I feel a rant coming on...everybody get ready!
You know that you're guilty of this. When you still wore traditional trainers you probably only had one or two pairs of running shoes. One pair for everyday use. Then maybe one pair for that occasional trail run or race. You thought those shoes were just fine and dandy for pretty much everything. You didn't go out looking for new shoes until those old ones wore out.
Now you're a barefoot/minimalist runner, and even though you profess your hatred of shoes, your closet is crammed with no less than four pairs. You have a full-blown case of shoe whoredom. And if I know most of you, you're still out shopping for the latest and greatest minimal shoe well before you wear out the ones you already have. Maybe you're even growing your collection, and inventing ever-more elaborate niches to explain away your purchase (i.e. "Well I have trail shoes, but I don't have trail shoes that match this outfit.").
What is it about the act of swearing off shoes that make us into such shoe whores? Jason Robillard recently opined that we purchase minimal shoes as we realize our own limitations. We continue to purchase shoes as we find limitations in the last pair of shoes we purchased. So on goes the insanity until your shoes occupy a large tub in the garage.
I agree with Jason. I think as your skill as a barefooter grows, you inevitably run into conditions that could be seen as "unrunnable" barefoot. Thus some turn to shoes to further their training goals; myself included. But most of us acquire this shoe whoring problem long before we push our bare feet to their limits. That's because shoe whoring comes also from a deeper longing. A longing for a shoe that doesn't suck. Or at least doesn't suck quite so much.
We barefooters demand a lot from our shoes. We are what I like to call "shoe snobs". We want the perfect blend of features that best achieves that "barefoot feeling" while at the same time doing what the shoe was meant to do. We keep buying shoes because, in part, everything we've tried so far isn't quite right for us. And since we have a perfectly good set of feet to run with anyways, we don't feel like we have to settle for "good enough".
Not only do we demand something that fits just right, it has to perform just right as well. So when confronted with a particular situation we automatically assume that we need the best, most specialized shoe for the job. In either case, if we don't have that "just right" shoe, we seek to acquire it. Thus...a shoe whore is born.
I get the feeling of wanting to have the right tool for the job. And getting a new pair of shoes is kind of cool. I know...it happens to me just about every week.
My issue comes when people acquire more shoes with little reflection as to whether they actually need to make that purchase. For example, every winter there is at least one thread on the Runner's World forum where a poster asks whether they need to buy a pair of Vibram Flows for the cold. Dude...you don't need a $100 new pair of shoes for this new situation. You need a $10 pair of socks. You also don't need a pair of trail shoes. You've only run one trail in your life and you hated it.
It's not always just a lack of common sense or reflection though. I think we also assume that various minimal shoes can do more than they actually can. For example, a trail shoe should naturally be able to perform better on a trail than a road shoe because it's a trail shoe, right? The thing is, a minimal trail shoe isn't a whole lot different than a minimal road shoe. That's because in order for that trail shoe to be considered "minimal" it has to sacrifice a ton of features like cleat and protection in favor ones that us weirdos prefer, such as our ever-beloved "groundfeel". When conditions on a trail are favorable, there is virtually no difference between a Trail Glove and a road shoe. When it's a little sloppy, there is a marginal difference. When it's really sloppy, both shoes suck because they are minimal shoes.
The same could be said when comparing any other two categories of minimal shoes. Road shoes to huaraches. Huaraches to trail shoes. And so on. So here's my reflection on how many minimal shoes one actually needs. In my opinion, I don't see any reason why the vast majority of barefoot/minimal runners need more than one pair of all-around minimal shoes.
So where I depart with Jason is on the thinking that shoes should be precisely matched to the conditions you plan to run in. Jason and I have the luxury of being able to be very particular about the shoes we use in certain circumstances. We have the ability to acquire pretty much any shoe we want. Maybe we've unintentionally fostered some kind of image that you must have the perfect shoe for every possible situation. If I've done that, I apologize. I certainly don't feel that way. In fact, of all the shoes I own, I probably only use one pair.
I feel that for the vast majority of you all, the only shoe most of you need in your collection is a classic, all-around great minimal shoe like the Vibram KSO or the VIVOBAREFOOT Evo. These shoes do great on the road. They hold their own on about 90% of all trail applications. Inclimate weather is usually not a factor for these puppies. And when you really think about it, those situations probably make up about 99% of your running.
Now of course there are exceptions. If you run an even mix of road and trails. If you are an ultra-marathoner and your shoes could literally be the difference between finishing and DNF-ing. I'm sure there are many more.
So the next time you're about to open your pocketbook and get ready to purchase yet another pair of shoes, I hope you think critically about whether or not you actually need them. I think you'll find that you don't. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "The shoes you have are fine bro."
I'm signing off for the week. Cheers citizens!