Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Merrell Bare Access Arc 2 Minimalist Shoe Review

This is my first shoe review and I'm really glad I didn't post this too prematurely as planned.

I've been wearing the Merrell Bare Access Arc 2 Minimalist Shoe for 2.5 months now. I've returned to running after my "running vacation" and decided to start fresh with a new pair of shoes. You know the saying "Don't fix it if it ain't broken"? Well, I should have taken that advice. I used to run in Saucony Kinvara 3's and never had problems. Now, I've been off running for a week due to leg cramping and what feels like plantar fasciitis. Leading up to that, my runs were getting more and more difficult.

Let me explain...

I've had a fascination with minimalist running for the past year or so. Isn't it the latest trend? The more I read in running magazines and online, it seemed running in minimalist runners would solve all of my problems. They praise these shoes to prevent running injuries. The advertising also leads you to believe that people are born to run naturally or barefoot. The Kenyans are the perfect example. I've heard numerous times that Kenyans start off at young ages running to and from school barefooted throughout all types of conditions. If "I" started running barefoot (or in minimalist runners), perhaps I would be fast like them??

In my first year of running I suffered from IT band issues and some knee problems. I decided to take the leap and purchase my first minimalist runners (the Saucony's) to solve these issues. To be honest, they kinda did. But, this all comes down to the individual runner and their own gait issues. The shoes I was running in before were clearly ill fitted and not for me. The Saucony's were a slight minimalist shoes but still have a 4mm offset and a 22mm heel. They are not structured and do not have any support. For me, they were perfect though!

Now, why did I want to ruin a good thing and get myself the Merrell's? I think I was looking for more of a challenge. Like I said, I wanted to be like an elite runner!

The Merrell Bare Access Arc 2 has a 0 mm offset and a 8 mm heel and cushion. They say when transferring from a structured shoe to a minimalist that you need to build yourself up to it. So I assumed that running in a 4 mm offset and going to 0 mm wasn't going to be much of a difference, but boy, was I wrong. I forgot to account for the heel cushioning, I went from a 22 mm heel to a 8 mm heel. That's a lot of cushion to lose. I also didn't account for being a natural heel striker. Now friends, this is how injuries occur.

I learned in a very short time that when running in these shoes I needed to change my running form. As mentioned, I was a light heel striker, and you physically cannot do that in barefoot runners. Trust me - I tried. I'd come home with some serious heel pain. Over the course of 8 weeks I tried to change my form and run on my mid foot. This resulted in some serious calf pain and tight calves all the time. In addition, I recently moved to a very hilly town and I cannot avoid hills on any route I plan. When running down hill I would immediately heel strike again, thus bringing back the heel pain. In a short time I found myself avoiding running on the roads and gravitating towards my local cushioned track as it was easier on my heels. It finally clued in to me, while running lap after lap on that track. This was pointless, I was clearly in the wrong shoe for me.

My husband (being the awesome man that he is) handed me some cash that night that he had been saving for a nice date night and said: "Go buy yourself some new shoes". I went right online and re-ordered the same pair of Saucony's I had before. I plan on going for the most glorious run when they come in.

They are not as gorgeous as the Merrell's were, and definitely not "my" colour. I think this lesson has taught me that vanity and trends should never, ever, depict your running shoe choice.
Now, I've gotten a little off topic with this shoe review. But I wanted to stress the importance of doing your research before following this current running trend. If you have a shoe that works for you - great! Stock up if you can. Don't follow a trend just because everything is influencing you to.

When it comes to the Merrell's I want to emphasize that it was not the specific brand of shoes that were necessarily the problem. They are probably the most comfortable shoes I have worn in my life. They are so lightweight, I truly felt barefoot. They were also so breathable, I had never once sweat in the shoe or noticed any warm smelly foot odor. They are extremely flexible too. These shoes would be great for someone who already runs in minimalist runners or for someone looking for a nice lightweight everyday shoe. I plan on using on the weekends and for errands. They are so bright and cheery and I love how they look with a cute pair of jeans (on your most casual days).

Like I mentioned, please do your research and don't jump on the barefoot bandwagon if you are not ready for it. You could perhaps end up like me, nursing a running injury and soreness.

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