Non-minimalist running shoes for the minimalist?
January 27, 2014 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I love my minimalist shoes, but a few years ago I attempted to run in them and ended up with capsulitis in the joints in the ball of my left foot. Here I am a few years later and I want to try running again. Difficulty level: female, with wide feet.

I wear minimalist shoes 99% of the time, and love them for everything - work, walking, hiking, biking, and working out at the gym. Occasionally I haul out my very non-minimalist Keen Targhee Mid II hiking boots to protect against the slop on the ground in the winter. I ran for the bus this morning in them, and it felt great.

FWIW, when I was injured I had started running slowly - as advised - and was very much adjusted to wearing minimalist shoes before I tried running in them. I was also starting my running regimen gently using C25K.

How can I find running shoes that give me that support and provide a wide toe box? I can wear small men's shoes since my shoe size is about 8.5-9 in US women's sizes (39-40 in European sizing), and my feet are not afraid to break the gender barrier.

I'm planning on going to a running store to chat with the folks there, too, but I don't want to be completely flummoxed. Specific shoe recommendations are welcome!

Thanks in advance for the help!
posted by metarkest to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My orthopedist recommended Asics for my (very wide and with a host of other issues) feet and they're the only shoes I have that reliably don't hurt.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:52 AM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm an 8-8.5 (also in wide) and love these shoes. I got them on sale 10 months ago from Kohl's - they are the lightest shoes I have ever worn. I don't even think there was really a break-in period.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:05 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: I have been disappointed by the heaviness of my New Balance and Brooks options lately, and have researching lighter running shoes with wide toe boxes. I haven't tried either of these brands yet, but I am intrigued by:

Mizuno Wave Prophecy


Altra Zero Drop Torin
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:17 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: Forgot one: Altra Provisionness
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:23 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: I am a female runner with wide feet. I prefer semi-minimalist running shoes - shoes that have decent cushioning, but a low heel-toe drop. My favourite so far is the Saucony Kinvara - they have just a 4 mm drop, are lightweight, and have decent cushioning. The toe box is roomy enough for my wide feet.
posted by barnoley at 7:32 AM on January 27, 2014

I am not (yet) a runner, but get thee to a running store. I've had problems with my feet/knees/ankles all of my life thanks to bad posture and flat feet...they put me on a treadmill, took video of the way I walk when barefoot, then found several pairs of shoes for me to try.

I ended up with a pair of Brooks that keep me from overpronating, and I can literally go all day in them where before I got blisters and had constant pain. Totally worth the time! And while my shoes were $200, I took my friend in and hers were only $70 ~ I don't feel they didn't have an agenda to sell expensive shoes, they truly made every effort to sell the best shoes for me.
posted by kattyann at 7:41 AM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

What minimalist shoes were you wearing before? Like, something like five-fingers, or something zero-drop but with cushioning? I am also a lifestyle minimal shoe wearer (even my snow boots are Merrell Barefoot) and I have successfully run in the Kinvaras and a couple different pairs of New Balance lightweight, zero-drop shoes, but they definitely don't have as much room in the toe box as a true minimal shoe, and my toes tend to go a bit numb on longer runs.
posted by mskyle at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2014

I have very wide feet, and am a woman who usually takes a 9.5. For running shoes you want to go half or a full size bigger than your regular size.

I wear asics nimbus, size 10.5D (wide)
posted by gaspode at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: My wife was running in Merrills (the Trail Gloves were too thin for her, but she did like the Dash I think?) but switched to the Kinvara for longer distances. She has been liking them. I tried them, but hated them - too much cushion for me after years in FiveFingers. My solution was the New Balance Minimus - ultra-light, but a thin EVA foam cushion instead of nothin' but rubber on the sole.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: PS Asics has taken a very specific anti-minimalist stance. I like Asics. I have like 5-6 pairs of them. I am wearing one of those pairs right now. I have worn them since high school (early 90s). But I cannot run in them, not any more. They feel too bulky, too thick, too much cushion, and they still feature the wide flared heel base - this more than anything seems to be the Achilles heel in non-minimal shoes for me, the heel base forces my foot to land the way the SHOE wants it to go, which wreaks havoc on my knees and ankles. It's the main reason why I didn't like the Kinvara. Rounded heel or nothing for me, I guess. YMMV.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:13 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: PPS from my speaking with sales reps, I believe New Balance carries more widths than pretty much anyone else. Find a good running store, one that lets you test and return anything that doesn't work for you. Don't let them talk you into anything that feels wrong. You know your feet better than anyone. If it hurts or is uncomfortable when you run, it isn't right for you.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:15 AM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the really excellent suggestions! Somehow I never ran across Kinvaras, so I'll have to do some investigating. I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of the suggestions so far, too.

What minimalist shoes were you wearing before? Like, something like five-fingers, or something zero-drop but with cushioning?

I was wearing five-fingers when the injury occurred, but my collection of barefoot shoes includes Vivobarefoot shoes for work, VFFs for the gym, Merrell Trail Gloves for warm weather outings, an older version of the New Balance MT20 Winter Running shoes for cold/wet weather outings, and Merrell snow boots. (I find the Merrells get really slippery on occasion!)

I really like zero-drop shoes, perhaps something zero-drop but with good cushioning is the answer?
posted by metarkest at 9:56 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: I adore my Merrell Pace Gloves (and find them different from the Trail Gloves). They are a joy to run in. I have very wide feet, but going from my normal size 10 to an 11 gave me all the extra room I needed.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: I have wide feet. I love minimalist shoes - like a lot of people I know, I get back/hip/knee problems when I try anything with a heel. And I also have capsulitis.

No doubt your doctor went over everything with you when you were diagnosed, but did you solve specifically what was wrong with your gait to give you capsulitis? For me it was tight calves. Once I learned to stretch my calves, and used some toe box cushions to keep/push my toes back into place, it was a lot better. Also I learned that those horrible, huge calluses I was always sawing away at were a symptom, and if I start developing those I need to be more conscious of my gait again.

I'm only bringing this up because it won't matter what shoes you get if you haven't solved why. You probably have, else you wouldn't want to run again, but just checking. Also, as a result of my capsulitis, I learned that I had *not* adjusted to minimalist shoes like I thought I had, and it made a world of difference.

Anyway, I've had a lot of luck with Merrells as well, especially their barefoot run line, although my favorite are the Pace Gloves with vibram soles, which I buy in sets absolutely terrified they will disappear. My doc told me not just any kind of drop is bad, but so is any height under the toe, and I've found that to be true, but each person may be different.

Regardless of the shoe, however, the one thing that I've learned is that it's not just about drop, it's also about flexibility of the sole. You can have zero drop but if the sole is just a flat piece of rubber with little flexibility then it doesn't make a difference - and for me, the more flexibility I have, the better my gait is, because my toes have room to spread out and grip, reducing the weight on that one joint. A lot of shoes claim to be minimalist, but if I can't bend the sole very well, then I move on.
posted by barchan at 10:24 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to a store that specializes in running shoes and get fitted. This is important. This isn't a thing where someone's positive experience with a pair of Asics is at all relevant to you, because your feet are not their feet. So you need to go to a place that has a wide variety of running shoes for you to try on, and ideally the place will have salespeople who know how to fit people for running shoes by watching them run. For real, there's no other answer to this question.
posted by chrchr at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Try them all. Find a dedicated running store that has a treadmill you can run on. Bring a friend and have her video your feet from behind as you run. Try them all. Even if it takes all afternoon. Fitting and advice are fine, but there is no substitute for using them and seeing what your feet are doing in them. Try them all.
posted by dzot at 11:18 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love my minimalist shoes, but a few years ago I attempted to run in them and ended up with capsulitis in the joints in the ball of my left foot.

Heh, this is (eventually) what happened to me in minimalist shoes. New Balance definitely has the biggest range of widths - I say just go to a proper running store and start trying some on (NB and others), you will definitely find something to suit you.
posted by smoke at 2:09 PM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: not sure where you live, but you should seriously go to a running shoe store (aka not Footlocker, Finish Line, etc) -- and get your feet fitted / get a recommendation!
posted by knockoutking at 7:02 AM on January 29, 2014

Response by poster: So many great answers and ideas here - thank you all so much!

I have a great little independent running store in my town that carries Altras as well as many other recommended brands. I'll be stooping by there soon to see what they suggest, too.

Regarding what caused the injury, it was likely running with no padding, and putting too much weight on the balls of my feet. I'll report back with the store's recommendations!
posted by metarkest at 5:26 AM on January 30, 2014

I have run many miles in very minimal shoes (VFFs) and I recently added a pair of Brooks PureDrift shoes to my rotation for some extra padding on longer runs on sidewalks. I tried on a handful of brands/styles but all the others were too narrow either in the toebox or all around. When you talk to someone at a store, I think you're looking for padding or "cushioning" and not "support". The PureDrift shoes have no structure/support at all, they just wrap a slab of foam to the sole of your foot.
posted by sudama at 1:39 PM on January 31, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone! The Altra Zero Drop Torin fit the bill for my feet exactly - wide toe box plus padding!
posted by metarkest at 7:02 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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