If you have been reading my early posts before I started to have problems with my left foot, I was running exclusively in Vibram KSO treks. The only problem I had with them was blisters on my big toes, until I started to develop the tendinitis in my left foot. I think this is really a mechanics issue, as I've always rolled in more on my left foot and I can tell it's not as strong as my right.
I was wearing Mizuno Wave Inspire 5's and Wave Ascend 4's before I got my VFF's. I wore the Ascend 4's for the Leatherneck (USMC Mud Run) as I wanted maximum traction. They didn't let me down, but they did get super heavy after slogging through the deepest, thickest mud I've ever seen. After the race I did one last one run in my VFF's, which is what put me out of commission. I haven't run a step since September 30th, in the hopes of healing this foot and coming back stronger than ever.
When I first started having problems with my left foot, I tried to find a pair of shoes that would allow me to keep my barefoot running style, but still offer some protection from rocks and support for my plantar fascia. I went to Bull City Running Company and Evan had me try the Brooks Green Silence, Saucony Kinvara and Mizuno Wave Precision 11. I got to run up and down the block in each pair and tried most of them on more than once. I'll go ahead and tell you I ended up with the Brooks Green silence, but that isn't where the story ends. A little background before I give you my thoughts on each shoe. I wear between 11.5-12.5 in a 2E width, so the toe box can be a big issue for me.
Mizuno Wave Precision 11: These shoes felt the most familiar to me and probably the most comfortable. I think this is because they really aren't much different than my Wave Inspire 5's. If you had blindfolded me and put me in a new pair of each, I probably couldn't tell the difference. This is a good thing if you like the Inspire 5, which I do, but it's really not a minimalist shoe. The shoe is pretty light, but the sole is of traditional thickness with a normal heel to toe drop. I think it's a great shoe, but not one that encourages a forefoot strike or a barefoot running style.
Saucony Kinvara: This is probably the best shoe for a hard surface forefoot runner or someone looking to dabble in barefoot style running. The sole is thick and supportive, but the heel to toe drop is minimal (4mm I think). They felt pretty good, but I'm concerned about the lack of rubber on the forefoot, especially the prime impact areas (outside edge). The shoe didn't seem rugged enough for trails or with enough rubber to survive very long on pavement. If I started running on hard surfaces, I think this would be my shoe until there are more options with a minimal heel to toe drop.
Brooks Green Silence: These are the shoes I took home and did two runs of about 3 miles in. They are pretty minimal. Not much support and very lightweight. They do have a pretty substantial heel to toe drop and a decent amount of sole. I think my problems with them relate to me being such a heavy guy with wide feet. They just felt too squishy and I had to get them in a larger size to accommodate the width of my feet. The extra length and squishiness made it hard for me to get comfortable in my stride. I found the shoes exacerbated my left foot issues. I could manage the pain and adjust more easily in my VFF's. I think they would be a great shoe for a lighter runner with narrower feet.
This brings me to my latest pair of shoes. I'm still not running yet, but I did some shoe shopping the other day, as I really think I need a shoe to alternate with the VFF's, especially when I start my rehab running. I think I might have found a winner in the New Balance MT101. I've been reading some of Anton Krupicka's articles and I find he's most in tune with what I'm looking for in my running. I know he runs a good bit in the MT101 and helped design it, so I figured it was worth checking out, as the New Balance Minimus won't show up until February. I'm really digging this shoe. The sole is thin, there is a nice rock plate to protect me. The toe box is extremely wide, so I could buy it in my actual size. The shoe still has a heel to toe drop, but I think the minimal sole height is going to be a bigger factor. I'll report back once I actually run in them.