Running Shoes Help
March 13, 2012 5:57 PM   Subscribe

What's the difference between crosstraining shoes and running shoes? Can I run in Nike Free TR Fit shoes, which are apparently crosstrainers, or should I get running shoes?

I recently started Couch to 5K; I just finished the second week (yay!). I had to go out and buy new shoes before starting, because I didn't own any running shoes. After doing a little research, I decided to get Nike Free shoes. I wanted something very lightweight and barefoot-style, but not the full on Vibram Five Fingers. It's a very high priority that I start running with good form, and I think having good shoes / light shoes will help me with that, so I don't heel strike.

I ended up accidentally buying Nike Free TR Fit shoes, which are "training shoes" according to the Nike website. They are super, super lightweight - the website I linked to says 7oz. I'm not really sure how they differ from running shoes.

So, my question is, given that I am prioritizing having good shoes in order to have good running form, does it matter at all that I'm running in crosstrainers rather than running shoes?

Note that as I'm near the beginning of C25K still, my runs are short - about 20 minutes three times a week. I run exclusively on pavement.
posted by insectosaurus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think the only real difference between those shoes and running shoes is that those ones have an "internal structural support system that's engineered to provide the ultimate support for multidirectional movement" whereas a running shoe is engineered to provide maximum support a forward running movement. I doubt that you'd really notice much of a difference at all, but it's possible you might feel better about the idea of having a dedicated pair of runners. That's the kind of thing that would bug me, even knowing that it didn't make an appreciable difference, so I'd probably swap them out for the runners if it wasn't too much hassle.
posted by Balonious Assault at 6:28 PM on March 13, 2012


crosstrainers have more padding in the forefoot and more side-to-side stability. runners have more forefoot flexibility and their padding is concentrated in the heel.

You can run in cross trainers, and they're a good purchase if you do more than run. If, on the other hand, you're only going to use them to run, and you run long distances, then you're better off with runners.

Also: i think you are potentially mistaken in beleiving that super lightweight shoes are the way to go. Those shoes are ideal for people running long distances (marathons) with perfect form (no pronating or supinating.) Because 70% of the population pronates, and about 10% supinates, you only have a 20% chance of not needing a shoe with any stability or structure; and the fact that you are just starting Couch to 5K, you are definitely not doing long distances, and therefore there is no reason for you sacrifice cushioning for less weight.

Return the shoes, and get a pair of runners that are right for your feet and the type of running you do!
posted by Kololo at 6:37 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can only speak from my own experience, but some people love lightweight shoes for all kinds of training and others hate it. I ended up in non-stability shoes when I first started running heavily and almost stress-fractured both fibulas; I now run exclusively in lighter stability shoes with far fewer problems and, thankfully, no more MRIs! I would love to run in crosstrainers but my legs are just not built for it. If your natural form is solid and you enjoy the Frees, then go for it. If you start feeling routine pain, stiffness, soreness, hot spots, then look at where and how you're running-- maybe they're not great for your route or your stride, or maybe they're great for your intervals/speed work, or maybe they are, in fact, the best shoe for you.

(I know the super lightweight shoes are really in fashion right now, but Kololo is correct in pointing out that many people have feet which require corrective padding. Nature did not design us perfectly for running, as a brief examination of the knee will show, and while form is really important and can fix a lot of the chronic problems runners often face, it's not a bad thing to need support.)

In general, your feet will let you know if there's a problem. I do think they might be a little unpadded and light for someone starting out, but if it's not a problem to pick up another pair or test out a "running" shoe, then I don't see any harm in trying them out. Coach to 5k is a great routine, and I hope you enjoy your training!
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:44 PM on March 13, 2012


I wouldn't worry about it. Because this style is so lightweight/'barefoot', they probably don't have much support in either model and so the basic difference between these shoes is some extra work on the training shoes that will stop them from falling apart if you ever move sideways while wearing them. (Occasionally wearing my running shoes for indoor soccer probably halved their lifespan).

You recognize that you shouldn't be heel striking, but world class shoes won't give you world class form. Are you just running on your own? If you have no running history, your form most likely sucks (source: lots of running background, watching new runners, watching joggers on the street). Join a running group (the local athletics stores/Nike stores near me have plenty) and ask someone to give you tips, or get at least one session with a personal trainer who has a good technical background.

Finally, agreeing with Kololo that many people aren't suited to these shoes - how did you buy them? Did you go to one of the small stores where someone will watch you run for a minute and give you advice? It's worth doing.
posted by jacalata at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2012


I could be wrong but at only 7 ounces, I don't think there's not going to be too much difference between those and a pair of racing flats.

To answer your question about good shoes and good running form--Good shoes won't magically make you run well, however I did find that minimal shoes helped me loads when I first started running. It forced me to switch from a heel strike to a forefoot strike which my knees and ankle thanked me for, however, my feet now give me issues (though it started as non-running related but running exacerbated them). You really do have to be careful when you run in minimal shoes. I honestly think even the 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week from 2nd week of C5K is too much too soon.

If you do want to keep using minimal shoes when you start running, I'd recommend that you run once a week in them then get another pair of more traditional running shoes for the other 2 runs.

However if you do think that you want to go the way of minimal running while still keeping the support of normal running shoes, I think you should look into Altra Zero Drops. They provide the support (padding) of a traditional running shoe, but the bottom is completely flat from toe to heel like all the minimal shoes. Traditional running shoes usually have more heel padding so the heel is a few millimeters above the toes. My podiatrist recommended these to me after I was trying to get back into running from a few injuries and they have worked beautifully for me!
posted by astapasta24 at 10:13 PM on March 13, 2012


When I started running, I wore Merrell Pure Gloves, which are minimal running/hiking/whatever shoes. They were great because I was able to build A LOT of calf muscle really fast, and since they are so minimal, you're very conscious of how your feet land. I now own Nike Frees, and my poor calf muscles have shrank. Eh. With minimal shoes, you will be running a lot slower, but it does really help with building strength. The Nikes are pretty cushy for such lightweight shoes, but beware, you will destroy them pretty fast if you are wearing them outdoors. My Merrells are holding up well after a year.
posted by ohmansocute at 8:13 AM on March 14, 2012


Kololo: Also: i think you are potentially mistaken in beleiving that super lightweight shoes are the way to go. Those shoes are ideal for people running long distances (marathons) with perfect form (no pronating or supinating.) Because 70% of the population pronates, and about 10% supinates, you only have a 20% chance of not needing a shoe with any stability or structure; and the fact that you are just starting Couch to 5K, you are definitely not doing long distances, and therefore there is no reason for you sacrifice cushioning for less weight.

Being a lightweight shoe doesn't mean that it's made for long distances, nor does it mean that it's not good for a beginner. Track spikes and Aqua socks are both lightweight, but you'd want to cut off your legs if you ran a mile on concrete in either. And a heavy, clunky, max-cushioning, max-stability shoe won't help someone get into running before they've developed the muscles to deal with it. Being a beginner doesn't mean that you need extra cushioning. In fact, softer cushioning will tire you out quicker. Pronating or supinating doesn't mean that you're better off with a motion-control shoe. Nearly all mass-market running shoes that are deemed "neutral" are going to be fine for most people. A motion-control shoe might help, but the gain for most of the people that it would help would be minimal.

astapasta24: I could be wrong but at only 7 ounces, I don't think there's not going to be too much difference between those and a pair of racing flats.

The only way the Free TR Fit is comparable to a true racing flat is that they're both athletic shoes. Racing flats provide the absolute minimum cushioning and motion control and, at the pricier end of the spectrum, are designed to be used for one race. The TR Fit is designed to look good just as much as it's designed to perform well in the gym. I'm not saying it's a bad shoe, but it's no racing flat.

Kololo: crosstrainers have more padding in the forefoot and more side-to-side stability. runners have more forefoot flexibility and their padding is concentrated in the heel. You can run in cross trainers, and they're a good purchase if you do more than run. If, on the other hand, you're only going to use them to run, and you run long distances, then you're better off with runners.

Exactly. Taking a look at the shoes, the lack of forefoot flexibility is probably going to affect your stride the most. Compare the soles of your shoes with the Free Run 2. See how the grooves become shallower and further apart near the toes on the TR Fit, while they don't change too much on the Free Run? That's good if you want a stable base to push off laterally. But in a straight line it will shorten your stride by not letting you push off your toes as much. The TR Fit also has a very flexible arch area, which can get uncomfortable after running or walking for a while, and a fairly flat footbed, which can lead to heel discomfort even if you don't have a hard heelstrike.

Disclosure: I am not a foot doctor, but I used to sell running and athletic shoes, and I'm familiar with both the Free Run 2 (in fact I have a couple pairs of them) and the TR Fit.
posted by clorox at 12:54 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone for all the information! I'm leaning towards finding a small store where they'll check out my actual running style and pick out a shoe for me.

clorox, it sounds like you do not recommend running in the TR fit - is that correct, or am I reading your post wrong?
posted by insectosaurus at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2012


If you plan on doing more than what you're doing now, then yes, I think you'd be better off with running shoes. But don't trash them just because someone on the internet or in a shoe store or a magazine recommends something. If they work, they work!
posted by clorox at 10:22 AM on March 15, 2012


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