Saturday, December 31, 2011

Minimalist Running,Indoor Soccer Shoes And Ball Hockey - An Experiment.

Last season I had bought a pair of mid distance sprinting cleats to facilitate my focus upon sprinting as opposed to distance running. Extremely light and very minimalist in design I actually adjusted to them quite well.It resulted in me becoming a mid foot striker as opposed to my usual plodding heel striking self while wearing "modern" runners.

Since I have been contemplating the return to duathlons for the 2012 season the issue of minimalist running has resurfaced of late. I have been doing some research and basically narrowed down my potential buy list to the Nike Free and Saucony Kinvara 2. In the process of evaluating these performance trainers as A - a bridge to true minimalist shoes and B - whether they would be capable duathlon shoes* it occurred to me that I should also evaluate my footware choices for ball hockey.

(*Note - I went for a run this morning in my traditional runners and it was misery.I will need to find a suitable minimalist alternative if I hope to begin distance running again.)

Since my ball hockey is played indoors on a highschool sized gym the nature of the game is similar to that of basketball. Fast transitions from offense to defense, sprints, cuts and pivots.Typically I have used running shoes and now understand why it was so hard on my body.Not only was I heel striking on an unforgiving surface but the uppers offered precious little support when it came to sudden stops, pivots and cornering.

My first thought was basketball shoes but since there is no jumping involved I questioned the need for high topped shoes.That led me towards court(tennis) shoes which then sent me in the direction of indoor soccer shoes. It became the classic epiphany moment! Indoor soccer and indoor ball hockey were definitely similar. Both played on a smaller surface and both requiring lots of footwork and sprinting.

"Indoor soccer shoes must allow you to run forward,cut laterally and pivot which is why they have a lower and different tread pattern than running shoe......they are designed to withstand regular ball contact and other impacts....."

Sounds like an experiment! I went to Sportchek and bought myself a pair of Diadora Monzuno shoes at a post Christmas sale price of $24.95.Sweet! Generally indoor soccer cleats are very affordable compared to runners even when not on sale. In light of the recent popularity in minimalist design perhaps they, track spikes, Chuck Taylors and Converse are the minimalist genre's forebears. That said the toe box in soccer cleats are snug and would not let the toes splay outwards upon impact which is so important in minimalist/barefoot running. As a ball hockey shoe, however, they should be an improvement over runners.They might make a good everyday shoe as well.

What is Minimalist Running?

Here is an excellent perspective on the whole barefoot/minimalist trend in running and how it relates to the vast variety of running shoes available......

"If we view running footwear as a spectrum, on one end you have no shoe at all, or barefoot. In the barefoot condition cushioning and stability are provided by the inherent strength and control of the feet and legs, proprioreception/ground feel are maximized, there is no added weight on the lower extremity, the heel and forefoot are placed at the same level on the ground, the splay of the foot is not restricted when it contacts the ground, and flexibility is limited only by the structural limitations of an individual’s feet....."

Update - Jan 1 2012

I tested the indoor soccer shoes by using them for a run on a variety of terrain; pavement, hard pack trail, crushed rock trail and grass.In my case I am discovering that a more minimal style of shoe is better for my running style and lets me naturally become a midfoot striker. Slowed down for effect the Diadoras do seem to cause me to run more efficiently on the mid/forefoot.

It was a tale of two runs. Yesterday in my Adidas(stability) runners I was miserable but today in the Diadoras not only was I more comfortable but my stride felt much lighter despite the shoe being heavier. Ground feel was much improved  - no doubt the result of the lower profile of the shoe.That connection to the ground through the use of minimal padding should make a hugh difference in both my ball hockey and running.

The difference between the shoes is remarkable.Heel to ball in the Diadoras was 2.5 cms- 1.5 cms with a drop of 1cm. In my Adidas it was 4cms - 2.3cms with a drop of 1.7cms.

I`m definitely looking forward to beginning the new league in January as well as playing my usual twice weekly sessions at the Bloomfield Recreation Centre. With the noggin and lads protected with new gear and low profile soccer shoes hopefully sparing my body undue pain, strain and discomfort I am good to go.

Update - Jan 5 2012

The indoor soccer shoes worked well tonight at ball hockey. I am pleased with the "on floor" performance and I am far less stiff and sore tonight post game. A little tension across my shoulders and neck(my usual trouble area) but much less stiffness in the lower body.

Update - Jan 18 2012

Very happy with the soccer shoes. Performance on the gym floor is perfect and easier on my body, both during and after playing.  I`m thinking of competing in the 2012 TNS duathlon series this season so the plan will be to start transitioning to more outside distance running. Before that happens I will need to research an appropriate minimalist runner and see how the body responds before commiting to duathlons.


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Anonymous said...

My son needed basketball shoes and I wanted to go minimalist. Solution: Merrell Bare Access 2. They grip really well, unlike other minimalist shoes. Five years after the original post, you can still find them for sale places. I can't vouch for the Bare Access 3, 4 as he dropped the sport.

For those who care, the knock on basketball shoes is they encourage ankle twists (in addition to other ailments regular shoes cause). They tend to be more padded and full of gel, so the body's center of gravity thinks it is closer to the ground than it is. So, topple and twist. The more they design them to help, the worse they are for players.

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