Running in vintage sneakers
January 4, 2009 11:50 AM   Subscribe

How much harder would it be to run a marathon in vintage running shoes (e.g. Nike Air Pegasus '83 vs Air Pegasus '08)?
posted by madh to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Condition aside, my rule of thumb is that people ran marathons in those shoes in 1983, so how bad could it be? Otherwise, I'm not sure how to quantify "how much harder."
posted by rhizome at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2009

Condition aside, my rule of thumb is that people ran marathons in those shoes in 1983, so how bad could it be?

Pretty bad, considering the natural decomposition of the materials of the shoe since 1983.
posted by jayder at 12:11 PM on January 4, 2009

(Which might not be apparent in the "condition" of the shoe.)
posted by jayder at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2009

It would all depend on the individual runner. Elite runners run marathons in racing flats, which are quite similar to the Air Pegasus '83 with minimal support, thin midsoles and lightweight uppers. A heavier runner who is accustomed to running in a shoe with a lot of support would definitely notice a difference.

I think the big difference would not be running a marathon in vintage shoes, but training in vintage shoes. Modern shoes offer a lot more cushioning and support, so you would be less likely to sustain an injury during the hundreds of miles of training runs.

Nike has re-released the Pegasus '83, but it's probably intended for fashion more than athletic pursuits.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 12:17 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

It depends on the condition of the '83 Pegasus shoes. I've collected a fair amount of older sneakers by Nike, and what I can say without a doubt is that shoes made in the '90s and '80s are made with much better materials and tend to last longer and appear new even after wearing the shoes 10 or more times.

With running, however, I'm not sure how well the older pair would hold up simply because of the decomposition of the material.
posted by pwnzj00 at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2009

Best answer: There is a healthy and active debate in running circles about whether or not current running shoes are actually "good for you" or not. There is substantial evidence that a midfoot strike is biomechanically preferable for runners. Present day running shoes, which tend to have a built-up heel, do not promote that sort of footstrike. It was easier to get a midfoot strike in older styles of shoes that did not have midsoles as substantial as today's shoes.

Regardless, as Andy's Gross Wart mentioned, elite runners wear less robust shoes when running marathons. Abebe Bikila won the 1960 Rome Olympic Marathon running barefoot.
posted by OmieWise at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2009

A common marathoner's rule is 500 miles: a running shoe is no longer good after it has logged 500 miles, and generally, I like to wear a shoe with less than 200 for a marathon. As a pronator, I need all the support I can get. But I also do not run a marathon in under 2'10" like the pros. In order to avoid injury, one should have put in some miles on whatever shoe they're going to run 26.2 miles in, so practice makes perfect. If you're comfortable running an 18 mile training run in those suckers, then roll with it.

And on a side note, at the Austin, Texas marathon in February of 2008, several elite runners were barefoot.
posted by cachondeo45 at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2009

Best answer: When you start considering the potential benefit of shoe cushioning you also have to think about it the other way and consider the number of people who run barefoot. Look at "You Walk Wrong",the site "Running Barefoot" or the case of 2-time Olympic marathon winner of Abebe Bikila for example

Have a go at running in some modern running shoes along a beach. Then take them off and continue barefoot. The chances are that with shoes on you run so that your heels strike the ground before your toes; this is how most people run and the cushioning that designers have added over the years is often to help absorb the shock of this style of running. When you are barefoot, on the other hand, the natural way to run is for your toes to strike first and for the shock to be absorbed by of the legs. I would argue that the less cushioning you put into a shoe the greater the tendency for the runner to run as if they were in bare feet (the Vibram Five Finger is an extreme example).

Some people argue that the running shoe manufacturers are actually increasing levels of chronic injury by adding ever more cushioning which then encourages more people to run longer distances in a manner different from that to which we evolved to do. Whilst this may be a slightly extreme view it can be hard to dig below the advertising hype and find credible research showing that cushioning innovations either boost performance or reduce injury. The converse argument states that the reason why running related injuries are still increasing is that the marathon competitions have gone, in the last 25 years or so, from being elite events to ones with a much larger and more general audience.

So you might like to consider that the person doing a marathon in 1983 vintage shoes was actually less likely to get injured because they were more naturally talented, better trained and less likely to be overweight.
posted by rongorongo at 2:11 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know that the military here in the UK issue troops with Hi Tec's Silver Shadow trainers. These are a design from the 80s, and as far as I know little's changed. I don't know if they're any good for running, but the fact that the army's willing to invest in them suggests that either they're exceptional value for money, or there have been some severe budget cuts.
posted by hnnrs at 3:15 PM on January 4, 2009

The converse argument states
posted by Philby at 1:08 AM on January 5, 2009

If you really want to use them, take cachondeo45's advice and try training in them. If you can do a couple of long runs (I'd say 18-22 miles) in them comfortably, then why not? Everyone's legs are different. However, I'd suggest getting the re-release if at all possible. 26 years of deterioration in the sole would probably make the original as hard as a brick.

I'm glad others have brought up the minimalist movement in shoes. I'm a competitive (as opposed to fast) runner, and I bought a pair of Nike Free 5.0s a few weeks back. So far I can only use them for easy runs of 3-5 miles. Any time I run farther or try to do speedwork in them, my feet are sore the next day. I'm very curious if my feet will adapt over the coming months.

Good luck!
posted by letitrain at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2009

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