by John Schrup
Several years ago, when I was spending a winter in Taos, I got to know a few men and women for whom telemark skiing was as magical a pursuit as running is for us. They talked about the beautiful “pow pow” and “bowls” and “baby heads” (huh?) and “corn”; they went on ad infinitum about turning. Apparently, if you’re into that kind of thing, a perfect turn delivers a high not unlike what we get in that perfect progression run. Their enthusiasm for the perfect turn was infectious. They told fantastic stories that grew hyperbolically in direct proportion to the amount of beer consumed. I couldn’t replicate their enthusiasm when I described my perfect run, mostly mumbling something about how you just had to be there.
One of the things that fascinated me about their stories is that they all seemed to have several pair of skiis. Several. Apparently, one needs different skis of different lengths or widths or something, depending on whether you are in pow pow or corn, I don’t know. It was fascinating to me mostly because it was all new information, and also because it would be ridiculously expensive to have several pair of skis. Several. Pair. Of. Skis. For me, skiing is prohibitively expensive. Even if I were rich, I probably still wouldn’t ski much because of the whole, you know, tree thing. If alpine trees could only be made of EVA or chocolate mousse or something. But when they talked about their skis, they talked about what they had in their quiver. Quiver like, you know, bows and arrows and shit.
And this is one of the main reasons I love running: The simplicity, the inexpensiveness of it. I mean, relative to skiing or polo or yachting for chissakes, running is ghetto. All you really need is a good pair of shoes. Well, back in the day, all you really needed was a good pair of shoes. These days, you pretty much need a quiver of shoes if you are serious about taking care of yourself or setting PR’s, or getting a BQ. I’ve seen pictures posted on Facecrack of closets full of running shoes, three dimensional Jackson Pollack looking things. So if you are one of those, and I think you are, let me save you some jack and tell you what you need in your quiver. I’m not necessarily talking brands, makes or models. That all is up to you, up to what feels and fits best for you. These are the four types of shoes you need to achieve your own personal street cred.
The Zero Drop
With this whole barefoot/minimalist thing came our standard polarized argument: For or against. The discussion really hasn’t gone that, sadly, and we’ve missed out on what I think is the greatest benefit—it makes you stronger! Yeah, nay sayers, spending time barefoot or in shoes that closely mimic being barefoot will make your feet and lower legs stronger! It just does. Think of all the justifications you want. It does. All your science shit don’t scare me none.
Aaaaand you don’t have to run in them. Get something comparable. Get a zero drop shoe, one that resembles a standard running shoe, and wear it to the park, to the new Trader Joe’s, to the farmers market. The Hattori LC, the Minimus Zero, the Blade Foot Run are all super duper comfortable and you won’t look all douchey and shit! They even make zero drop shoes in styles for casual wear, you know, so you could wear them to the Junior League Ball. But wear them. They’ll make your feet and legs stronger and in turn make you a better runner. You know what they say about the other 23 hours.
Ok, so you don’t wear it every day, but you know what I’m talking about. The shoe you slip on for your obligatory easy runs or recovery runs, maybe for the first couple of long runs when you’re just putting time on your feet. The Daily is maybe the heaviest of your shoes, there’s more stuff under your foot, more foam. But they’re still pretty light and flexible and when you put them on, they disappear as if by magic. You can mash out miles and miles, run a double in them sometimes if they didn’t get soaked in the morning run, and if you get caught up in an extemporaneous tempo run with your head banger friends, you won’t feel like you’re wearing KISS boots. Perhaps the greatest thing about that whole minimalist “trend” that you bitch about has delivered us super lightweight shoes like the Kinvara 3, and the Adios 2. One is a racer weight trainer, and one is a…trainer…weight…racer.
Ok, so one of the downsides to the minimalism thing is that the lines between trainer and racer have blurred. Maybe that isn’t a downside, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think it is, particularly when you remember the trainers from, oh, 2009 that were overflowing with these beautiful, wonderful technologies that did, um, nothing. What used to be called marathon racers, we like to call the Daily. You know, the 1400 and the Adios 2 (again!). So here I’m going to use Racer to describe what used to be called a 5K or 10K racer—something on the more minimal side of minimal. More minimaler. These bad girls are good for those days when you’re doing your GS circuits, rewiring your motor patterns on with some 200’s, even shuffling through the four mile loop on Town Lake as your weekly recovery run. (One of the things we’ve found to keep you glacial on your recovery days is to wear a little less shoe than normal. Seriously. It works.) I like the Hagio and the INOV-8 195. They’re both quite nice and neither will beat you up too much if you, you know, forget and wear them in place of your daily. It could happen.
The backseat is historically a Daily or a (marathon) Racer that you leave in the backseat of your car, so that if you leave any one of the other three at home, you’ve got backup. Often it has some Greenbelt on it, from that time when your friend texted you last minute to meet at the 360 trailhead and you had to run in jorts. But you had your shoes! Because they only see the inside of your car and your sweaty-ass feet, they have achieved a ripeness that can only be described as “dead for some time.” Upon entering your car, non-runner friends will convulsively dry heave but your runner friends are rendered stoned and drooling by the familiar funk and stench. This is probably your most important, most vital pair of shoes. They will tell you who your real friends are. They could save your life. And you never know when a run might break out.
You might have noticed that I haven’t listed trail shoes here. If I were writing this from, oh, northern New Mexico, or Oregon or something, I’d drop a trail shoe in here. Most of you aren’t on the Greenbelt every single day, so you’re better off buying a backseat shoe.