Vibram 5 Fingers vs. New Balance Minimus Zero Road

The barefoot running trend has become very popular these days, and many people have had serious injuries because of it. What is going on?

We must first understand some basic physics. Have you ever looked at an archway such as a bridge? I am sure you have. When you look at it you will notice that there are not support beams in the archway itself; that would weaken the structure. As gravity pulls down, the structure actually becomes stronger.

Or have you seen leaf-springs in truck suspension before? They compress and de-compress based on the load and terrain. You do not find coil springs on a leaf-sprung truck, that would be counter intuitive (ok, some will do front coil, rear leafs, etc.)

With running, the foot arch is like a bridge and a leaf spring. It becomes stronger as more weight is applied and it compresses and de-compresses based on the load for a smooth ride. Like a bridge, if you were to put in a support beam in the middle of the arch, the arch would actually lose strength. And like a truck’s leaf springs, if you put coil springs on top of the leafs, it would not function properly. We don’t do this on bridges and trucks, why do we do this to our feet every day?

Arch support in a shoe is like putting arch support on a bridge. It weakens the structure. Modern shoes have very stiff arches which do not allow the leaf spring of the foot to actually work. Thus, with a non-movable leaf spring, they have now added “coils” to the shoes, or the hundreds of different types of springy foam which lose their spring after 300-500 miles.

Why is it a bad idea to switch to barefoot running today? Because your feet are weak! You have had arch support in your shoes for your entire life, your foot muscles have atrophied. How do you strengthen your feet? Some suggest using minimalist shoes on rare occasion to work the muscles. I suggest doing what my Pilates instructor taught me: toes curls. Put something around your toe that you can hold onto with your hands (a towel works). Then try to press against the pressure of the towel one toe at a time. Also, stand on a ball and use it like you would use a foam roller on your legs. Do this every day and I guarantee that you will have stronger feet.

I used Vibram 5 Fingers to run in for over a year until I had any problems. I ended up upsetting Tom, Dick, and Harry (nicknames for tendons in the heal, not the Achilles). I decided I needed to try a different shoe. So I did, I ended up trying out the Brooks Pure line and the New Balance Minimus line (both trail and road).

The verdict: New Balance Minimus Zero Road wins by a landslide.

Try spreading your toes. Really, try it. Do you feel the muscles in your foot and calf working overtime? Well, this is exactly what is constantly happening when you run with Vibram 5 Fingers. When you ran as a child with no shoes; did little gnomes run around following you trying to spread your toes open? No, that would be ridiculous. As I said: Tom, Dick, and Harry ended up getting irritated, so I listened to my body and only use the Vibrams during gym workouts now. I tried the Brooks Pure but discovered that there was still too much arch support. My arches compress and de-compress a lot when I run, and my arches were getting nasty blisters from the Pure because the arch was too stiff. Over time, my foot would have adapted and become weaker to compensate for the shoe. I didn’t like that idea. I went back to the running store and looked at the shoes again. As I looked at them, I decided to try folding the shoes in half, if you can easily fold the shoe in half it means your foot arches can work properly – only 2 shoes in the store (aside from Vibram) were able to fold so easily: New Balance Minimus Zero Road and Mizuno Wave Universe. They did not have the Mizuno in my size, so I bought the Minimus Zero Road. There is zero drop from heal to toe, 12mm between my foot and the road, and they weigh 7 oz. In comparison, the Vibrams have zero drop, 4mm between foot and road, and they weigh 7 oz. When I run with the Minimus Zero, I actually feel like it is more of a barefoot running feeling than with the Vibrams. And as a kicker, these shoes are so incredibly comfortable, I have never felt such a smooth upper on a shoe in my life.

A little on running technique:

  1. You need strong feet – doing toe curls is a great place to start.
  2. Strengthen your core – strong abs help your body move fluidly.
  3. Bend your knees – I am 5’11” but look 5’7” when I run
  4. Don’t bob up and down! If your core is strong and your knees are bent, you prevent this “jogging” up and down
  5. Have a quick turnover – if you hit the ground 180 times per minute you are doing great. Fast turnover does not necessarily mean fast pace. Don’t worry about having a fast pace. Whether my pace is slow or fast, I try to have a fast turnover cadence of 180.
  6. Fall forward. Keep your body strait (strong core) but not upright. You want to have a slant forward the entire run.
  7. Pay attention to your feet, there will be 3 parts of your foot hitting the ground on each stride: Mid-foot, Heal, Toes. It might seem ridiculous, but this is what is happening if your knees are bent, you core is tight, and your body is falling forward.
  8. Love it.
  9. Repeat a mantra on the difficult sections; I repeat a simple prayer over and over again, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

 

Rule 42: Obey the Fundamental Laws of Physics, Part 1

H2G2: A Post-Grad Survival Guide

Rule 42:

Obey the Fundamental Laws of Physics, Part 1

Will obeying the Laws of Physics actually help me in the pursuit of higher education? Read on and you will believe! The numbers and equations are not scary, I promise 🙂

Case Study: Pretend you are driving a McLaren F1 (a $1million car, I like this dream), you hit the gas and its 627hp V12 engine mightily roars. Right out of the gate you can accelerate 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, incredible! But what happens as your speed increases? To simply accelerate from 180-200mph (a change of merely 20mph, one-third the original change) it takes 7.6 seconds! It took more than twice as long to only accelerate one-third the original change! And as your speed increases it becomes ever difficult to continue increasing your speed. Max speed ever recorded in a McLaren F1 is 243mph, and I am sure the driver kept trying to push the accelerator harder and harder just so he could reach 244mph, but it never happened.

Why was he unable to go faster? It is because he could not supply enough energy! His engine only had 627hp and the fuel consumption rate was incredibly high.

Now let’s take this to the next level: you are flying an amazing space shuttle and you are approaching the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). As you go faster, you realize that you need more and more fuel just to go a little bit faster. It keeps getting more and more difficult. You soon realize that you can’t reach the speed of light, and you conclude this because you finally come to the realization that you need an infinite amount of energy to move this fast. I repeat, it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object with mass to the speed of light. The speed of light is the upper limit for the speeds of objects with positive rest mass. (Thank you Einstein, this is all solvable through E = mc2)

So what? Who cares? I’m bored; let me go now….you are so close, hang in there!

You have been a student for many years; after all, you are in graduate school. There was a time when little energy was needed to get you through. You would even sleep during lectures because you already knew it and you were the guy who would always ask questions trying to stump your professor. And then, you started advancing and realizing that you needed to put more energy into it, and it was hard! And then you saw the next step and it seemed so close, but it took like 20 times the effort or more. ThM Thesis and PhD Dissertations will feel as if you are trying to travel at the speed of light. Thanks for the encouragement right? But wait, it gets worse!

Consider now the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: in an isolated system, that system will tend toward disorder unless energy is added. Do you remember what your bedroom looked like as a teenager? I prove my point!

This is helpful because it makes us realize that the energy needs to be focused. If the McLaren F1 had a bad fuel injector, then the fuel which was being fed into the engine would not all correspond to energy in that isolated system. There would be wasted energy, and because the energy would be lacking, the system would obviously tend toward disorder. This is why it gets worse. If your energies are not focused onto the Thesis or Dissertation (or whatever the goal may be), you will tend toward disorder! And this is fatal; you will never achieve that goal which you had set out to achieve.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Rule 42…

p.s. H2G2 stands for “Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” and I named this Rule 42 because 42 is the answer to everything according to H2G2. And yes, Rule 42 is the answer to everything…