Kevin Paulk Interview

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This topic contains 46 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  GTF 9 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #11043

    GTF
    Member

    http://petemagill.blogspot.com/2009/03/kevin-paulk-on-shoes-suds-and-sprints.html

    Nike's Global Running Specialty Group Director, he shares some good, candid insights on the running shoe industry:

    Younger Legs: Okay, to get the ball rolling, why don't you just explain what you currently do with Nike.
    Kevin Paulk: I've been around the running shoe business for 25 years now, since I graduated from college and worked in a running specialty store. Now I take care of those stores. The running specialty stores are the ones that sell to the local runners. And if the running brands – like Nike – pay attention to them, then they've got no problem succeeding.

    I was responsible for the Bowerman line – 8 shoes – and those are the shoes that turned things back around for us. The Bowerman series is what made our shoes start showing up on the feet of runners again. And what made that possible was developing relationships with the running specialty stores. They're the real shoe cobblers in this industry.

    YL: The shoe cobblers?
    KP: Sure. Look, who do you go to when you want advice about running shoes – or about running itself? Our running role models are the runners who live in our neighborhoods or work in running shops. They're the ones who you can approach for advice about running.

    Marketing asks all the time: Who are our athletes we can put in this television ad? And I'll tell them, “Our athletes are our friends and neighbors who run – and who will answer our questions with advice.” Because let's be honest, this is a “word of foot” business.

    So the bottom line is to pay attention to the running specialty stores – the Runners Highs [for whom a certain Younger Legs blogger used to run], the Snail's Paces, the Fleet Feets, all the specialty stores. And listen to what they need.

    YL: And what do they need?
    KP: They sell fit. If the shoe doesn't fit the customer on first impression, right then and there on the shop floor, then you've got nothing. So what's important is “fit.” Unless it's actually great fit!

    For awhile, our fit sucked. We lost our way. Got too big for our britches. And we forgot what created Nike in the first place – the little running shops.

    YL: You mean back in the beginning, when Bill Bowerman was making shoes with his waffle iron …
    KP: Bill Bowerman is probably the reason that most of us run. Way before he co-founded Nike, he brought this thing call “jogging” to the Western World. When he met Arthur Lydiard [legendary New Zealand coach] and learned about this thing called “jogging,” he thought, Hey, I can teach everyone how to do this – and I can create 4 minute milers with it too! He saw way ahead of his time that this running thing was going to be important some day. When you think about it, it's amazing. These days, anybody can get off his couch, start running, and complete a marathon – when 20 to 30 years ago only elite athletes could do it. Well, Bowerman's responsible for that.

    YL: I've heard Bowerman could be a tough taskmaster.
    KP: Some people are direct, and we don't have enough of those on earth anymore. They're no bullshit. And Bowerman was a no bullshit guy. Bowerman was a very discerning, straight-shooter. Many times I wish my business card would say, “Kevin Paulk, Nike Running,” and then either “The Truth” or “The No Bullshit Director.” Because that's how Bowerman was. And that's how most of the runners I know are.

    I didn't get to know Bowerman like some people did. But he was hard as nails. He would still be after our butts even for these successful Bowerman series shoes. He'd say, “They're jacked up too high,” or “They're too heavy.” He believed in the foot, not the shoe.

    Bowerman was an innovator. He experimented with a lot of things that had nothing to do with running shoes – running tracks, Gatorade before there was Gatorade.

    And he would try to let runners run as naturally as possible, not put these slabs of foam on their feet. He always said, “It's not the weight of the grams on the scale, it's the feel of the weight of the shoe on your foot.”

    YL: So what happened?
    KP: Nike became so popular – like Coca Cola – we got so big for our britches that we took our eye off the ball, which is, “Are you servicing runners or not?” We forgot how to be special. And we lost a little credibility.

    Nike has the largest market share in the running industry worldwide. But if you go down to Snail's Pace and ask what our market share is there, we're probably down to 13 or 14 percent – where we were 60 or 70% in the past.

    What we're trying to do now is get back to the meat and potatoes of this industry. We're designing our running shoes for any mom, dad, or kid to train in 7 days a week – to make sure they feel and fit fantastic. And in this industry, you'd better be smart enough to build relationships with every running shop, so that they will be able to tell their customers the same thing about that feel and fit. If the clerk in the running shoe store doesn't have confidence in your shoe, he or she isn't going to bring it out of the stock room.

    YL: So what do you consider the most important thing when you think of re-establishing – or developing – a relationship with the shoe buyer?
    KP: In one word, “Listen.” It's a day-to-day operation of trying to earn runners' trust.

    When I got appointed to the Bowerman Series, I had some great talent in 2 designers and 2 engineers and a product marketing manager. So I knew I had the talent to create and produce shoes. My role was to listen.

    Now, I couldn't go to 700 running stores. So first I went to Luke's Locker in Dallas. They have a racing club, people who knew Bowerman, knew Lydiard, coaches to coach youngsters of any age. And those people all work in that running shop. Those are people you can listen to. And then I picked about 20 shops like that.

    You go into a store like that, and you say, “I would really like to build a relationship with your team that works on the floor.” And then you stay all day. And then come back again and again. The first time, you introduce yourself. And then 3 months later you go back and do it again. And then 3 months later, do it again. Until finally you go back, and one of their guys stands up and speaks on your behalf – because by then Nike has promised them something and delivered.

    Developing relationships is passion. It is respect. It is understanding that no matter what, you must develop a respectful relationship with the clerk on the floor at the running shop.

    We have lots of meetings back at corporate headquarters. But the real meeting is on the running shop floor.

    YL: Tell us the truth, why are shoe models constantly being changed? It seems like you find the perfect shoe – then 6 months later it's a totally different shoe.
    KP: I believe there at 2 worst nightmares for runners. The first is obvious: I'm injured. The second “worst nightmare” is this: I liked last year's shoe better!

    What runners want out of their shoes is for brands to be consistent. That's another reason we got into trouble. We became consistent at being inconsistent. The Pegasus and the Structure – one year they'd be good, the next year bad. One year it'd be new in July, the next January.

    One thing we started practicing again: Get the shoe right, and then don't screw it up!

    The industry standard has been to change product on a 12 month cycle. We just started changing our shoes on a 24 month cycle. We spend so much effort getting it right, we'd be foolish to screw it up.

    Our best-selling shoe is the Structure Triax. The Structure 12 just hit in January, and everything about that shoe that your foot rests on is exactly the same as the year before. So for 24 months, if you like the cushioning and stability of a Bowerman series shoe, you can get it for 2 years. The upper is really the same – it's maybe just a different color or a different mesh.

    We didn't invent that practice. Asics invented that. They've been doing that for about 20 years, and that's why they've been kicking butt. They made tiny “evolutions” instead of “revolutions.” Brooks is doing a good job of that now. Saucony is doing a good job. Mizuno does a good job. And the Bowerman series is mimicking that same strategy.

    We runners are all so geeked about our shoes that we notice the slightest millimeter change. This business calls for small evolutions.

    YL: What do you personally think is the best shoe Nike's made?
    KP: Since the Bowerman series got going, the Skylon and the Elite. [A certain Younger Legs blogger thinks the Skylon is the best training shoe ever made.] My personal favorite has been the Zoom Elite III, because it was only and exactly what I needed, from heel to toe.

    YL: What shoe was the biggest mistake?
    KP: I would say the Pegasus from 1997, when we put a fit sleeve in it because we thought it would improve the shoe – it killed the shoe.

    Or the 1998 Pegasus, because it didn't exist. I'm serious, we killed the whole shoe – both 1998 and 1999. Not only did we anger the runners who loved the Pegasus but hated the fit sleeve, but we angered the people who loved the fit sleeve by discontinuing the shoe.

    We re-launched the Pegasus in 2000. It was like what Coca Cola did after they'd ditched the coke formula and tried to market New Coke. People revolted. “Why would you try to re-engineer a classic?!” But when Coke brought back the original formula, they marketed it as Coca Cola Classic, and it sold more than ever.

    That's the Pegasus. We brought it back, people saw it was a good shoe, and we sold a lot of them. If you see product on a lot of people's feet, you know it's damn good.

  • #27242

    GTF
    Member

    More on running shoes:
    'No evidence' on running shoe safety
    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25171370-5005961,00.html

  • #27243

    GTF
    Member

    And a quote worth highlighting from the Paulk interview that has nothing to do with shoes:

    YL: Is there some wisdom or message you'd like to leave us with regarding running?
    KP: It's all about confidence.

    It was Rudy Chapa who taught me how to really race. He said, “Race with confidence.” Those three words, I used to write them on my hand. I didn't say – Run this time, or Win the gold. What are we racing? We're racing other runners. There's nothing better. That's why we do it.

  • #27244

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Interesting link there. I've been coming to the same conclusion for some time, the shoes don't do a whole lot of good. This is where I started my “minimalist” experiment and I've found it to be a great success. If I could, I'd buy shoes that were nothing but a piece of rubber strapped to the bottom of my feet to protect me from harsh surfaces.

    I also like the Chapa quote. In my opinion, the greatest thing a runner can do is know his or her capabilities, then run with confidence in those capabilities. It's easy to question yourself on the course. Those who overcome those questions run to the best of their abilities. Those who don't end up kicking themselves later when they realize they didn't leave it all on the course.

  • #27245

    GTF
    Member

    If I could, I'd buy shoes that were nothing but a piece of rubber strapped to the bottom of my feet to protect me from harsh surfaces.

    http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/index.cfm

  • #27246

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Interesting. Ever give them a try? I'd love to hear of a review if you have. If not, maybe I'll have to consider giving them a try myself and offering up a review at a later time.

  • #27247

    GTF
    Member

    No, I have not been quite that extreme.  Yet.  I might consider them for summertime casual wear, but then I tend to wear flipflops or Vans in the summer for casual wear and they are about as low-profile and flexible.  I have a buddy who recently unloaded his on eBay because of how the shoe rubbed his small toes owing to how his toes are shaped.  It was the classic model and if I were to get some I would want the fabric to cover more of the foot, like the Flow or KSO, mostly to prevent the likely rubbing from that fabric edge and to better keep out twigs, dust, dirt, and stones.  There is also this: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/,1570N_Teva-P-2-Amphibious-Shoes-For-Men.html
    And I have seen the minimalist cult at Letsrun make mention of this: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/,1264V_Teva-Proton-3-Shoes-For-Men.html

  • #27248

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Wow, those are interesting ideas and, at under $20/pair, the second would be not that expensive of an experiment. I'm going to be in the market for a new pair of shoes very soon. That's tempting.

  • #27249

    GTF
    Member

    Well I simply linked to the STP listing to illustrate, the available sizes are limited at that price.  The MSRP, however, is a mere $40, so even at full price (EMS and Zappos have the Proton 4 at that price) they are not that expensive.

  • #27250

    r-at-work
    Member
  • #27251

    More on running shoes:
    'No evidence' on running shoe safety
    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25171370-5005961,00.html

    I don't place much value on these articles and suspect there is a hidden agenda.

    They say, “This means there is no scientific evidence (the) shoes provide any benefit to distance runners.''

    That leaves the possibility that there is evidence, just not scientific, and any evidence that isn't scientific probably wouldn't be considered valid by these scientists. Even worse there's a reference to some non-scientific study on the percentage of recreational runners that get injured each year without attributing the injuries to a cause, while obviously trying to mislead the reader to make the association to shoes or that shoes don't prevent injury.

    I can't believe the advances in shoe technology over the past few decades have not resulted in fewer injuries. But suspect the cost of a comprehensive scientific study that could prove or disprove the theory is prohibitive. Also, how long would they have to study the subjects? Many of the older runners I talk to (and I'm over 50) believe their knee and hip problems could be attributed to many years of not having the correct type of shoe available. Were the waffle-bottom Nikes the right type shoe for all of us?

    Finally, while we may all question the need for heavier, more cushioned and more protective shoes, I suspect many people would not be recreational runners if these shoes didn't exist.

    Happy Running,
    Mike

  • #27252

    GTF
    Member

    I don't place much value on these articles and suspect there is a hidden agenda.

    Such as?

    I can't believe the advances in shoe technology over the past few decades have not resulted in fewer injuries.

    I believe it.  The main culprit of injury in running is pushing the body to stress levels that it is unprepared to handle.  Shoe design does little at all to mitigate that, though there are aspects of modern running shoe design that function as crutches and thus enable weakness which thus will be more easily susceptible to injury. 

    Many of the older runners I talk to (and I'm over 50) believe their knee and hip problems could be attributed to many years of not having the correct type of shoe available.

    A lot of people (too many) believe that aerobic mileage will cause injury.  That does not make it so.

    Finally, while we may all question the need for heavier, more cushioned and more protective shoes, I suspect many people would not be recreational runners if these shoes didn't exist.

    I suspect that is true for people who are in a rush to become recreational runners before they are really ready.  The human body is amazingly adaptable, though it can take a while to adapt adequately — too long for those who are too impatient.  Running is not for those who need instant gratification, however, it is a patient man's sport.

  • #27253

    Such as?

    Such as, the scientists could use a grant to fund their study, or the shoe companies should hire these guys to design shoes (Dr. Richards designs shoes).

    I believe it.  The main culprit of injury in running is pushing the body to stress levels that it is unprepared to handle.  Shoe design does little at all to mitigate that, though there are aspects of modern running shoe design that function as crutches and thus enable weakness which thus will be more easily susceptible to injury.

    I agree about the main culprit of injury and that shoe design can provide a crutch, but this does not prove that improvements in shoes have not prevented injuries. I'll concede that some shoes can contribute and point to the Nike Free as a possible example. However, when people don't use a 'tool' for the purpose it was designed, it's not the tool's fault they got hurt.

    A lot of people (too many) believe that aerobic mileage will cause injury.  That does not make it so.

    True, but what scientific study could disprove these beliefs. If we agree that we are all “an experiment of one” then we can never know what the result would have been if we took a different course of action.

    I think some of us (me) rush to become competitive runners, only to realize that we are only recreational.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • #27254

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Often, the hidden agenda is considered to work in the reverse direction, with shoe companies suspected of “paying off” for favorable articles (possibly through advertising). I'm curious about the idea of a hidden agenda for discussing the idea of shoes being overrated.

    As for scientific studies, the problem with “non-scientific studies” is that they can say whatever they want. My non-scientific study of one says I have had fewer minor issues and major injuries wearing less shoe than I have had wearing more shoe. Of course, I'm willing to say that this doesn't mean much because my one major injury in 19 years running had nothing to do with the shoes I was wearing and there could be many reasons for the fewer minor issues, the shoes being one of those many. Other such “non-scientific studes” have the same problem.

    As for people rushing to become competitive runners, it's not that they aren't competitive runners. It's that novice competitive runners want to train at intermediate and advanced competitive levels. One needs to build through the levels, many skip to advanced levels of training in certain aspects (most notably speedwork) without doing the prerequisite work required to be able to withstand the stresses of that training.

  • #27255

    GTF
    Member

    Grants from the deep pockets of the fat cats in the barefoot/minimalist/antishoe-industrial complex?  Studies on things that are not regulated by government are generally funded by private sources.  The only published research on running shoes one is apt to find is research that supports the current design trend (try to hunt down the research on cell phone safety funded by Motorola and the scientist whose said research they refused to publish).  Shoe companies are not hiring people to develop designs that go against their own established market. 

    There is not even proof that there have really been “improvements” in shoe design.  Change != improvement.

    A scientific study is not needed to disprove something that was never proven via scientific study.  People believe a lot of irrational things, often completely in defiance of science and logic.  Basically people believe it because that is a perception they arrived at independently or they rather unquestioningly swallow something from a source they believe is authoritative because it sounds true or confirms their own suspicions. 

    A significant part of what influences people to rush to become competitive runners (or even runners, period) is in effect a marketing campaign by those who profit from the sport to lower levels of acceptance and prudence. 

  • #27256

    GTF
    Member

    Often, the hidden agenda is considered to work in the reverse direction, with shoe companies suspected of “paying off” for favorable articles (possibly through advertising). I'm curious about the idea of a hidden agenda for discussing the idea of shoes being overrated.

    Right, this is why the article in question is so interesting.  It is rare to find anyone willing to speak out against a predominant paradigm.  Who the heck would benefit from proving that modern running shoe design is overrated?  That Emperor's New Shoes start-up?

    As for scientific studies, the problem with “non-scientific studies” is that they can say whatever they want. My non-scientific study of one says I have had fewer minor issues and major injuries wearing less shoe than I have had wearing more shoe. Of course, I'm willing to say that this doesn't mean much because my one major injury in 19 years running had nothing to do with the shoes I was wearing and there could be many reasons for the fewer minor issues, the shoes being one of those many. Other such “non-scientific studes” have the same problem.

    The interesting thing here is that, beyond one group of anecdotal experiments or the other, we have had input from two giant luminaries in the sport, Lydiard and Bowerman, both of whom observed many, many runners and their shoes over the years and agreed that less shoe is better.

    As for people rushing to become competitive runners, it's not that they aren't competitive runners. It's that novice competitive runners want to train at intermediate and advanced competitive levels. One needs to build through the levels, many skip to advanced levels of training in certain aspects (most notably speedwork) without doing the prerequisite work required to be able to withstand the stresses of that training.

    Some may not even start out as recommended to be novice runners at that point, either.  Some would benefit more from taking a more patient (go figure) long-term approach that has them exclusively swimming, cycling, and walking to get weight low enough and build up a decent amount of musculoskeletal durability before throwing in the much higher impact stress of “pounding” the miles in running.  But, as observed above, there is a whole industry that profits from encouraging people to go from couch to marathon ASAP.  Not enough of those involved with the sport are willing to give more honest, thoughtful, measured advice — by comparison, there is no money in it!

  • #27257

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    The interesting thing here is that, beyond one group of anecdotal experiments or the other, we have had input from two giant luminaries in the sport, Lydiard and Bowerman, both of whom observed many, many runners and their shoes over the years and agreed that less shoe is better.

    You know, I was thinking of Lydiard and Bowerman while I was out running and was debating whether I should bring up one comment from Lydiard I recall reading about. He said that modern, overbuilt shoes were largely to blame for the prevalence of certain injuries such as, if I recall correctly, achilles tendonitis, plantar fascitis, and other lower leg injuries. He said the high heel counters and abundant cushioning in modern running shoes did more to lead to these injuries than they did to prevent injuries. He said all of this somewhere around 30 years ago, in the late 70s, when heel counters were much lower and cushioning was a joke compared to today.

    Of course, that wasn't based on a scientific study. Just the observations of one person. Then again, a lot of his observations have proven to be more reliable than scientific studies.

  • #27258

    GTF
    Member
  • #27260

    sueruns
    Member

    I don't remember my oldest brother ever complaining of an injury (he ran late '68 early '70s).  His pumas looked like slippers and after few 100+ weeks were mostly duct tape.  Never injured…..runners just got sick from high mileage and lack of proper rest and nutrition trying to put in the mileage and getting an education….you never heard about injuries

  • #27261

    GTF
    Member
  • #27263

    GTF
    Member

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002t9pw

    Former American war correspondent Christopher McDougall explains what he learned from a reclusive tribe of Mexican Indians who are among the best long distance runners in the world. His book, 'Born to Run', is published by Profile Books.

  • #27264

    ksrunner
    Participant

    Interesting. Ever give them a try? I'd love to hear of a review if you have. If not, maybe I'll have to consider giving them a try myself and offering up a review at a later time.

    Ryan,

    Awhile back while I was injured, I experimented with barefoot running a bit and with the classic model of Fivefingers. I think that I was struggling with a knee issue at the time. A friend at work was starting to run barefoot. At the time, I was running to and from work, most days, so I started taking off my shoes for the last half mile or so into work. The asphalt was very rough and my feet were raw, but the knee issues that I felt while running with shoes totally went away. The five fingers were nice. I had some chafing on my toes that would probably have led to blisters, so I stopped that experiment.

    At some point, that knee problem stopped troubling me, and so long as I have been able to run as much as I am inclined to run, there hasn't been much impetus to try them again.

    Since that time, I have purchased a pair of Injinji (http://www.injinji.com/) socks which I think would help to address the chafing issues that I mentioned. I have not yet tried running in the Fivefingers while wearing the Injinji socks though I have been thinking of it more frequently lately. Between reading things recently about less shoe being better and experiencing a minor foot issue lately, I think that the time is ripe to have another try with the Fivefingers.

    I can let you know how it goes if you'd like.

    Steve

  • #27265

    GTF
    Member

    I cannot vouch at all for the source, but here is some input on VFF use, for whatever it may be worth:
    http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/05/07/vibram-five-fingers-shoes/

  • #27266

    GTF
    Member

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002t9pw

    Former American war correspondent Christopher McDougall explains what he learned from a reclusive tribe of Mexican Indians who are among the best long distance runners in the world. His book, 'Born to Run', is published by Profile Books.

    More regarding the above: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2009/may/12/in-search-of-the-true-identity-of-caballo-blanco/

  • #27267

    GTF
    Member
  • #27268

    GTF
    Member
  • #27269

    ksrunner
    Participant

    Hello,

    I pulled out the Vibram Fivefingers again this morning. I last tried running in them a couple of years ago and then shelved them after I had problems with blisters. This time, I wore a pair of Injinji socks with them. I own the Classic model as that was the only model available when I bought them.

    I've been thinking about trying them for a few weeks. I even went so far as to pack them in the van so that I could pull them out and go for a short run after I went for my real run in my regular shoes, but I have been in a hurry after work so, I hadn't run in them yet. For the past couple of days, I've not been feeling well and I didn't run at all yesterday. I still am not 100%, but I felt much better this morning, so I took our dog for a short 1.5 mile run and then returned to drop her off. My wife has been trying to get me to run with Yogi for over a year and I recently relented. I've found that about 1.5 is all that she can handle right now before she either gets tired or bored. Shortly before I got back home, I felt a pain in my ankle and another nagging pain that I have been feeling in the ball of my foot which is why I had begun thinking about the Fivefingers shoes again.

    So, after I dropped of Yogi, I went and got the Fivefingers out of the van and set off. I live in the country with a gravel driveway and gravel roads. The only reason that I considered running in these shoes today is because it has been awhile since our roads were maintained and they are relatively smooth from cars driving over them. Still, there are some rough places. Our driveway is rougher than the roads, so I walked down the drive. There was one other part that I walked on due to roughness which was a short steep incline near the next intersection. I went about 4.5 miles this morning in the Fivefingers. (That's a bit far for day 1 of an experiment, but it felt very good for about four miles and the last 1/4 mile wasn't bad.)

    The Injinji socks made a big difference. I have a narrow foot and my foot did not slide as much inside the shoe as I recall that it did the last time that I ran in them. They also added a small amount of cushioning which was probably useful where I was running — since you can feel even small stones in these shoes. I did step on a few stones that made me jerk my foot up off of the ground really quickly, but overall, it was pretty uneventful. I ran an out and back course — 1/4 mile from my house to the corner and then two miles south from the corner. The first mile south was a bit rougher than the other parts and it was harder to see stones as this surface was treated with oil last year for dust prevention and is darker with stones of varying color. The other parts were just the light gray gravel road and relatively smooth and easy to see the stones. The second mile south was very smooth and pleasant. After I turned around and was nearing the corner before I turned onto my road, my feet began to feel a little tender. This was the roughest part that I ran on as I'd indicated before. When I turned back onto the road that I live on, it wasn't so bad.

    Afterward, my foot may be slightly bruised, but nothing deep. When I first moved here, I got a couple of nasty stone bruises while wearing some Mizuno Wave Runners. I currently wear some Mizuno Wave Riders with no problems and I have not had any serious stone bruises for about four years, so I think that my foot has adapted somewhat to running on gravel already. Nevertheless, I tried to steer away from the rockiest parts of the road as I knew that I couldn't take a direct hit on a large stone.

    I am a midfoot striker. I think that a heel striker might have problems adjusting to running in these. I was striking midfoot in the Fivefingers and sometimes my forefoot hit slightly before my rear foot.

    I am definitely encouraged and will continue the experiment — though I think that I will run in town on the smooth, paved running trail next time — or limit the Fivefingers to the shorter run with Yogi — our dog.

    I'll probably give another update in a few weeks.

    Steve

  • #27270

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Steve, interesting report. I think there's something to the idea of the feet toughening up over time like you had previously found to happen with the Wave Runners and you will hopefully find to happen with the Five Fingers. I also think that heel strikers would be better gradually transitioning to less shoe, as many others would, because they have to re-learn how to run without a pillow under their heels.

    I look forward to hearing more about the experiment. I've still been too chicken to take the plunge but I do admit that, when I was at a Kohl's recently, I did check out their aqua socks and may have considered buying a pair if they had them in my size. Of course, one of the problems that one of the recent articles mentioned, of keeping your toes cramped up so they couldn't spread and grip naturally, wouldn't be solved by the aqua socks but it would be an interesting experiment for a relatively low price.

  • #27271

    ksrunner
    Participant

    Ryan,

    It would definitely be an interesting experiment. It would certainly let you know how it feels to run with just a thin piece of rubber between your foot and the road.

    I looked in my running log and saw that I had last run in the Fivefingers in 2006. So, they've been on the shelf for awhile. I would probably prefer the KSO model. But, if I am going to buy another pair, I have to prove that I will really use them.

    Now that a couple of days have gone buy, I find that the bruising wasn't much of an issue, but I can really feel where running in the Fivefingers brings different muscles into play. I will definitely back off on the distance for my next outing and build up more gradually from there. I am planning the next outing to be tomorrow — though I may do a short run with the dog this evening. I already did my real run for the day.

    So, Ryan, if you start a similar experiment, what would the long-term goal be.

    Would you be looking to these shoes as everyday trainers? Would you race in them? Would you be at all concerned that the shoes might sometimes be a distraction from the sport?

    For my part, I think that if things went well, I might make these my primary trainers — though I might always keep a pair of other shoes for when the gravel roads are really rough. Then, if I felt that the Fivefingers were the best race-day shoe, then I would definitely race in them.

    As for the distraction question, there was a guy here who ran barefoot and promoted himself shamelessly. During the time that he was promoting himself so vocally via a website and soliciting free race entries for himself, I felt like that was distracting from the sport. To the best of my knowledge, he still runs barefoot. But he has since stopped promoting himself and would no longer be a distraction. I am sure that he still gets a lot of looks and some questions if he shows up at area races.

    Similarly, if I were to wear the Fivefingers shoes to a race, I am sure that I would get looks and questions about them. But, so long as I am wearing them because they are the shoes that I run best in and not the shoes that I “look” best in and so long as I am not there to promote the shoe, I don't see a problem. Once after a race, I heard a guy say, “I just couldn't let that guy in the trail running shoes beat me.” I imagine the same thoughts would go through someone's head regarding any weird shoes or lack of shoes. In that regard, the Fivefingers might attract more competition which could be fun on race day.

    Steve

  • #27272

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    So, Ryan, if you start a similar experiment, what would the long-term goal be.

    Initially, just see where I could go with them. Like you stated, if I could make them everyday trainers, I would. If they were everyday trainers, I'd have to believe they would also be my racing flats. In short, like you, they would be my racers if they seemed like the best shoe for the job.

    Would you be at all concerned that the shoes might sometimes be a distraction from the sport?

    Not at all. If I went this route, they wouldn't be a distraction to me. They would just be a different shoe choice from the choice that others make. If people asked me about them, I'd answer the questions but not while making a big deal out of it. If a big deal was going to be made of it, it would be by others and it would be their issue, not mine. If people didn't ask me about them, then it would be nobody's issue. They would not distract from my racing one bit. If they did from somebody else's, that would be their issue, not mine.

    If I find those shoes in my size and give them a shot, I'll be sure to post updates.

  • #27273

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27274

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27276

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27278

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27280

    Double
    Member

    I have never ran with, known, or seen anyone who resembled a runner go barefoot in my life in person.  Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

  • #27281

    Andrew A.
    Member

    There is a high school in my part of town which has a FieldTurf infield that I like to go run barefoot on, though it has been locked recently for construction.  The Stanford runners of late are known for that, it was by studying them that Nike came up with the concept for the Free shoes.

    At Stanford University, California, two sales representatives from Nike were watching the athletics team practise. Part of their job was to gather feedback from the company's sponsored runners about which shoes they preferred.

    Unfortunately, it was proving difficult that day as the runners all seemed to prefer… nothing.

    'Didn't we send you enough shoes?' they asked head coach Vin Lananna. They had, he was just refusing to use them.

    'I can't prove this,' the well-respected coach told them.

    'But I believe that when my runners train barefoot they run faster and suffer fewer injuries.'

    Nike sponsored the Stanford team as they were the best of the very best. Needless to say, the reps were a little disturbed to hear that Lananna felt the best shoes they had to offer them were not as good as no shoes at all.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1170253/The-painful-truth-trainers-Are-expensive-running-shoes-waste-money.html

  • #27282

    lookforward
    Member

    Just found this forum.  If anyone cares to see VFFs in action, this guy (http://sasha.fastrunningblog.com/blog-07-24-2009.html)  is racing/running in them. Has run a full marathon recently in his VFFs.  Note his shoe mileage… his VFFs have over 2,000 miles on them!  Better value, stronger feet, more fun… I may be trying on a pair soon.

  • #27283

    Andrew A.
    Member

  • #27285

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27286

    Andrew A.
    Member

    http://petemagill.blogspot.com/2009/09/morning-read-barefoot-running.html

    Magill's take closely mirrors my own.  While far too many runners run in overbuilt shoes that enable weakness and do not run barefoot nearly enough (myself included), there seems to be a bit too much of a rush to the opposite end of the spectrum.  Shoes like Vibram FiveFingers intrigue me, yet I doubt I would ever be inclined to run in them — perhaps shoes more like those in the adiZero line and/or cc flats, thoughtfully engineered running shoes that protect without being too much.

  • #27287

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Likewise, I've not convinced myself to make the jump to the FiveFingers. I've been intrigued by them and other minimalistic shoes, enough to even look at some of them, but I haven't been able to convince myself to buy them yet. The adiZero MANA has treated me very well and I'm giving the Asics Hyperspeed a trial now (like it so far). These shoes give you many of the positive aspects of minimalistic running without, in my opinion, going to an extreme I'm not yet ready to wrap my head around.

    That said, I do need to get back to doing some barefoot running, too. I haven't done any in quite some time.

  • #27288

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Going in a slightly different direction: http://wpblogs.runningtimes.com/blogs/talktest/2010/01/27/no-point-in-shoe-awards/

    I see the merit in the author's contention, yet it may not really go far enough.  What are running magazine/website shoe reviews, really, if not vaguely disguised infomercials?  Would a publication (print or online) really honestly pan a shoe made by a prominent advertiser (or, going further, a potential advertiser) and risk offending and jeopardizing that ad account?  Or do they tend to employ euphemisms to cover up shortcomings found by testers?  The other part – and what along with a lack of uniformity renders user reviews posted to forums and blogs more or less useless – is the question of whether there is truly any objectivity (not just credibility) employed in surveying shoes.  Consumer Reports did a review of running shoes years ago which was panned for lacking applicability to the act of running.  That would be the one organization that could be counted on to do a credible, objective, and uniform job of reviewing products, yet the reviews produced were not useful enough to runners to guide them in what shoes they would be able to enjoy running in.  Granted, I do have a couple decades or so of experience to guide me at this point.  I do find that there is little at all new under the sun anymore.  Running stores, whether online or down the street, do a good job categorizing shoes into categories that have sufficient boundaries.  There is little trick to finding a stability shoe in the 10-12 oz. range or a lightweight cushioned shoe in the 8-10 oz. range or a motion control shoe.  The chief difference lies in the fit (e.g. I have a hard time finding a fit I like in Reebok shoes yet know that I will always like the fit and feel of Asics shoes) and in the ride, and you cannot know either for a make/model of shoe you have never tried before until you put them on and go run in them.    And then when you have determined that the DS Trainer or the Wave Elixir works well for you then you can stick with them as long as you like — manufacturers rarely ever eliminate a shoe completely from their product line, they may rename and/or retool it but chances are there will always be a shoe basically similar to the one you like for years to come.  It also means that you can look at some of the objective criteria provided by shoe manufacturers and stores – like 8-10 oz. with medial posting or other engineering for stability – and look for that in models from other manufacturers if the update of the shoe you like proves to not be to your liking. 

  • #27289

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Interesting take. I do see the author's point. As I've argued for years, there is no one shoe that is right for everyone. For just the reason the author points out, we are all different people of different builds, there can be no one shoe that is right for everyone.

    I also agree with your point. I have seen how magazines operate. I am aware that there is a wall, often even literally, between editorial and advertising. I understand that the writers and editors do not work in any way with the people who handle advertising. However, it would be naive to think that an editor or writer does not at least subconsciously consider who pays the bills. When is the last time you've seen a running magazine completely pan a shoe from a major manufacturer with a big advertising budget? This has nothing to do with running magazines and shoes, though. When is the last time you've seen a car magazine completely pan a car from a major manufacturer with a big advertising budget? Sure, they pick out small things (the laces are a bit long on these shoes, the steering wheel is a bit small on the base model of this car) but there are products out there with big flaws (this shoe has a sharp pressure point that hits all but those with the highest arches right in the middle of the arch, the brakes on the car have subpar performance in certain conditions) and I can't recall the last time I've seen a review in ad-supported media that pointed out such a flaw.

  • #27290

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Definitely, and the point I took too many words to try to get to is that shoe reviews are vastly overrated, except possibly for runners who are in their first year or two of running and have no background at all for figuring out such things — though for neophytes it is likely far better to make regular visits to reputable running stores where the staff could best guide and educate them. 

  • #27291

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Agreed. If you have been running for some time, chances are you know what you need in your shoes. If you haven't been running for long or you still need to figure out what you need, then get yourself some one-on-one assistance. What's written in a magazine isn't going to make much of a difference to the former and isn't going to be of much help to the latter.

  • #27292

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #27293

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Further evidence of why a writer like McDougall (or Matt Fitzgerald, I have found) is not credible and why I would not bother reading his work: http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/chris-mcdougal-is-the-dr-phil-of-running.html

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