What shoes do I wear? I’ve been asked this so many times that I thought it would be helpful to finally publish some advice.
The short answer is that I wear a lot of shoes. I definitely believe in the minimalist approach to running. It just makes sense to train to run with good form, reduce impact, and learn to feel and adjust to the trail. But I also believe that shoes are extremely useful but should be selected based on comfort, protection, and function for the conditions you plan to run. I currently have 7 different shoes that I pick and choose from depending on what I plan to run or what mood I’m in. So I don’t think the new minimalist trend is going to put Runners Roost out of business any time soon.
Generally, the key features that I look for are:
- Fit: I like a snug fit around the heel with a lacing system that locks the arch and heel back. But I like to have plenty of room in the toe box to allow for some swelling on long runs and to prevent my toenails from getting ripped off on hard downhills.
- Flex: The forefoot should have a good amount of flexibility from heel to toe and side to side. Stability and pronation control are useless on uneven surfaces. Flexibility is critical to allow you to plant your feet exactly where you need to and then balance and adjust to the terrain. If I can’t bend or twist a shoe by hand, I won’t even try it on.
- Traction and protection: Big tread lugs are great for soft, sloppy stuff. A less aggressive pattern with sticky rubber and more surface area is better for rocks and ice. The forefoot area should have some cushion and rock protection. I think minimalist shoes are great but you can’t run full speed down a pile of rocks without something protecting your feet.
- Breathability and weight: Provided the shoe offers the right fit, traction, and protection, lighter is always better. Lighter shoes are easier to run in, are more comfortable in hot weather, and drain and dry quicker in wet conditions. Some of the new ultra lightweight trail racing shoes are pretty sweet at 6-8 ounces. But anything around 10-12 ounces seems fairly comfortable to me. If I was really that worried about a few ounces, I could probably leave my camera at home or just quit drinking beer and lose another 5lbs.
Unfortunately I still haven’t found the perfect shoe. But here are a few that I’ve used most often.