I was out running one morning about two years ago. It was a rare morning where I didn’t have music pumping in my ears. As I was approaching a turn, I began to hear an odd rhythm. It almost sounded like duck feet smacking the ground. As I got closer, I saw another runner coming towards me. The sound was coming from her shoes. She was wearing what looked like gloves on her feet as she trekked along. This was the first time I’d ever seen anyone run in the Vibram Fivefinger shoes. Flash forward two years and these shoes and the minimalist movement have grown tremendously popular. However, as with most popular things, it’s not all necessarily a good thing. There’s quite a bit of controversy over these shoes and the proper role they play in the sport of running.
There’s lots of debate over the safety of minimalist running and barefoot running. There are also a lot of grey areas in the subject. While some shoes are minimal in the support they offer, they are not equivalent to a barefoot or even a Vibram. However, all members of the pro party tend to support the general theory that the stronger the foot, the better the runner will run.
Vibrams (pronounced “VEE-Brims”) claim that they allow the runner to land on their forefoot which results in optimum balance, improved stability, lighter impact, and increased propulsion. The Vibrams also claim to help correct form problems along with strengthening and stimulating muscles in the feet and lower legs.
So with such positive claims what’s the objection to this product? First Gear running shoe store owner, Gary Gregory, sees the Vibrams as a form of barefoot running and explained why he will not carry the product.
“Barefoot running is too radical of an idea from the norm, it’s too big of a departure and too big of a change for people who have been running in shoes for years.”
Usually when people pick out a pair of shoes, they go for two things: the right size and a look that they like. While this may work for a sexy pair of heels or some casual sneaks to wear with jeans, when it comes to fitness shoes, they aren’t a fashion statement: they are a piece of fitness equipment.
Just like when you invest in equipment for your home gym, everyone’s needs are different. Someone who works out in a gym is going to need different shoes than someone who prefers to run trails in the sunshine, or someone who prefers a game of pick up basketball is going to have different needs than someone who taking a Zumba class.
There are a lot of different kinds of shoes you can choose to workout in, but choosing the right type can mean the difference between a comfortable, effective workout, or pain and overuse injuries.
This guest post comes from Paige Corley, a Program Director at the Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge.
The question of replacing your exercise shoes is a toughie and varies depending on which activity you are doing, how often and at what intensity. Honestly, I don’t have an exact answer for you, but here are some things to consider when deciding if your shoes are in need of replacing:
January is the prime time for fitness fads as people resolve to get in better shape and lose weight for the year ahead. The latest fad for runners? Barefoot running, a fitness style that lets your body adapt to your natural gait instead of conforming to your running shoes.
Barefoot running shoes have been gaining popularity in recent months, as they are designed to re-create a the natural sensation of running “barefoot” on man-made surfaces like concrete and asphalt.
Robert A. Kornfeld, Founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine, wrote for the Huffington Post that barefoot running shoe manufacturers believe that “the human foot, unimpeded by synthetic surfaces and restrictive running shoes, should function at its best.”
Ahnu is a company that’s committed to more than making great products, they’re also dedicated to positioning themselves to serving a greater good. Not only does the company support organizations like The Conservation Alliance and the Breast Cancer Fund, they also adhere to rigorous ethical manufacturing standards. These shoes are sweat-shop free, but how will I feel sweating it out on the street?
The Shasta by Ahnu is designed for cross-terrain running, meaning both road running and trail running, which sounds perfect for braving the wilds of the Willimasburg waterfront. The box tells me that the shoe’s “Neutral Positioning System” promises to keep the the foot “balanced in the center of the shoe to encourage biomechanics efficiency on varied terrain.”
For this review, I can’t follow my typical three-run template, because the Ahnu Shastas took a little longer to break in than the other shoes I reviewed. However, the pay-off was well worth the extra work. The Shastas have fairly stiff soles, which translated into serious arch support. The upper part of the shoe breathes nicely, keeping my feet from feeling sweaty.