I have a new love. It has LG in it's name, but it's far from any phone, appliance or plasma tv screen. I'm talking about my Nike Lunar Glide +2's! I say this with a bit of surprise because well,...I'm surprised that (a) Nike makes a great running shoe; and (b) they're not causing me injuries or exacerbating any 'weak' spots (i.e. IT band)!
I have been true to my Asics Kayano 15's since 2007. I tried the 16's when the 15's were discontinued , but the change in the shoe was so dramatic, I got hurt. I didn't know enough about shoes to be able to see and feel the difference before I bought them. It took a few weeks for the pain/soreness to subside. It didn't put a halt to my training in any way, but it was definitely a big lesson learned for me. The next generation (unlike Star Trek) is not always better.
Even though I stocked up on the Kayano 15's when I found them discounted at a local store after the 16's came out, I knew the day when I'd have to choose a new shoe would come sooner than later. Through blogs, Runner's World and Daily Mile, I kept hearing about these Lunar Glides. The lower heel-to-toe ratio, the smoothness of the ride, etc. But wait! I have narrow feet with high arches. The high school kids (okay maybe a few employees had just graduated) who work at the big name shoe store told me I had to buy these $140 Kayano 16's with $40 inserts or I was going to continue having IT trouble. Maybe that was true a couple of years ago when I was 25-30 pounds heavier and first adapting to distance running. My ankles and feet have changed shape now and are feeling stronger than ever. The Kayano 15's were starting to feel heavy - I would describe the feeling as "too much shoe". It was the heel of the shoe that started feeling different, but it was my anatomy, fitness level and form that was changing, not the shoe. I started focusing on transitioning to a midfoot/forefoot plant late last year but was finding it somewhat challenging to do when I had this humongous wide and heavy shoe heel to drag along. I knew my foot was changing. I knew I didn't need this kind of rigid support but I didn't know what the next step should be. After my last experience with changing shoe models, I was scared to death a bad decision would derail my training for months. Nevertheless, my caged and cramped feet were telling me it was time for a change.
On a trip up to the Bay Area, we stopped at a local running store to check out some flatter (heel-to-toe ratio) shoes. I definitely wanted to try the Lunar Glides, but I also tried some different Asics too, and maybe a pair of Brooks. This was about 4-6 weeks before the Santa Barbara marathon so I had no intention of actually trying to train in them until after the race , but I knew this particular store had a wide variety of shoes I could try out.
As soon as I put these Lunar Glide +2's on my feet I felt a huge difference not just in weight but in how my foot fit in the shoe. This is a Neutral shoe; the liner felt so comfortable, like it conformed on 'first contact' (oh my - another Star Trek reference). I stood up from the bench and was amazed by a distinct feeling of naturally rocking forward at the forefoot, which in turn lessened the amount of weight being distributed to the heel. The toe box was much wider than what I was used to. This factor alone would've thrown up a Caution sign in the past as I correlated Stability shoes that worked for me with narrower toe boxes. The weird awesome thing about this new wider toe box is that my toes had some wiggle room. "Free at last!", they screamed. I'm instantly drooling over the thought of being able to splay my toes and distribute force over a wider area on my foot. Then I got nervous the store employee was going to tell me I needed to stick with a stability shoe and crush my dreams of transitioning to shoes that my feet felt more natural in - while I was walking around in the store anyway. I couldn't wait to get outside and test them. "Please feel good running, please feel good running......". Well, they did; the others didn't. I literally felt like the shoes were pushing me forward. I was gliding through the store parking lot almost effortlessly. SOLD! (Resistance is futile). They taunted me in my closet every day for months while we both patiently waited for the day we would become one.
With a renewed focus on barefoot running and minimalist shoes in the running community, we are being bombarded with information. Even though the Lunar Glide +2's are nowhere near being a true minimalist shoe, the transition period is just as important for those of us moving away from stiff and bulky running shoes. As with any theory, there are proponents and opponents; passionate debates can be found in every social media circle. As more and more people are attempting to make the switch, I for one, am watching the experiences of runners very closely. From what I've seen, injuries are popping up everywhere. Hip pain, IT pain, foot pain, lower leg pain...... I learned through others shared experiences (Podcasts, blogs and Daily Mile posts) that this transition must be slow and controlled. Step 1 is not completely abandoning your old shoes. Step 1 is abandoning them for one shorter run per week for a month. December 6, 2010 was that day for me.
Shiny new shoes!
I faithfully stood by my promise to myself that I would only wear those beautiful, new, fast and furious Lunar Glides every Tuesday in December. I put just 19 miles on them that first month but what a sweeeeeeeet 19 miles it was. I loved every minute of it. Each Tuesday was like my birthday as a I flung open the closet door with child-like excitement where my precious new shoes were waiting for me. I couldn't wait for January when I would start wearing them every Tuesday and Thursday. By the end of January, I did start noticing some aching in my knees, which I have now heard also happened to female friends of mine when they first started running in them. I do associate the knee aches with the Lunar Glides +2 because I did not have those sensations on the other 3 days I was running in my Kayano 15's - ever.
The good great news is that it was a dull ache. It's just adaptation I told myself. When February rolled around, I considered adding in a 3rd day of running in the Nike's, but the knee aching had not subsided - on the other hand, it wasn't any worse. I was having such a great time in them twice a week. What if that 3rd day pushed me over the edge? In reviewing my journal, it was extremely obvious that my average pace was about 30 seconds faster per mile on the days I ran in them while the effort level I recorded was no different than any other similar training run. Rather than risk falling off my marathon training schedule and missing out on running with our Galloway group, I decided to stick with Lunar Glide Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of February. What's the rush anyway? March will be here soon!
By the last week in February, I was able to run for more than an hour in the Nike's (I limited myself to 5 miles per run in Dec and Jan) and the knee aches were non-existent. As of the end of February, I'd logged 82 miles in them. My mile splits dropped by almost a full minute per mile compared to just a few months prior. Yes I am working hard my arse off. The difference is that I'm working with quick, light feet in shoes that I LOVE to run in. Perceived level of effort? A lot less than trying to run 8-8:30 min/miles with chunky, heavy heels, that's for sure! Next Steps
So what am I doing now, at the end of this first week of March? Still running Lunar Glide Tuesdays and Thursdays. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I think a big part of the reason my transition is going smoothly is that I'm still doing my long and medium-long runs in a Stability shoe. I don't feel like it's time to run more than 8 miles a day in them yet. I had a 65 minute run on my schedule this past Tuesday. I don't know what got into me but my body just wanted to fly. I ran 7.15 miles in 65 minutes. My splits were 10:02, 9:35, 9:24, 8:55, 8:33, 8:16 plus an additional 0.15 miles to get me to 65 minutes. I usually don't let myself get this out of control with my speed unless it's race day. It's not something I would do every week because I know from past experience that too much speedwork is an ITBS trigger, but damn it that felt AWESOME!!!
In an effort to reduce my reliance on the stability of the Kayano 15's, I've introduced a third shoe into my weekly rotation - the Asics 2160. It has more stability and weight than the Nike's, but are flatter and less firm than the Kayano 15's. I don't even have 25 miles on the 2160's yet but so far so good. My hope is to be able to run Grandma's marathon in the 2160's and hopefully find a Half that I'll be confident enough to run in my Lunar Glides later this year.
In the meantime, my journal continues to look more and more ridiculous detailed. But I think it's a good thing. Knowledge is power!