Sunday, June 14, 2015

Week ending June 14: 94 fabulous miles; Metatarsalgia, and Brooks Pure Grit 3

This morning I capped off a 94 mile with a fantastic workout on Mt. Wilson wherein I tested my new pair of Brooks Pure Grit 3 trail running shoes for the first time-  just fabulous!  The workout was my standard end-of-week power walk-up/run down 20 miler with close to 5000 feet of climb and descent.  It came on the heels of an epic 28 mile lollipop loop from Lake Avenue up over Mt Wilson returning through Idlehour  that I ran yesterday with my pal Alex:
Beautiful view on Saturday looking west from Markham Saddle-  photo by Alexandre  De Sant'Anna

    So I started today's workout pretty tired and indeed it took me 2:52 to hike the 9.7 miles up to the summit -  very slow.   However, the 10.3 mile  trip down (via the  Skyline Observatory gate and upper part of the Toll Road) was fast and the total run time was 4:12.

What was great about today's run is that I experienced no foot pain at all.  With the Pure Grits I was able to really push on the downhill and it felt great.

Let me back up a step to explain.

Over the last month I had  been experiencing increasingly problematic  pain in the ball of my left foot, which has become increasingly severe and had begun to affect my gait.  I believe the problem started with a stone bruise, but I can't be sure.  Certainly once the ball of my  left foot became inflamed, foot placements on stones became a big problem (I typically run in very minimalist shoes such as Merrell's trail glove), to such a degree that   about 2-3 weeks ago I started running in a pair of Skechers Gobionic trails from last year-   because this shoe has a bit thicker and much softer midsole than my standard line up of Merrells.   No joy, the problem got worse!  Next I tried using a home-made rock plate for my left shoe from ~1mm thick Polypropylene sheet (Target sells these as thin, flexible cutting boards in their kitchen department).   This helped, but the problem continued to worsen.   It seemed I had come down with a case of metatarsalgia and was coming up empty looking for a solution!

Studying my Skechers this week I  found that the liner and midsole on my left shoe had become very compressed   right in the ball of my foot, which was not the case on my right shoe:  For whatever reason on my left footfalls I tend to come down right on the ball of my foot and this was starting to wreak havoc.  I strongly suspect that there is a systematic issue with my running gait this season since coming back from my right hip-socket fracture, as this asymmetry was never a problem before.

So on Friday I went to the Monrovia running store "Snails pace" after work to look at some other trail running shoe options.

The available  trail shoes that I looked at spanned the gamut from the Altra Olympus,  to  various Hokas, to the Saucony Peregrine.  The Altra Olympus seemed about as flexible and as thick as a brick and I was not too impressed with the flexibility of the Hokas and their ginormous stack heights.  The Saucony Peregrines were nice low profile shoes, but their integrated rock plate seemed to make the shoe very stiff, similar to the Solomon Utra-SGs that I had tried unsuccessfully earlier this winter:  I'd found that the rock plate in the Solomons forced my foot to bend in  a way that hurt my foot.

Fortunately the staff there called my attention to the  Brooks Pure Grit 3.  The sales person helping me was wearing a SD100 finishers' shirt-  she was none other than the #3 female from last weekend's race:  She knew what she was doing.  While the Pure Grits fit nicely I was a little concerned over the reduced flexibility relative to what I am used to running in, but hey, I was there after all to find a shoe that would provide a bit more protection to my tender left foot!   The Pure Grit 3 has a  15mm stack height up front with  a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop; a rock plate and very aggressive lugs:  I decided to give them a try.

I bought the Pure Grits but decided NOT to try them fresh out of the box on the 28 mile run yesterday:  That is an awfully committing route if the shoes didn't work out.  I ran in my old  Skechers and at the end of the run I was limping a bit, and proceeded home to ice my foot.

 This morning I thought, what the heck, lets try the new shoes.  They felt great!  Zero foot pain and I was able to push the pace on the rocky downhill.  The lugs are also quite a bit more aggressive than the Merrell's I have been running in and I found the Pure-Grits extremely sure footed.  All in all, a great run and so far I love the Brooks.


  • Watch out for midsole compression that causes the ball of the foot to sit in a compressed cup with no protection
  • Minimalist shoes are great but armor has its place too!

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