Running in Tokyo/Japan - Marathon/Clubs/Track Races


One of the issues regarding our wonderful sport is the never ending line of new trends. So far we've had every cushioned system invented by man; from air to gel; an array of gadgets that can measure: speed, heart rate , altitude, and even calories burnt; we can even purchase micro chips which are inserted into particular lines of shoes;  and  runner oriented GPS systems. Of course how much information conveyed to us by these latest goodies is of use is open to debate. And now we can buy footwear that sacrifice support and cushioning in order promote the natural movement of our feet; such as the Five Finger range by Vibram. 

Runners are now starting to realise that  a well cushioned and supportive shoe is not necessarily an insurance against injury.  Currently there is a trend towards a more minimalistic approach. But have runners gone too far with this? And do these new shoes which are no more than supportive socks really prevent injuries?

Lets just look at the case for and against  Five Fingers. For minimalist running there is nothing better around that enhances this. In fact most runners probably brought a pair after reading Born To Run; the story of a tribe of indigenous Mexicans who run great distances in nothing more than old tyres strapped to their feet. However what is important to consider is that the Indians mentioned in the book have run in this state since childhood. Whatsmore they are very slightly built, and do all their running on trails and condensed earth.

Contrast this with yourselves. The chances are that very few of you share the same build, and probably do a large percentage of your running on hard surfaces. Also your footwear might be a conventional shoe that is well cushioned and possibly stable. 

The purpose of this article is not to criticise this latest trend; but to put forth considerations. I believe that they they do have their place, but should only be worn by a select few: those who are slightly built, have excellent to perfect biomechanics, and do most of their running on soft surfaces. I think that those of you who don't fall into this category should think very carefully prior to purchasing them otherwise you could get injured.

As for me I weigh 67 kilos, although I have quite a heavy bone structure, even though my right foot has a normal gait my left does pronate and alas I don't have enough soft surfaces where I live to run on. Therefore five fingers are out of the question for me. Instead I will do most of my running in Mizuno Wave LDs or   Wave Aeroes; fantastic shoes that are slightly minimalistic without sacfricing too much cushioning, and yet very responsive.

Thank you for reading this and I would really appreciate any comments. Maybe you might even have a pair; if so let us know your thoughts.               





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Thanks for this. In principle I agree with the minimalistic approach, but think the five fingers go a bit beyond what we really need. I ran in Mexico, and did pretty well against these slightly built athletes - I am actually very slightly built myself. (tarahumara country). I think, looking at their footwear, I now worry less about always having the latest and newest shoes, and think that the most important thing is simply to strengthen my calves and run on my forefoot!
The most important factor about a shoe is that it should be an extension of your foot, and be very responsive. Thats why I'm starting to switch over to Mizuno from Asics. Their wave plate is a fantastic innovation because it really allows the shoe to respond to my foot very well. And importantly if you come across a perfect shoe stick with it until it is phased out.
One more point, if you do purchase a pair of Five Fingers (I'm sorry I can't upload a photo) switch to them gradually.
I've been running in VFFs for about six months now. I love them, but they aren't the end all be all that the VFF community builds the up to be. Up to about 10k they're awesome; after that the pads of my feet really start to hurt. I’ve only a couple of times run my 3-3.5 hour runs in them, and the pain was excruciating. For long runs I use a shoe that looks like a 1970s’ track shoe, its support is minimal but it has some cushion for the bottoms of my feet. I weigh 85 kilos and the good thing about the VFFs is they’ve forced me to be lighter on my feet. For this they’re invaluable. I feel every crack and bump on the pavement without the dangers or pain of going barefoot. They’ve forced me to keep my feet underneath me and made me a better more natural runner.

Over all, I’d recommend having a pair. For me now, it’s my main shoe except on long runs when I go to my old standby.

Great picture, all in one!
Cheers Jack,
Awesome photo! What Pumas are those? Anyway thanks for your invaluable feedback.
Thanks guys. The Puma is probably more of a fashion shoe that a running shoe but I prefer it over the cushiony runners I've had in the past. Before these I used an almost identical pair by Saucony, which were great too. When you wear a size 12/ 30cm in Japan you pretty much get what you get.
Yes, these shoes look pretty vintage to me! I had a pair of Nike LDV in 1980, and then the Adidas TRX, how nostalgic!
The Nike LDV... Did you have the Freddie Mercury mustache to go with them?
I had the Pre one, though I didn't know Pre at that time! And sometimes, I looked more like Vartainen!
The market for retro shoes (esp) in Korea is HUGE. I often see some of my students walking around in what appear to be something that I ran my first 10k back in the day. I came across a pair of my favorite racers (Reebok Paris Racer) in a Footlocker in Seoul a few months ago. It looked and felt the same as the 85 model that the great Steve Jones wore, so I would assume it would still hold up well against most of the racing flats that you can buy today.
Nike have a history of making awesome racing flats and it would be fantastic if they rereleased some of them esp those from the 80s.

For me the best thing about the barefoot trend has been the number of companies bringing out good lightweight neutral shoes, and cutting back on the heavy stability models - much more choice than a few years back.

The Puma FAAS range is worth a look if you like the brand; a genuine running shoe, flexible and light.


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