Right Run, Wrong Shoes

A running shoe is just like a tool - you need the right one for the job. Today, quite by chance, I ran in a shoe that didn't match the job. Now my feet and ankles are a little sore. But it's not the shoe's fault because I ran on them in conditions for which they weren't designed.

Where I live, it's the mud season. The last of the snow is just melting off my favorite mountain trail which is a few miles from our house. Sometimes when the snow or mud is too deep, I'll run with my wife on the asphalt road in the valley where the trail takes off. There's a parking area. I head up the trail, she runs up the valley on the asphalt.

Today I figured it would be that kind of day because it snowed and rained last night. The trail was bound to be super muddy, so I laced on a pair of Saucony Pro Grids, a good shoe for asphalt because of its cushioning. But when we got to the parking area at the base of the trail, the road up looked not too bad. The warm air and a slight breeze had dried some of the mud. I couldn't resist the call of the trail and headed up.

The first stretch wasn't bad because it climbs and faces slightly south. It had dried pretty well for the first eighth of a mile and some ATVers had packed a couple of ruts, but when I got to the first flat stretch there was mud and the ruts deepened. I tried to run at the edge were the dirt was drier, but in many places the mud was unavoidable.

Two thirds of the way up the trail, the trail becomes more rocky. There was still patches of snow and the Saucony's would slip there, too. I recalled winter runs on my Vasques which are stiff and have big lugs on the soles. Some might consider them clunky, but in snow, which is all I use them for, they are very sure-footed. They grip and hold my foot level, even when on the side on an incline, just like the edge of a ski.

And on the rocks, the Saccony's, slipped, twisting my feet, and I could feel their hard edges of the rocks stabbing into the bottoms of my feet. I had to laugh because the trail was beating the hell out of me.

I thought about some of the shoe ads I just had been reading in Runner's World, just before I went on this run. Ever since the huge success of McDougall's Born to Run, which launched the bare-foot running craze, the shoe manufacturers have been madly engineering a new breed of "minimalist" (their word) shoes. They tout that they are lighter and the heel is closer to the ground so you can "feel" it. I guess this is what they have identified are the key features of the huaraches the great native trail runners in Copper Canyon down in Mexico run on.

Looking at those ads, my Sauconys don't look that much different. The hot new shoes look flashy, but too skimpy for running in the Rocky Mountains. Sometime I'll give a pair a try. A TOJ needs to be open minded. I think within a year or two, there will be lots of clearance sales for these minimalist designs.

Meantime, the run was still awesome. There's nothing like sun, mud, and melting snow. I'll wash up my Sauconys so they are ready to go on the asphalt where they belong.

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