normal running shoes for longer distances, but I preferred the spikes whenever it made sense. Once light, zero drop trainers started hitting the market, I jumped on those and never looked back.
But now I’m old. A few years ago, while running some mountain bike trails in Red Wing, MN I did some serious damage to my achilles, and had to take a few months off from running* to let it heal up. I was good for awhile, but the achilles pain would eventually come back, and I found that I could no longer run on consecutive days.
*that’s not to say I didn’t try to go again several times. I’m a moron when it comes to listening to my body. One time, I caught Lymes Disease from a tick, and kept trying to run with that up until the point in which I couldn’t walk anymore.
I decided to pay a visit to the ever knowledgable staff at Movin’ Shoes. They showed me several options that had a thick sole and a slight drop, but were also still very lightweight. Ended up settling on the Saucony Kinvara 9, and my achilles situation improved almost immediately. I later added a Strassburg Sock to my nightly routine, and after two weeks of wearing it to bed I was finally at a point in which I could run every day if I wanted to.
The Kinvaras took some getting used to. It would be awhile before I was hitting 7 minute mile splits. But my feet didn’t hurt as much, and that’s more important. This summer, after the footwear changes, I decided to have a look at my form and efficiency - more and quicker steps, lower vertical oscillation, and getting back to the a forefoot strike. All of a sudden, I was hitting that 7 minute mark easily (including on runs longer than 5 miles, which I probably haven’t done since college), and I could run a 5K on my own at my old race pace without feeling completely drained. I was also stressing muscles and joints differently, and started feeling soreness in new spots. Maybe I’d get used to it, maybe not. I wasn’t about to chance it.
Couple weeks ago I stopped in to Movin’ Shoes again to see what they had to say. Tried on a few models, and ended up with a pair of Brooks Ghost 12s. These felt a lot heavier, had a much bigger heel-toe drop, and the sole looked to have a lot more traction. None of these are things I would normally seek out in a road running shoe, but DAMN were they comfortable.
First run was a simple 5k loop on gravel trail. I put together a decent time, even had a somewhat surprising Strava segment PR, but felt like it took a bit more out of me than normal. I’m sure that, on the same day, I would have been faster overall in the Kinvaras. Now that I’ve had the shoes for a couple weeks, I’ve been able to a feel for them.
The first thing I notice is that, as I suspected from the very first run, they’re not as fast. They can be fast, but in most cases I’m probably going to be faster in a lighter shoe. My cadence is clearly down, usually about 3-5 steps per minute from my normal average. Whether that’s due to the weight, drop, or traction I’m not sure, but it’s definitely harder to keep my feet moving quickly. But the second thing I notice is the comfort. I can already feel my calves, shins and other sore parts recovering, despite a heavier training schedule. As I get older, I know this is going to be more and more important - I can’t go balls to the wall every day. At the very least, I’m finding that a specialized recovery shoe will do me a lot of good. It’s also surprisingly quick on hills and trails, which I’d attribute to the stubby sole.
I probably wouldn’t run a road race in these. It would make an excellent only shoe for a casual runner who isn’t too concerned about times, or a nice, low impact easy day shoe for someone with a full closet. These will be my go-to for long runs, and any easy or recovery days I may need.
- Extremely comfortable, can rack up a lot of miles without killing your body
- Climbed hills quickly and comfortably
- Well suited for forefoot, midfoot and heel striking
- Outsole competent for light trail duty
- Not a particularly fast shoe
- Gets a little sweaty
How I Will Use It
- Easy days
- Long runs following a harder effort
- Any time my feet feel beat up