Pure Project

To be a successful triathlete you have to be a really strong runner and achieving that ability is the single most challenging part of this pursuit for me. I know where I am at as a swimmer and cyclist but being able to run sub thirty-two in the 10k and/or under 1:18 in the half marathon at times seems an unachievable feet...I mean feat. As with any challenge I try to explore all of the possible avenues for progress and one of the big topics of discussion in the running world right now is the concept of barefoot running or minimalist running. This concept appeals greatly to me because it is based on the principal that our body is designed to run efficiently and running shoes or lack there of should accommodate that natural tendency rather than guide or adjust one's foot and hence their cadence.

When I started running again a couple of years ago I tried on a lot of shoes to find something that was comfortable. I have had a good number of ankle injuries over the years and problems with instability in my arches and I wanted to err on the side of caution when choosing shoes to run in. I setled on the Brooks Adrenaline series and put fairly hefty/supportive insoles in them to give my arches enough support. This is a fairly hefty shoe for someone with my frame and they have been a great training companion for the past several years, doing the job of keeping my feet healthy as I have been building up my running tolerance.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS11

I was naturally extremely excited when Brooks Agreed to sponsor me in 2011 as part of their ID program, only partly because their shoes and apparel are all I buy in the first place, but also to be associated with such an influential company in the running community is a great honor for an aspiring athlete. One of Brooks' big projects in the last year has been developing the Pure Project line of shoes which geared toward finding the barefoot feel with a running shoe. While this line does not go as far as some of the shoe/sock options or running sandals in terms of minimalism they created some features to minimize the shoe influence and give the runner the 'feel' of the road. A few weeks back I got a surprise pair of Pure Connects in the mail and I was so stoked to be able to give them a shot.

Brooks Pure Connect
With the more minimalist shoes it is suggested that you allow yourself time to adapt to the new foot motion and support points so I have been taking them out on my short and easy runs to get my legs and feet used to them. My initial impression was that I really did feel like I was barefoot...with the breathability of the shoe and the sole structure I really felt all the curves of the road through my feet. It felt like there was light padding on the bottom of my foot but only enough to protect from the harshness of the ground and not so much that I could not feel directly connected. The feeling of freedom inspired an impromptu trail exploration adventure.

The other thing that I noticed right away was that the vast difference in heal padding as compared to my usual shoe immediately encouraged my foot into a balance point much closer to the ball of my foot than I was used to. This is one of the main points of barefoot running as I understand it, that our feet and legs are designed for a strike near the ball of the foot. 

I have begun doing more runs in the Pure Connects and have been running without my supportive insoles in my Adrenalines more to hopefully shift towards running in lighter shoes and with a lighter gate. I have definitely noticed strain and soreness/tightness in new places in my calves and hips as I am making this adjustment but I am paying close attention to those areas and retaining the very supportive shoes as I feel is necessary. I am also planning on stepping down my regular training shoe to a lighter model, the Ravena 2, with the intention of eventually moving all of my shoes in the minimalist direction.

There are a number of stretches and drills that I am doing to improve my running gate, to smooth and lengthen it out and to make it more efficient. Along with that there are massage and strength training techniques I have adopted to prevent injury especially as I am making significant technique changes. This recent exploration into running technique has been part of my new found love for running as a sport. It has taken me a couple of years of regular training but running has become an enjoyable endeavor and I actually get excited for the adventures and training chalenges that are out there.

1 comment:

  1. great write-up eric! i've been running 3x week in a minimalist Nike shoe and I love it. there's a really cool trail here in Los Gatos that stretches for miles. my runs are 5 miles and i'm averaging around 35 minutes. i'm running a half-marathon the first week of November and my goal is 1:31, which happens to be my birthday! i figure i'll need to run just under 7 minute miles to achieve that time. 1:18 is stoopid fast @ less than 6 minutes a mile. good luck man!