This is in response to Jessie’s comment here about experiences with minimalist shoes.
It started with the Asics.
When I tried them on, the gel insole felt very cushioning and comfortable, like they could withstand a lot of impact. I purchased them from the shoe section of a fashion-oriented department store without taking them on a — no pun intended — test run. That is, I did walk in them for several paces in two directions, but I did not run in them before purchase.
Not my brightest moment but rather the sort of thing I do when I don’t know better.
I had my Asics already broken in when I started the Couch-to-5K with them. So when I started feeling cramps in my feet, I thought it couldn’t be the shoes; it must be me — and maybe it was. Later, when I was running more and more comfortable with running, I started getting shin splints and side calf pain. Again, I blamed myself and my stride rather than my shoes. It took until I was shoe shopping again — that is, when I’d worn out the treads of my Asics in places — to realize that maybe my shoes were impacting my stride.
See, for awhile, I’d known I have high arches. What I didn’t realize is that higher versus lower arches sometimes correlate with a thing called pronation: how the foot and ankle roll when striking the ground during running. There is variation, but people with lower arches tend toward overpronation, striking the ground more toward the inside of the foot, possibly with the ankle rolling inward. People with higher arches tend toward underpronation, striking the ground more toward the outside edge of the foot, possibly with the ankle rolling outward.
When I discovered this was a Thing, I tried two things of my own: First, I tried out my stride while barefoot to determine that I did in fact have some underpronation going on. Next, I discovered that when I ran in my Asics — which, by the way, were designed for mild to moderate overpronators — I still underpronated, but it was a lot more difficult — in no small part, I assume, due to the fact that I was actively working against the construction of the shoe.
Praise Flying Spaghetti Monster for the Internet, I was able to discover that most traditional running shoes are built for overpronators from the comfort of my own home. (Holy string of prepositional phrases, Batman!) I also learned that there was this category of footwear known as minimalist running shoes that spanned a range from near-traditional-looking to those-freaky-toe-shoes — but that that purported to allow for a more natural range of foot motion. Given that my experiment — with, you know, a sample size of one — had suggested traditional running shoes were impeding my comfort and my stride, I decided that trying out this minimalist thing couldn’t hurt.
I would not, of course, go overboard or anything.