You may remember that a few weeks ago I did a giveaway for a pair of Saucony shoes. These shoes were the latest in Saucony’s “new geometry.” Saucony has redesigned three of its most popular shoes, the Guide, Triumph, and Hurricane, reducing their heel-to-toe drop from the standard 12 mm to 8 mm. They did this in response to the increasing popularity of minimalist shoes with heel-to-toe drops of 4 mm or less.
Reducing the heel-to-toe drop is supposed to encourage a mid-foot strike. Moving from a heel to a mid-foot strike is thought to decrease the occurrence of injuries and to encourage proper biomechanics. Traditional running shoes have a thicker/higher heel, and a significant drop from heel to toe. They therefore promote heel striking.
Without getting all technical because I am just not that smart, here is how I understand it. When you land on your heel, your ankles and knees have absolutely no chance of minimizing shock. As soon as you hit the ground… Bam! No absorbers. Shock waves shoot through your joints. Don’t feel bad. The majority of runners are heel strikers. All you have to do is look at a pack of recreational runners in a marathon to see that that’s the case.
When you run mid-foot, your foot has a chance of minimizing impact. Your calves act as shock absorbers. Your ankles and knees suffer less impact.
Apparently, mid foot striking can also make you fast. As Joe Friel contends, “Landing on your heels is, essentially, hitting the brakes with every stride. You have to overcome that deceleration by hitting the gas pedal hard at every toe off. And the time it takes to get from heel to toe is just lost time—time spent going no where. Landing with a flat foot greatly shortens ground contact time and moves you forward more quickly. This is the way fast runners run.”
Before we go on, I have a confession. I am the queen. The queen heel striker. Evidence is all over the place. Call in CSI if you want, but the cat’s out of the bag. I do it everywhere. On my street. In Boston. At the Colorado Marathon.
Knowing that I needed some help, Saucony sent me the Pro Grid Guide 5 to test out and review.
Here are some facts about the shoe:
New features: Has an 8mm drop from heel to toe, more durable outsole
Weight: Total weight =9.1 oz. 1.4 oz. lighter than its predecessor, the Guide 4
Style of shoe: Stability
I’m going to be honest. I find it tough to review shoes. Unlike a new shirt or a jock strap that you know you like or don’t like from minute one, shoes are very personal. You can’t really understand your relationship to the shoe until you can put in many miles on it. If a shoe is going to contribute to injury, give you blisters, or wear out quickly, you simply won’t know these things for awhile. What you can know immediately about a shoe, however, is how it feels on your foot in terms of comfort, cushioning, fit and stability.
If there is one thing I have learned about trying to switch to more of amid-foot strike, it is that this has to be done very gradually. A reduced heel to toe drop can cause stress on the Achilles tendon, so a cautious change-over to these shoes is recommended.
My review (based on two 3 mile runs and moderate pace, done on treadmill, trail and pavement):
- These shoes run big and wide. I wear a size 9 running shoe (8 regular) shoe in Brooks, Mizuno and New Balance. The Saucony’s ran about a half size big for me. The toe box also seemed wider than most, causing these shoes to feel less sleek than some others I’ve worn. If you are considering a pair, I recommend sizing down a half size. Better yet, go try them on instead of ordering on-line.
- The feel of the shoe is comfortable, light and cushiony.
- During my recent runs, I have been focusing on trying land on my mid foot. The problem with running is that unless you have someone follow you around with a video-camera or critiquing your form, you never REALLY know what you're doing. I thought for sure the Saucony Pro Grid Guide 5s would help me achieve my mid foot strike. I was wrong. See for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the shoe. I have been a chronic heel striker, so it can’t be expected that decreasing my heel to toe drop by 4 mm would cure me. I do believe that because these shoes encourage more of a mid foot strike, it will be easier to achieve that in these shoes versus some of my others that have the traditional 12 mm drop.
Overall, this is an attractive shoe (I like the color scheme), that provides stability, cushioning and comfort. The price is average for a good quality running shoe. Historically, Saucony’s are a good quality shoe that lasts. If you are wanting to move to a more minimalist shoe, but want to make the move very gradually, the Saucony Pro Grid 5 might be for you.
What are your thoughts on heel vs. mid-foot vs. forefoot striking? Have you been able to make the switch or do you want to? In my opinion, every one is different. Some people have no history of injuries, have run for years and are heel strikers. While I think it is something to consider, I don’t know if a mid-foot landing is the panacea. For someone like me who is prone to injury, it is likely biomechanics, such as foot strike, that needs to be corrected.
What type of shoes do you typically wear? Would you consider switching to a shoe with less of a heel to toe drop like the Saucony?