Recently, Cathy and I decided to try and ease into some running. Nothing huge, just a little bit of something different as cross training. I used to run a bunch as did Cathy, but in the past half dozen years I've become incapable of running. Check that, what I mean is that every time I would try and start up running, I would make it a very short distance before developing massive pain in the lower quads. Once I hit that threshold, I'd be crippled for a few days.
This was weird as my legs should be much stronger now than ever before. The reality, I think, has nothing to do with strength. I believe the problem is that I do little beside cycling, which doesn't actually bear any weight or more, require one to absorb impact. XC skiing is no help either, not that I've done any of that this year. The bottom line is that my legs can't handle the constant impact absorption encountered from a run.
The fix is actually really simple, but pretty tedious. You need to start out slow and short and build up very gradually. By short, we are talking before the pain develops. For me starting from scratch, that was about 7 minutes. After 7 minutes of road running my quads started to throb. So there you have it, I needed to start at/below a mile depending on how fast I was running. That is what I did and I've been slowly, really slowly, building up over the past couple of weeks. I'm not running every day, just a few times a week at most. So far, so good.
So since I was just starting out I though hey, what better thing to do than to switch it up. Let's get off the road and hit the trail. And so we did. It has been good save a few issues that Cathy has had. She can ride the heck out of those trails on a MTB and never hit the deck but running for reason seems to be problematic. Two runs in a row she has caught her toe and gone over the bars. It's easy to see how this happens. You are fatigued, running on a trail that is a slightly uphill, nasty, babyhead field. Of course, when you spill you do so onto a bunch of rocks, adding injury to insult. Time to back off, slow done and take it easy. Hard to do though when you are on the other side of the coin.
In keeping with the theme of change we also decided to give the minimalist/bare-foot style running a try. No, not a literal bare-foot run but a run with minimalist shoes, built much like racing flats with very little drip from heel to toe. Cathy was first to try it with some Merrell Gloves and I got some New Balance MT10. Both have 4mm of drop and use Vibram soles with some built in foot-bed protection from sharp rocks and such.
Today was my first run in them as I've been sick for the past week now. I'd been wearing them around to get used to them and have been quite pleased. Very comfortable and I like the wide toe/fore-foot box to promote proper flexing and absorption by the fore-foot. In the woods they felt very comfortable and natural, almost like a slipper and less a shoe.
I'd been running with a Salomon Speedcross which was also somewhat minimal and I noticed very little difference beyond the fact that the soles were a little thinner and as such I could feel trail features significantly more through the MT10. That said, I ran on some crushed rock and it was fine. As always you have to be extremely careful of foot placement and trail features when trail running. You also need to be prepared for ankle roll by running lightly and not planting really hard on one foot, so you can shift weight quickly if you feel it start to roll. Because these shoes have minimal heel width, they are less likely to help stabilize your ankles I would think. That said, your strike should be more fore/mid-foot and less heel, which should be less likely to roll anyhow.
What I did notice was that I must be more of a mid-foot striker as I didn't need to change my gate/stride or plant at all. This is also good in that it should mean I'm already minimizing impact, which I need to do given my knee and back issues. Always nice to be ahead of the game, which literally never seems to happen for me.
In general, I had a very good initial experience. I actually went a little further than I had in previous runs despite the new shoes and in fact, partially because of them. They felt really good. I only has one small bout of knee pain and that was after a steep descent, so no surprise. It also quickly dissipated. The only residual issue is a little quad soreness as I hadn't run in a week and also, I suspect, because I pushed a little further than the last time. No blisters, no irritation and no hot spots. Game on!