After 1 week of running in Nike Zoom Streak XC's and Nike Katana Racr3's, I completely understand why elites run in shoes. I just finished my fastest pace week of running since I started running, and my legs are hardly fatigued. One advantage of shoes is that they save your legs which are important if performance (pace/time) matters. It's been a full circle experience after 3 years as I'm running in racing shoes with absolutely no problems. Of course, the racing shoes are much lighter and flexible than most regular running shoes but they have heel differentials (4-6mm) and slightly arch support yet I notice nothing (it's the racing shoes that are the closest to the shoe folks wore in the 1960's/early 1970's).
So this tells me it's all about form and technique. For me, I only learned how to run correctly by taking off my shoes so this explains the obvious as to why the East Africans can run in shoes without many problems. I have to admit that my feet feel better . . . no pain with the first steps in the morning, I can squeeze my Achilles with no issue, my plantar is painless, etc.). I've been thinking about this even while running.
For me, I'm starting to doubt that true minimalist shoes are going to work for me since I'm so focused on racing and performance . . . I'm a big supporter of Vibram, Evo (still pissed about the blister issues though), Feelmax, etc., but I'm realizing they are not sufficient for the type of running and training I do. I now have a different opinion as to shoes like the soon to released New Balance Minimus road shoe as I think this will bridge the gap for folks like me, as do some of the current racing shoes. I've never been a Nike fan but they make a good racing shoe, and I'm sure other shoe manufacturers make good running shoes as it will come down to personal preference as to individual requirements on shoe construction.
It's been a shocking week. I never would have believed even 6 months ago that I'd be running in regular racing shoes with no problems much less running in Nike's (I still can't believe that). The Nike Zoom Streak XC has performed great and I just finished 2 long runs in them in the mountains on tougher terrain. I've been searching for 1 shoe that I could use on road, grass, dirt roads and dirt trails and the XC's are turning out to be an excellent all-purpose shoe.
My main message is there are many different solutions for folks and it's the personal journey that allows you to find your own solution. It may be barefoot, in may be VFF's or similar, it may be racing shoes, or heck, it may be regular running shoes. This is much more complex than I ever imagined when I started running. I do believe there's an answer for every single person but it may require going through many peaks and valleys and that will take absolutely commitment and becoming a student of the game.
The 2 keys for me are: First, how much do you have to take off your feet to begin to learn correctly? For me, it required going cold turkey to barefoot running. Second, if you return to shoes, which minimalist shoes allow you to run correctly and allow you to meet your personal goals and expectations as it relates to running? For me, it's racing shoes to bridge the gap between performance and good form.