Friday, 6 May 2011

Welcome to the Bandwagon - Wednesday the 4th of May, 2011

Well, the new barefoot shoes got their first taste of the terrain they were designed for: trails.

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run

Boom, let's see what these things can do....

Heading down the first few rocky sections of the trail, even moving at a fairly mild speed I was having to watch where I step like a hawk. Despite always landing first with my fore/mid-foot, (as is normal) my heel will touch down, and this was causing a couple of niggles. Often the flat area I was aiming for was only big enough for the front half of my foot and as my heel came down it would hit something a little pointy. I wouldn't say this was a big problem, just something I noticed.

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
Coming out of the jungle and into the light

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
Cool Lizard. I can't imagine where this colour-scheme would be well camouflaged! Unfortunately he was very flighty, and I couldn't get a better/closer shot than this

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
Off the short road section and back onto the trails

Once again I had a slightly higher than normal cadence, and although this wasn't a problem at the start, towards the end of the run, I was tiring quite a lot. I couldn't say conclusively if this was because it was my 3rd day running in a row (after a hard run the day before) or if the higher cadence was a the root cause. Probably a combination of both.

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
The worst kind of terrain for barefoot style shoes. Lots of hard to spot pointy rocks!

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
The ants go marching two-by-two, hurrah! Hurrah!

20110504 Hot Lunchtime Trail Run
I apply the new shoes to the courage-testing high-pipeline

Overall, I'd say the shoes did fairly well. I'm not totally enamoured with them, and can flat-out say that I won't be converting to 100% barefoot style any time soon. That said, I do still think that they will be a valuable training aid, both in increasing my cadence and possibly improving my gait.

Here's a couple of other observations:

1. I've noticed on a lot of blogs and forums, etc that, when people list the positives of running in barefoot style shoes, they mention that running in this style lets them feel closer and more connected to nature or the environment around them. For me, the opposite is actually true! Wearing my Brooks Cascadias I cruise over pebble-y terrain and so long as the trail is reasonably flat, I can watch the world fall past, looking out to the horizon, examining the trees, etc with only half an eye on the trail in front of me. In these barefoot shoes, I'm 100% zeroed-in on the trail. Getting each and *every* footfall in a good area is such an absorbing task, that I can't take the time to examine my surroundings and really feel a part of them.

2. I still believe that although the Merrell Trail Gloves encourage a barefoot style running gait, the level of trail feedback is not even in the same ballpark as barefooting it. Sure, you can feel rocks and roots, but the true feelings of things like the changing temperature of different trail sections or the texture of the soil are all lost on the outside of the sole. To be fair, I don't think any of the "barefoot" style shoes would or even could, provide this sort of tactile feedback.

I'm sure there's other things that will come to mind, and I'll continue to note those in my blog posts. Perhaps after I have enough distance on this things I'll collect it all together into a truer review.

Hope everyone's out there enjoying the trails
~ Joe

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