serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Archive for February, 2011

Hoka One One’s new Combo XT and Bondi B trail running shoes

Friday, February 18th, 2011

hoka-bondi-b-1-trail-running-shoesThe Hoka One One movement is still rolling down the hill.  These trail running shoes are the antithesis of minimalist trail running shoes, they’re the antimalist (I just trademarked that term).  Hoka One One was invented by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean Luc Diard of France, who had previously worked at Salomon, so they do know something about running shoes.  From an adventure race in Sicily was born a love for running over mountains and on trails.  Nicolas and Jean wanted a trail running shoe that allowed them to fly downhills even if they were heel striking, again, the antithesis of minimalist trail running.

The Hoka One One soles are 2.5 times larger than traditional trail running shoes which makes them look a bit like Jimmy’s strength shoes from Seinfeld.  Hoka claims the foam gives a 30% softer ride (how do you measure and quantify softness of a ride?) and is able to dissipate 80% of the impact of a heel strike.  Even though the shoes look bulky, they are relatively light, 15% lighter than traditional trail running shoes.

With the success of their initial release Hoka One One has set two new versions of trail runners to be released in February: the Combo XT and the Bondi B.  The Combo XT is a hybrid running shoe intended for roads and on trails.  Hoka One One says they developed the Combo XT because they have been seeing a rise in runners who want a shoe that is adaptable for both surfaces.  The Bondi B is named after the beach in Sydney, Australia, which also happens to be the place I saw real life boobs for the first time, just thought I’d share that.  The Bondi B has a reduced level of cushioning by about 10%.  It has an oversized outsole to improve responsiveness on hard surfaces and is lighter for road running.  The rocker sole seems more pronounced in the Bondi B than previous Hoka One One trail runners; however, the lugs are less pronounced which gives it more of a road running feel.

The Hoka One One shoes have a 13 cm rocking profile at the toe which provides a spring in your step when running on flat or uphill terrain.  The low ramps angle also allow for tremendous confidence running downhill, engaging the gluteus and lower back, as opposed to isolating the quads like traditional downhill trail running.  The bottom of the shoe has 50% more surface area so you run straight over rocks and roots without feeling anything or changing your stride.  Like a mountain bike barreling down a hill, rolling over every obstacle in its path rather than avoiding them.  The Hoka One One was invented so trail runners could run fast over any surface and any terrain.

Check out the newest improvements in the evolution of the Hoka One One trail running shoes and let us know what you think.  Could this be another new movement in running shoes in the opposite direction of minimalist?

Does the Military allow Minimalist Running Shoes for PT?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

army-platoonI began my trail running days in the sandhills of Ft. Bragg, NC and have been running off road ever since.  I also began deteriorating my knees by jumping out of airplanes at Ft. Bragg, NC, which has lead me to only running in minimalist shoes today.  Since minimalist running has kept me trail running with less pain I wondered if others in the military, specifically those who are Airborne qualified and have some of the same knee issues as I do, had begun minimalist running.

I know the largest organization in the United States is slow to change, but I found that some soldiers were finding ways around the regulations to wear Vibram Five Fingers and other minimalist running shoes while others were being told flat out that they could not PT (physical training) wearing them.  FM 20-21 states that soldiers must wear white ankle socks with no logos while conducting PT.  The first loophole some soldiers point to is that the FM doesn’t state that soldiers must wear socks, just that if they do, the socks must cover their ankles and have no logo.  Since most commanders will not honor loopholes, some soldiers have been wearing Injinji socks which fit in Vibram FiveFingers to cover their ankles.  Another part of PT regulation states that soldiers may not wear athletic shoes that are “trendy” or “faddish.”  For this reason many base commanders have banned Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist running shoes completely.  I somewhat understand the reasoning because sometimes if you give soldiers an inch they will take a mile; and being in the correct uniform is important for building unit cohesion.  However, making a regulation based on “trendiness” may be constraining soldiers who legitimately need to wear minimalist running shoes to avoid injury.  According to the Army Times, even Lt. Cmdr. John Mahoney, a Navy doctor and physical therapist says, “Vibram FiveFingers are the best thing out there for rehabilitating lower extremity injuries.”

In a typical flip floppy manner, the Army has also banned minimalist running shoes on the PT test because they believe the shoes may be “unfair.”  So if they are deemed unfair then they must help soldiers run better in training, right?!  Then why not let soldiers wear them?  This may be a case in which the military must make a blanket policy to cover the well-being of the whole instead of allowing Commanders make their own SOPs (standard operating procedures).  The same Army Times article quotes Dr. Steven Pribut, a podiatrist and sports medicine expert in Washington, DC, who specializes in working with runners saying, “I’m seeing a lot more injuries from people wearing them.  It’s not a problem with the shoes themselves; it’s mostly a function of people doing too much too soon.”  Military personnel are definitely susceptible to over doing it because they are all taught to push their bodies to the limit and to ignore pain.  It looks like the Army is pulling the trigger and making a blanket ban on Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist shoes in a policy released through today.  The new policy amends the current policy which states that Commanders “may authorize the wear of commercial running shoes,” as it goes on to say, “Commercial running shoes do not include minimalist shoes, lightweight track/road running flats, racing spikes, toe shoes, or shoes that simulate barefoot running.”  This is coming from the same organization that makes it’s soldiers run and walk 10s of miles in combat boots.  Oh well, there you have it, Army personal are now not authorized to wear minimalist running shoes during PT.

I believe because of the rapid growth in popularity of minimalist running the Army is making a rash decision without doing their research.  They even have a Marine study that was done 6 months ago which studied fitting recruits with motion control, stability, or support running shoes would have an effect on injuries.  The study assigned a control group, of 432 Men and 257 Women, with only stability running shoes.  They then formed an experimental group, of 408 Men and 314 Women, who were fitted with the correct running shoe based on plantar shape.  The study said the incidence of injury after the 12 weeks of basic training had no difference between the two groups.  If types of traditional running shoes don’t increase injuries, then why do they believe minimalist running shoes will?  I understand that soldiers are the military’s greatest assets, but banning something that may decrease injuries is absurd.  Maybe the military should start by developing an “Army issued” minimalist running shoe based on their doctors’ recommendations.  This would most likely increase the available fighting force while allowing soldiers to train as their body needs them too.  The Army ruined my knees, the least they can do is try to prevent that from happening to the rest of the Men and Women serving our county.  I guess for now, just like everything else in the military, you simply have to play the game, whether you agree or not.  Thank you all for your continued service.

Merrell’s Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Shoes: Pace Glove, Power Glove, Pure Glove

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Last year I went to Outdoor Retailer and saw Merrell’s new minimalist trail running shoe collection, well “glove” collection.  Each shoe is called a “glove” because they fit, “like a glove.”  The Men’s minimalist trail running shoes in Merrell’s collection are the Trail Glove, True Glove, and Tough Glove.  One of the coolest things the Merrell rep told me was that each pair of minimalist running shoes sold will include instructions on minimalist running techniques.  I know too many people who have tried minimalist running to help with an injury, without changing their running style, and end up injurying themselves more.  Most new minimalist runners don’t know that they need to change their style.  Well, the ones who buy the Merrell shoes womens-merrell-pace-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoewill…

The first women’s minimalist trail running shoe in the Merrell collection is the Pace Glove.  The Merrell representative told me that the Pace Glove is the “medium” of their three shoes in the Women’s collection.  It is made for runners who haven’t yet made the transition to minimalist running and want a shoe that gives them the same feeling without sacrificing protection.  The upper is made with an air mesh.  They have a lacing system called Omni-Fit which is the reason the shoes feel like a glove.  This is also important because the toe box is a bit wider than normal; in order to give your feet the feeling of running barefoot.  The heel cup is same as the lacing system, made of a synthetic leather to keeps your foot tight in the shoes.  There is a fused rubber at the front which is really sturdy and protects well against roots and rocks.  The sole is made from a rubber compound by Vibram for protection as well.

The next shoe in he collection is the Power Glove.  The Power Glove is more of a hiking shoe than a trail running shoe, but womens-merrel-minimalist-trail-running-power-glovecould be used for both, kind of like a road to trail shoe; a hike to trail running shoe.  It’s a little bulkier than the others so if you aren’t sure about minimalist trail running this may be the shoe you want to try first.  The upper is made of soft leather for the tight fit around the ankle.  The lacing is different though, using the Double Merrell Easy Z-Rap Closure System.  These are kind of like the Velco shoes you used to wear as a kid.  They make for a tight fit around your foot and ankle; good for those who have problems rolling their ankles, and allow you to never have to learn how to tie your shoes!

womans-merrells-pure-glove-minimalist-trail-running-shoePure Glove is the lightest in the collection.  They call it “pure” glove because it is the closet to natural, they let your feet go free while giving them the protection and traction your bare feet just don’t have.  It has a lycra mesh in the upper which makes it super light.  It also only has on strap in the front, giving your foot freedom of movement and the feeling of running barefoot.  This shoe is for runner who want to go barefoot running, without going barefoot running.  Trails can be tough!

All of the shoes also have a microfiber footbed treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution.  The Merrell rep told me this was to resist odor but I’m not sure why they put it in the Women’s shoes.  Women’s feet smell like flowers.  I mean, not roses, but lilies at least.