Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shoe Review: New Balance Minimus MT10

I bought my first pair of MT10's last spring and after running in them through the summer, fall, and winter I feel qualified to write a formal review.

These shoes are spectacular!  Finding the right pair is entirely a matter of fit, and the moment I slipped these on the shape seemed to match my feet perfectly.  They are light (only 7.5 oz), flexible, breathable, so comfortable in fact that at first I forgot I was wearing them.  Officially they are a trail shoe and as such they have decent traction, but they work just as well on the roads.

I wore them on the roads without socks for a couple of months but on my first trail run my feet got the nastiest blisters I've ever seen.  Running on even terrain the forces are almost entirely unidirectional, but on rocky, technical trails your shoe slides around a little in every direction so you need some protection.  Now I wear thin "Aspire Swiftwick" socks and I haven't had any problems.

The MT10's are fairly loose in the toe-box which apparently is part of the design; the intent is that your feet have a chance to splay out as you hit the ground.  Rather than gripping your foot from the sides they feel like they stay on from the top like a sandal.

They are comfortable through a remarkable range of temperatures: when it is hot they breath easily from a mesh upper, and when it is cold they felt pretty much the same.  This winter was monstrous in Utah, and even when I was out in 18 degree night runs my feet never felt chilly.  As the above picture indicates I wore them in an Xterra triathlon and they handled fine even when wet.  The only terrain where they struggled was on ice...but to be fair the only shoes that can really grip that have spikes.

I've logged about 300 miles so far and the sole is almost worn out so I have started looking into my next pair.  I'll take a look at some other brands just to be thorough, but running in these have been such a dream that I've all but made up my mind.  Apparently New Balance makes a black-on-black version which look totally badass...


These shoes have minimal cushioning, only 4mm of heel-to-toe drop, and no arch support, so they are a truly minimalist shoe.  Only buy these if you are already accustomed to landing on the forefoot or are ready to make a big life change.  I will talk more about the transition in my next post.

P.S.  This guy wears 'em too:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The anatomy of an injury

I've spent a lot of time reading about piriformis problems, watching videos, studying anatomy diagrams and experimenting with different treatment techniques and I think I've finally sleuthed out the problem I've been having with my hips.  It's a long and painful story:

Part 1: Bad Biomechanics

I was watching the Nike Cross Nationals and noticed that the leaders were all bending much deeper into the knees than I was.  Because they were high school students and less experienced their cadence was slower, which made it easier to see than in the videos of elites that I had been watching.  My shallow knee-flexion probably came from when I broke my knee cap: to avoid knee pain I learned to walk with mostly straight legs, and even after the pain went away this habit persisted.  This flaw in my running form led to...

Part 2: Injured Piriformis

The piriformis muscle is a small structure in your butt that rotates your leg from side to side (imagine opening and closing your legs while you are sitting.)  With shallow knee-bend I was inadvertently using this small stabilizing muscle to pull my leg through instead the larger glutes and hamstrings.  Because the piriformis wasn't made for this kind of heavy lifting it became tight from overuse.  I finally learned how to stretch and massage it in late December from a video on (I would link directly to it but their video player doesn't allow it; just scroll through their videos until you find it.)  This did wonders by finally loosening up the muscle.  But unfortunately this caused...

Part 3: Inflamed Tendon

Because this was my first time seriously stretching this muscle it put a terrific strain on the tendon which connects the piriformis to the greater trochanter (hip bone.)  This is where things got sticky: I stopped running and stretched and massaged the piriformis, but tendons are avascular, which means that blood doesn't flow directly to them.  So they take much longer to heal than muscles.  The key at this point was...

Part 4: Ice

I didn't think I was neglecting this part of the recovery because I ice my legs often by sitting in a tub of cold water.  The problem is that because I am completely submerged the water isn't very cold, which is fine for general soreness but not good enough for a real injury.  I needed something more targeted.  So I filled quart-sized ziploc bags with ice cubes, connected them together at the top with an over sized paper-clip, and lie down on my stomach with the ice bags slung over my backside.  Connecting the two bags was the key because the ice really needed to be suspended on the outside edge of my hip, and the easiest way to do that was to counter-balance it with the other bag.  Another important thing about ice is that it needs to be done as often as possibly, every medical website says several times a day.  This means every couple of hours.  Realistically I can get in one in the morning and one at night.  Which finally brings us to...

Part 5: Recovery

My pain isn't completely gone yet, but some days I don't feel anything and the sore days are getting farther and farther apart.  I've also been slowly increasing my running frequency up to every day but keeping it light to avoid aggravating the piriformis.  I've felt like Dr. House trying to put all of this together, and like House I'm confident in my theory because it explains all of the symptoms.  Mostly I'm just relieved to feel like I've figured it out.  The worst part about being injured is not knowing whats going on.  After a couple of weeks of playing it safe and lots of ice I should be all better and ready to start training for the 2013 season!  Just in time because the weather in Provo is getting nice:

Sunday, March 3, 2013


There is something very purifying about ice baths.  I woke up with too many different things my mind and when I sat down in the cold water I noticed how everything seemed to come into focus.  I think there are two reasons: one, the sensation is so intense that it makes it hard to think about anything else.  When you first slide in there is that jolt from the sudden cold, then after a few minutes you feel your body slowing down as the temperature really starts to settle in.  Finally there is that burning sensation from the blood rushing back into your legs when you finish.

The second reason ice baths can help focus you is because the genuine discomfort forces you to ask yourself why you are doing it.  Kant called this acting against inclination, which he thought was the only situation in which you can be sure that you are doing something because you believe it is the right thing to do.  The only reason you would voluntarily dip your legs in freezing water is because you wanted to speed recovery, heal and become a better runner.  That thought process naturally leads your mind forward, to the goal, the purpose, the reward.

I've said before that ice baths were the only cure-all.  I was speaking about helping with muscle soreness, but in my experience it even has a restorative effect on the psyche.  It'is like restarting a computer, clearing the memory and beginning from scratch.