Why Would You Transition into a Barefoot Minimus Shoe?

Minimus or ‘barefoot’  footwear has appeared on the market in the last few years, and never before has the footwear industry seen such a radical game changer. We have witnessed many footwear trends come and go (I’m looking at you, toning shoes) but we, at New Balance Calgary,  truly believe that the barefoot movement is here to stay.  So why would you want to transition into a Minimus shoe?  Well, we need a little history lesson in footwear design to understand how the Minimus shoes came into existence.

Historically, footwear designers have tended to pad, cushion, build-up, protect and the highest priority was always to  minimize any motion.  Don’t let that foot roll in !  It will get injured if it does!  Ten years ago, we  had people practically running in 2′ x 4’s. The pendulum had swung very, very far in the direction of motion control.

We know that the incidence of running injuries has not decreased over the time that running shoes have existed  All our cushioning materials and motion control gadgets haven’t changed a thing, when it comes to pesky over-use injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and iliotibial band friction syndrome.  So, recently the pendulum has started to swing away from motion control shoes towards less controlling shoes.

Influenced by the Christopher McDougall’s book, ‘Born to Run’, the footwear designers have created a new category of shoe called barefoot or in NB jargon ‘Minimus’.  The Minimus have minimal cushion and support.  Minimal support?  Yes, the exact opposite to what we expect from a shoe.  The theory is that when running, we should allow our foot to move freely and not be influenced or hampered by the shoe in any way.  So far, we do not have any research to say this style of footwear will decrease running injuries but that is not deterring the masses from trying the more modest form of running shoe.

In a perfect world, the true barefoot enthusiasts would have us all running literally, barefoot.  But there are inherent and obvious problems with that.  Often it is just too cold to run barefoot and there  are safety issues as well.   We do not need to be stepping on glass or other nasty things on our runs.   That is where the ‘barefoot’ shoe comes into the picture.  It is basicaly a foot covering.  It has a thin outsole, a very minimal midsole (if at all) and a soft upper.  It simply protects our foot from the environment but does nothing to change the foot and leg biomechanics.

Besides having virtually no cushion or support, the biggest difference between Minimus and traditional runners is the ‘drop’.  The drop is the height difference between the rearfoot and forefoot.  In traditional shoes it has been 12mm -meaning your heel sits 12mm higher than your forefoot – and in Minimus it is 4mm or 0mm.  A significant change.

The effect of lowering of the heel causes you to run differently.  You can no longer take long loping strides and rely on a large cushioning crash pad for impact absorption.  It’s been stripped away so you are forced to land on the midfoot, shorten your stride length and in order to run at the same speed you need to increase your cadence.  Midfoot strike, shorter stride length and higher cadence – that significantly changes the way that you run and people are reporting reduced injuries because of this all though the scientific jury is still out whether it is significant or not.

The Good Form Running graphic explains the difference wellGood Form Running Guide.

Good Form Running Guide.

Now we have two camps:  the old school traditional design and the new Minimus design.  Here are the reasons why you would transition from traditional to barefoot:

1.  Less is more resonates with you .  You just like the idea of running with less and want to run how your body was designed.   Or you have  read ‘Born to Run’ and want to try this minimalistic approach.

2. Chronic running injuries – this is a confusing one.  It doesn’t make logical sense (to my pedorthic trained brain, anyway)  to switch to a minimal shoe when injured.  But you may want to try it if nothing else is working.  Anecdotally, there are many people who have run chronically injured for years (or have quit running because of injuries) and when they switch to minimal footwear, the injuries are reduced or disappear.  In theory, the shorter stride length has changed their mechanics significantly enough to prevent injury.

As a runner, you need to choose your camp.  One is not better than the other.  One is not bad, the other good.  It’s up to you to choose which camp you want to play in.  You may have success in both camps or you may have success in only one.  That will take a little experimentation to decide what works best for you.

If you do choose to transition, remember you cannot don a pair of Minimus and immediately run a  10K.  You need to transition into them.  Do a few Ks and work your way up until they feel ok.  Get used to the shorter stride.  Count your cadence; 180 steps per minute is ideal.  All this is laid out at www.goodformrunning.com

If you are interested, New Balance Calgary is going to hold a ‘try them’ workshop on May 18, 2013 at 2pm.  The New Balance tech rep wil be there with a men’s and lady’s size run of R10V2.  He will also lead a group run so you can actually try them before purchasing.  More information will be on our Facebook page.

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New Balance R10V2: Minimus Gets a Makeover.

wr10 - 3

WR10V2

Reclaim that barefoot feel this summer with the new and improved Minimus Road 10v2.

New Balance rocked the minimal footwear world with the release of the first Minimus series in Spring 2011, and two years of feedback has resulted in the massively redesigned Road 10v2. Borrowing features from the incredibly successful Minimus Road Zero as well as debuting a novel outsole design, the 10v2 allows runners to enjoy the minimalist feel while maintaining a small amount of cushioning.

mr10 - 1

MR10V2

The technical specs of the shoe haven’t changed in this update; a wide toe box, 4mm drop, and low total stack height are all a carryover from the previous generation. What has changed is a brand new upper and an overhauled midsole and outsole.

First thing runners are going to notice when lacing up the shoe is the introduction of the “burrito” tongue design that was previously only found in the Minimus Road Zero. By attaching the eyelets directly to the tongue on the medial side of the shoe, it provides for a snugger, slipper-like feel that reduces interior stitching and makes for an incredibly comfortable feeling when worn barefoot. A new, more open mesh and reduced ankle height save weight, and allow some feet to fit into the 10v2 that previously may have been unable to.

A more comfortable upper means nothing in a minimal shoe if it lacks responsiveness, but several changes to the midsole and outsole have significantly increased the underfoot feel compared to the last generation. The blown rubber that made up most of the midsole in the v1 has been replaced by a now entirely Revlite midsole, increasing responsiveness and dramatically reducing weight. The hexagonal shapes that made up the outsole in the previous version have been maintained, but now segmented to increase the flexibility tenfold. Additionally, with the 10v2,  all current New Balance Minimus shoes feature a Vibram outsole for unparalleled grip, which is key on slick surfaces.

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New Vibram outsole

With the Road 10v2, New Balance has significantly increased the flexibility, grip, and ground feel of the latest update to the Minimus line, and reducing quite a bit of weight along the way (from 8.2 oz to 6.8 in a men’s size 9.5). If the bulky look of the Road 10v1 didn’t do it for you, and you’re not quite ready to go as minimal as the Road Zero, come in today to get as excited about the Road 10v2 as we are.

Available at New Balance Calgary in Men’s D and Women’s B widths.

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Top Tips to Prevent Heel Slipping

‘I love the shoe but my heel slips.”  Oh, those dreaded words.

Here are the top tips to try the next time your heel is slipping

Initially, a brand new shoe is stiff and the outsole doesn’t flex with your foot.  Once you break it in – usually a few days – the flex point of the shoe starts to bend or break every time you take a step.  Once that shoe flexes with your foot, then heel slipping will decrease.  So if there is a ‘tiny’ bit of slipping initially, that will probably disappear with a few days of wear.  If it doesn’t then check out the tips below.

COMMON MISTAKES:

  1. Going to a shorter size.  Shorter shoe may reduce heel slipping but the downside is that it will jam your toe joints and compress the forefoot. This approach solves one problem but causes others and is never the answer.
  2. Tightening the shoelaces.  Tightening laces pulls the upper tight around the foot and may help a tiny bit with slipping but it will, again, sacrifice the fit of the rest of the shoe and cause compression of the forefoot.

WHAT REALLY WORKS:

1.  Lace locking – there are two excellent methods of lacing that will significantly reduce heel slipping.  The rabbit hole method is probably the most widely used and because of this, shoes will often come with an extra hole along the collar of the shoe just to make this method more effective.

Step 1

Rabbig hole- Step 1

Step 2

Rabbit Hole – Step 2

Step 3

Rabbit Hole – Step 3

Rabbit Hole Method

Step 1 – Pull laces out of top hole and lace into the same side hole as shown, leaving two loops

Step 2 – Take ends and put through opposite loop

Step 3 – Tighten and tie bow as usual

Hiking Boot Method

This technique,  borrowed from the hiking boot industry, works so well on hiking boots that we now use it for running shoes and well, all shoes!

Step 1 – Pull laces out of top hole and cross once

Step 2 – Cross laces again so they are looped or twisted around each other

Step 3 & 4 – Lace back into top hole.

When you tighten this, hold one lace firmly and pull hard with the other lace.  This easily pulls the collar of the shoe snugly around the ankle.

The advantage of this method is that once this looping of laces is done, you don’t have to do it every time you tie your shoes.  Another advantage is that it tightens only around the ankle.  You can leave the rest of the laces as loose as you want and your heel will not slip.

2.  Tongue Pads  Another option it to adhere tongue pads to the underside of the tongue.  These are usually felt and and are ‘peel and stick’.  The purpose of this pad is to force the foot back into the heel counter of the shoe.  This prevents the foot from shifting and the heel securely in the heel counter.

3.  Forefoot Cheaters.  Forefoot cheaters are thin, soft foam  pads that are placed into the front of the shoe underneath the insole.  It works the same was as the tongue pad by trying to fill up some volume of the shoe which prevents the heel from slipping.

4.  Acceptance.
For some, they simply need to accept that their heel is going to slip.  There are some feet where no matter what fancy lacing or padding you try, it just doesn’t work.  It’s important to remember that there is nothing negative about heel slipping – other than slightly annoying.  There are so many important factors in shoe fitting and heel slipping is simply one of them.  Slight heel slipping does not affect the performance of the shoe and the worst thing to do is to sacrifice the entire fit of the shoe just to prevent heel slipping.

There you go!  Next shoe shopping trip, try these techniques so you will not be that customer complaining about heel slipping.

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Trail 1210 – Product Review

For the last few years, New Balance’s trail running shoe line has been represented by the more minimalist-type runners: the 101 and its Minimus successors, the 10 and 110. All of these models have enjoyed great success, but few options existed for those looking to take to the trails with more substantial cushioning.

Enter the New Balance Trail 1210. Taking the Revlite cushioning compound that made the 890s  incredibly successful, and combining it for the first time ever with the N2 cushioning found in the new 1080s has given the 1210 a level of cushioning that exceeds both. The final product weighs in at a trim 10.3 oz and a drop of only 8mm, meaning responsiveness isn’t compromised despite extreme cushioning. Additionally, New Balance has included a small medial posting to allow those who slightly overpronate to wear this shoe, but still makes for a comfortable ride for those with a neutral gait.

m1210 -m1210 - 2

To compliment the new midsole combination, New Balance has packed this shoe with features to allow it to succeed on the trails. A Vibram outsole supplies unrivaled grip on all terrain types, and the more rigid Toe Protect gives you the confidence to tackle them. Our new dual-stitched laces and the gusseted tongue make for a snug fit and keep debris out of the shoe should you find yourself on some scree-lain trails.

M1210 - 3

Keen-eyed consumers will also notice that New Balance has added a badge to the tongue of the 1210 bearing the logo of the iconic Leadville 100 Race Series. The flagship race in the series is the Leadville 100 mile ultramarathon, which has long been a proving grounds for trail shoes from many different brands. The race takes place just outside the town of Leadville, Colorado, dead centre in the Rockies and the highest incorporated town in the United States. Team New Balance athlete Anton Krupicka has won the event twice, and it was featured quite prominently in Christopher McDougall’s landmark book Born to Run.

w1210 tongue

w1210-3

Technical trail running is no longer concentrated in the domain of the minimal. Hit the trails this summer in New Balance’s most cushioned trail shoe yet, the M/WT1210. Available at New Balance Calgary in Men’s D width and Women’s B width.

 

For more information about New Balance Calgary, visit our website here.

Or sign up for our newsletter at this link: http://stores.newbalance.com/calgary/subscriptions.aspx

The free newsletter comes to you monthly and each version will contain tips, tricks and how-to’s for fitting running shoes, how to switch to barefoot running, and many other insider footwear info.  The information found in these newsletters cannot be found on the blog, although they may be a more detailed explanation of something that we’ve discussed on the blog before.

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The High Stakes of High Heels – Part 1

Have you ever said ” I just love pants”? Probably not. But I bet (if you are female) you have said “I just love shoes”.  For females, there is some emotional connection with their shoes.  I believe there is something more artistic about a beautifully crafted shoe than a pair of pants,  (my apologies to the pant designers out there) and this beauty, this “I can’t stop looking at my shoes” feeling causes us to fall in LOVE with shoes.  However, this  love-in with shoes often over-rides plain, old common sense.

Pants are pants

Pants are just pants

Somehow, somewhere,  society  decided that women look more attractive with heels on.  And we’ve all bought into it.  We believe that we feel more feminine, more beautiful  and maybe a bit more powerful if we are in a heel.  On the flip side, some would argue that we are more susceptible, trying to attract male attention, and doing our gender a disservice.  We could debate  the social implications of wearing a high heel but instead, I’m going to tackle this issue with pure unadulterated physics.

Most of us think that a basic black pump is a must have in the closet.

basic black pump

basic black pump

But who realized this is what is happening inside that innocent black pump?

foot x-rayed in pump

foot x-rayed in pump

This peek inside makes us gasp.  How does something so sexy and beautiful look so horrifying when you look through the shoe to the actual bone and joint positions?  Let me point out obvious problems.

1.  Our forefoot and heel should each weight-bear 50% of our weight.  The forefoot should not bear 90% as it does in a heel.  This results in pain under the balls of the feet.  They are not designed to bear this kind of load.

2.  Our foot  joints are designed to shock absorb each step we take.  But that requires a heel strike to heel occur and followed by the foot rolling in to absorb shock.   Not happening here.  This position completely changes the way our lower limb functions while walking.  It physically cannot do the job it’s meant to.

3.  Our toes are meant to spread and be free.  Not crammed into a little triangular box.   The pointy, tapered toe boxes of heels do not match our square shaped toes.   Toes that spend significant time in the triangular box will eventually  curl under, hammer or claw.  Corns will form over places of friction (such as the baby toe) and the big toe will start to angle inwards.

Natural toe shape

No toe deformities

Note the curling in of the outer toes and the angling in of the big toe

Note the curling in of the outer toes and the angling in of the big toe

4.  The groovy ankle position causes higher postural changes.  Look at the picture below.  In Position A we are perfectly aligned (aka comfortable and no pain) and Position C shows the curve in the back and the bend in the knees that must occur for us to stand upright while wearing a heel.  Anyone experience back pain when wearing heels? Our body must compensate to get our head upright and level and those compensations will result in pain at some point in our lives.

Body position compensations with heel.

Body position compensations with heel.

I understand that we can’t all be Ellen Dengeneres.  Ellen wears lace up oxfords with everything (this is the reason Ellen dances and Katie Couric doesn’t on their respective shows).

Ellen  - Dancing not Sitting

Ellen – Dancing not Sitting

Sitting, not dancing

Katie  – Sitting, not dancing

I think there is a place between Ellen Dengeneres and Katie Couric.  The place where regular people are.  Those that don’t appear on camera and then whip their shoes off, never taking more than 5 steps in them and those who don’t have millions of followers on Twitter and can wear whatever they like.

Stay tuned for the next blog post where we will focus on what features to look for when purchasing heels.  These tips won’t make you one hundred percent comfortable but they will get you more than 5 steps.

 

Sign up for our newsletter at this link: http://stores.newbalance.com/calgary/subscriptions.aspx

The free newsletter comes to you monthly and each version will contain tips, tricks and how-to’s for fitting running shoes, how to switch to barefoot running, and many other insider footwear info.  The information found in these newsletters cannot be found on the blog, although they may be a more detailed explanation of something that we’ve discussed on the blog before.

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Mindful Shoe Fitting

minfulness
Everyone is looking for a perfectly fit shoe but since there are infinite number of feet and finite number of shoes, some people are going to be disappointed.  That is where the trained shoe fitter’s skill set comes into play.  Yesterday’s post highlighted the mechanics of shoe fitting but what it failed to communicate is the art, the finesse, the ‘je ne sais quoi’ about shoe fitting.

According to the Oxford art is defined as “a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.”  After many, many, many shoe fittings there is an inner knowing of when a shoe fits.  The process is not mechanical or robotic.  It does not mean if you measure a size 8B you hand over an 8B to the client and done – no need for the fitting stool –  transaction complete.  If this were the case, then internet shoe shopping wouldn’t have as many returns as it does.

However, this is what a lot of clients expect. “Grab me a size 10 in this shoe, will ya?”.  Our response, is a kind and gentle ‘no’.   Or the client, want to try a certain shoe because of colour.  “I love this pink, can I try it on in a 7?”  Again, a gentle but firm ‘no’. 

We need to lead our clients through a process of discovery.  We have a three dimensional object in front of us that is the base of our client’s body.  It is what they balance on, it is what propels them through space, it is the contact point between them and the ground.  This object has nerves, blood vessels, bones and muscles.  It is sensitive to compression and the position it is held in.   It sometimes has a disintegrating joint or an open wound.

And it is our job to find a covering for this object; a covering that protects and secures.  Yet the covering has to be the right shape in length, width and height.  It must not have a stitch in the wrong place.  It must be of appropriate density to support the object.  It must not let the object collapse too much or too little.  It must fit with the object’s type of activities.  This is what is running through any good shoe fitter’s mind.

Most often just by looking at the foot – the depth, width, toe positions, ankle position – you have a good sense which shoe would work.  You try the shoe you feel will be the best and get a sense of how it fits and if it’s not right, you use your knowledge of the inventory to select another one.  This process can be 1-2 shoes or it can be 15.  It’s not important.

If the fit is not perfect out of the box, then the real art begins.  How can we improve the fit by various lacing techniques, forefoot cheaters, sticky pads, or changing insoles.  This is a creative and sometimes inventive process.

Shoes, more than any other apparel item,  are a rare combination of fashion and function.  We all want them to look great but they also have to serve an incredible important purpose. They need to protect and support our feet and do us no harm (harmful shoes will be the next post).

As we enter into 2013, a new age of consciousness, I will impress upon my staff at New Balance Calgary to apply these mindful shoe fitting principles and invite all of you to visit and experience them.

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The Lost Art of Shoe Fitting

Shoe fitting has fallen upon hard times.  Retail staff (when you can find them) are not trained properly and few understand the importance of getting a good fit.  There is a lot of ‘how does that feel?”  instead of hands-on shoe fitting.  Many clients are used to the big box style of shopping where they quickly grab their shoe size from a pile of boxes, try one on and buy it.  Ultimately, this rarely works.  There is so much variation in fit of shoes that a size 10 is not always a size 10.  A second set of eyes and a knowledgeable pair of hands is needed to find you the right shoe.  Shoes are our foundation, our base of support and the fit is crucial for our comfort and performance.   I want to see us ressurect the lost art of shoe fitting.

Measure the foot - Brannock measuring devices are relics from the past and are rarely seen in shoe stores any more.  But they are a valuable fitting tool.  The Brannock measurement gives a starting point for the shoe fitter.  The fitter should know their inventory and how their shoes fit relative to the Brannock measurements.  Both feet must be measured and so this process also tells you if your feet are equal length.

brannock deviceWatch the client move - To select the correct shoe, the movements of the foot, ankle and leg must be observed.  The fitter must identify any unwanted or excessive movements.  Generally, the fitter will classify your foot into a neutral (average gait), rigid (very little movement in the foot and ankle) or hypermobile (too much movement and the foot and ankle collapse inward).

Select the Shoe - Athletic shoes are built differently for the various foot and ankle movements described above. Some offer pure cushioning for the neutral and rigid foot types and some offer some support for the hypermobile foot.   Based on the foot movements observed, the shoe model can now be selected.

Fitting - Once the shoe is on the foot, we need to make sure it actually fits.  This is where the art comes in.  First, when you are standing the fitter should check the length.  The longest toe should not be pushing against the end but should be back about 1/4 – 1/2″ off the end of the shoe.  Beyond linear length, we must also make sure the volume of the shoe matches the volume of the foot.  Volume means length, width and girth – that is 3 dimensions.  This is the step most often ignored.  We need to look beyond just the linear length and see that the volume fits.

Shopping for shoes is a personal and involved process.  I personally don’t believe it is something that can be ordered from the internet.  We need to take the time to understand the client’s needs, measure the foot, select the shoe and then FIT the shoe.  Let’s resurrect the lost art of shoe fitting.

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