I was out running for an hour and a half on a very hilly course (for Minnesota) in my minimalist shoes (Sortie Magic) today, thinking about what Kim Stevenson said about minimalist shoes. My left thigh was feeling the pounding. I too am quite heavy built and recent lack of running has not helped with my weight either! But then again, I remember Lydiard saying that “good runners are always very light on their feet” meaning that they in most cases have developed very smooth running style that actual physical built sometimes do not matter. Of course, Kim, I’m not saying that you are not a good runner—in fact a friend of mine seems to be very heavy on his feet (you can hear his every step), yet he finished fourth in the Olympic marathon. You can’t argue with that result!
One thing about Arthur Lydiard is that he would give you his recommendation and opinion but he would not necessarily put you in a certain box and say “You do this, or else it’s no good.” He was very much more “free-spirited” you might say. In regards to shoes, I remember one time that he was very critical of certain brand and this young coach, who was wearing that particular brand, said that he’s very comfortable with that pair and he never had any problem or injury. Lydiard said, “Look, if you had no problem with those, stick with them!” If it works with you, why change it? Some people may seriously have a problem running up to 100 miles a week. Lydiard would not tell him or her that it’s no good. Do whatever works for you (within reason) and that would be fine. That is why it took me a while to change my lacing to the Lydiard lacing. He never told me to do it that way (he just shook his head with a grin, sending a message with lots of pressure!).
Everybody is little bit different; Lydiard always said that we are all individual. As for running shoes, he said that some of us are knock-kneed, some of us are bow-legged… Some of us have big thighs, some big calves; some run on their toes (although not strictly technically “on the toes”), some land hard on the heel… If you need heavy padding, fine. If your feet work best in straight-last shoes, fine. The important thing is to understand why Lydiard said “the shoe has to be banana-shape” or “the shoe has to flex on the arch; in both ways” or “you shouldn’t have a thumb-widths at the end of the shoe”, etc. They all make sense to me. For the last comment, some people have complained that the feet swell up a bit while running. Well, again, you don’t want to take it to the point where you lose your toe nails. What he meant is that, even the slowest runner in the world takes off and “kicks” at the end of the foot. That’s why we have plastic “teeth” at the end of the track spike shoes, or have pins close to the edge. If you have almost an inch of “floppy” area at the end of the shoe, you cannot get this “flick”.
There are of course a few “absolute” necessities (like white bread being NO NO): the shoe has to be light and flexible; the shoe has to flex where your feet flexes; and none of the upper material should bite into your feet. Many shoe manufacturers put so much unnecessary materials for cosmetic purpose and, more often than not, they tend to dig into your feet when the shoe flexes (if it flexes at all!). In such case, I’d have no hesitation to take those pieces off by carefully removing the threads and, if necessary, saw it all back up. Just like the late Ron Daws used to do.
I guess I’m going on and on again… How did we start talking about the shoe?