It’s 2005 and a I am in my running store the San Diego Running Institute. Here is the scene: Guy walks through the door and shows the store manager and I a shoe that is called a Vibram Five Fingers and looks ridiculous.
Rep: You need to place an order now everyone is going to want this.
Me: Are you freakin’ serious. Get out of my store. No one will ever wear that.
Fast forward to 2010 and I am in my running store. A guy walks in and shows the store manager and myself what is quite possibly the most ridiculous shoe I have ever seen. It is 3x as thickly cushioned as any other shoe I have ever seen and it is bright yellow. “What the F&%$&# is that”, I ask?
Rep: It’s called the Hoka One and you need to place an order…..everyone is going to want one.
Me: Are you freakin’ serious? Get out of my store. No one will ever wear that.
Fast forward to 2013. I was COMPLETELY wrong on both counts and I no longer have a running store! Ha! That shows you what I know!
In fact I still think both the Vibram and the Hoka are ridiculous and most people purchase them for the wrong reasons but I do believe they both can have a function in a runners “quiver” of shoes. In fact, I had a personal experience with this today and I thought it would be worth sharing.
2 years ago I was suffering from ‘Metatarsalgia” which is pain in your metatarsal bone near the ball of your foot. One day while running the pain went from bad to worse in an instant. It felt like a white hot knife had stabbed my metatarsal. I limped home….and continued to limp for days. Man that hurt! I scheduled an MRI and it turned out the metatarsal pain had been a damaged ligament called the Plantar Plate. When the pain went from bad to real bad that was my Plantar Plate ligament waving bye-bye and rupturing. Ouch! I was in a walking boot for months and narrowly avoided surgery. When it got better I began running again and competed in a 50K, a 50 Mile Mountain race and a 100 mile endurance run…..no metatarsal pain. The out of nowhere about 2 years later I am on a easy morning trail run and I feel an eerily similar pain in the same foot and in the same Metatarsal area. It wasn’t the white hot knife pain but it was definitely painful. When I got home I checked my foot and now the third metatarsal was exquisitely painful to stretch or push on. 2 years ago is was the second metatarsal that was torn. I could not believe it…what are the odds of suffering the same injury to the same foot on another metatarsal? After I was done feeling sorry for myself I dusted off the old walking boot and wore it for the next couple of weeks. I was too busy to make time for an MRI so I figured I would simply wait this injury out. Weeks later it was still painful and I had some time so off I went to get the MRI. I was both happy and shocked to see that I had NOT torn my plantar plate. What I had was bone marrow edema. Bone marrow edema is simply swelling within the hollow cavity of the metatarsal bone….and it hurts just like a fracture.
I began running on the Alter-G treadmill at 70% body weight http://sdri.net/services/alterg-anti-gravity-treadmill/ with minimal pain. I was enjoying running at 30% less my body weight but I really wanted to run at 100% on Terra Plana. Then a thought came to me….back in 2010 the Hoka rep had given me a pair of Hoka One’s. I had put them in my closet with the rest of the gimmick shoes rep’s had given me over the years. I think they were wedged somewhere between a Skecher’s Shape up and a pair of Newton’s. I fetched the shoe out of my closet and inspected its design. My thought was correct…..it had so much cushioning that it was extremely inflexible. Inflexible enough that it would change my foot strike so that I did not bend my third metatarsal region which would then hopefully eliminate the pain. I laced them up and went out for a run while it was still dark. They are about 30 inches thick and bright yellow….I was a little self-conscious but what the hell, if my foot does not hurt who cares what they look like right?
I left the house and went out for a 4 mile run, half street the other half trail…with rocks….which my metatarsal hates. As soon as I started running I knew I was right about the mechanics of the Hoka. The shoe caused me to run a little more flat-footed and the thick cushioning took the rest of the stress off my Metatarsal bone. But would it last mile after mile? 2 miles into the street run the foot was good. I entered Tecolote Canyon and bombed down a hill towards a creek with no pain in the foot. I crossed over the bridge and down the trail plowing over rocks that I normally have to pick my way through in my minimal shoes and still no pain! These things are like running in a 4-wheel drive, I thought. I left the canyon and began the familiar climb up the 11% grade back towards home. There was no pain running uphill either. I finished the run back at the house and checked my foot. There was none of the usual pain that I had on all previous test runs. This is great I thought, I’ll just wear Hokas, start running outside again and I’ll be able to run my 30 mile leg of the Ragnar Trail Relay in November…..but not in these ridiculous bright yellow shoes. After checking online I found a nice pair or muted grey ones. I ma headed over to Milestones Running Company http://www.milestonerunning.com/ in North Park right now to get them.