(Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS)
For the past week I've been so busy with work and the wrap-up of the grad school semester (the teaching semester has a few weeks to go yet) that I've had to skip almost all my usual workouts. That's been making me a bit sad and stir-crazy, but I consoled myself by daydreaming about working out in new shoes I've been eyeing. I've been telling myself for a month that at the end of April I would let myself get a new pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes.
I had my eye on Merrell's Lithe Glove...
I mostly expect to cross-train and just hang out in my new minimalist shoes for everyday life, since more than most other shoes I've worn, they have a wide toe box/narrow heel combo that really works for my feet. Oh, and since I like being barefoot. However, I am also curious to try running a bit more in a lighter shoe with less of a thick heel. I jogged a couple times in the Vibram Fivefingers KSO women's model I have, but the women's Fivefingers fit me a little too tightly and thus aren't a good running option (I wish they made the next size larger, because the women's styles come in a lot of fun colors the men's styles lack). I've loved the Fivefingers shoes ever since I saw my friend Abyee wearing a pair of the Classics a few years ago.
I currently run in Brooks Adrenalines, a stability shoe with a pretty thick heel. However, I think my running style has changed since these were first recommended, and I don't need as much shoe to compensate because I'm not heel-striking and overpronating like I used to (which wasn't much to begin with, but a quick test jog on the running store's treadmill confirmed this).
So today after I went to my last class before finals week and handed in my term paper, I stopped by the running store to try on some varieties. As I knew from previously stopping in, I would probably have to try on men's versions even in the shoes I hoped to get in the women's versions because the store didn't carry women's 11s in everything. I had the Merrell "Gloves" in mind, as well as the Brooks "Pure" series and, of course, men's Fivefingers.
The Merrell Road Glove and Brooks PureConnect both felt really good in the men's 9.5, so much so that I'm not sure I would go to the women's versions after all, which would be expected to have a narrower toe box. (Below: Merrell Road Glove men's, Brooks PureConnect women's, Brooks PureConnect men's.) Both the Road Glove and PureConnect felt like they hugged and somewhat supported my low arches (I've got a flexible flat foot -- my itty-bitty arch disappears when my foot hits the ground), which I really liked. The PureConnect had a bit more cushioning that would be good for transitioning to a minimalist shoe, and it felt very springy, though it also felt a little strangely as if the midfoot area of the sole was thicker than the forefoot and heel, making it seem to want to rock the foot back and forth. The Road Glove seemed as though it would work for cross-training (I lift weights, play tennis, and do other random gym workouts that require more lateral movement than a typical running shoe is designed for). I liked both of them, but the Road Gloves I liked slightly more.
Aside from these, I tried on the Fivefingers Bikila, but the original Velcro system didn't secure my foot quite enough; the Speed came next, and it was better, though I don't like the look of those as much as other Fivefingers; then came the Bikila LS, and it was just right, a little more snug and secure around my heel and ankle, where I needed it. I was torn going back and forth between it and the Road Glove (which has a similar Vibram sole but without the divided toes). In the end the Bikila LS came home with me (see the picture at the top of the post) because I knew I'd wear them a lot and there was no chance I'd be ordering the women's version instead. I may still try one of these others soon; we'll see.
Though I'm really tired from a semester of hard work and a week of especially hard work (and right now I want to sleep as much as I want to run), I'm excited to get back into my normal workout routine!
On a side note, the girl who helped me at the running store had me try on a pair of Saucony Mirages, an in-between shoe with less of a heel drop but more cushioning and a little stability. It was light but felt more like my usual running shoe than any other styles. It would have also been a good choice for me and wasn't as expensive as the above options.