Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My Favorite Running Shoe

If you run wearing shoes then you'd better make sure that they are good ones.

The problem is that most of what passes for "good running shoes" are in fact crap.

When I was a kid I ran barefoot most of the time. In school my running shoes were converse or Keds. Thank God I was out of high school before modern running shoes came on the scene.

Because I run around barefoot as much as I can, and have for most of my life, I have what we call here in the States "wide feet" (what would be called normal, healthy feet everywhere else).

When I was living in Africa one of the things that stood out was how healthy people's feet were.

(Yes, I look at people's feet, and watch them walk, run and stand. It's something I learned from my grandfather as a kid and have kept up my whole life. You can learn a lot about a person by watching them walk).

One reason for this is that the most common footwear are flip-flops and sandals made from old tires (the only thing the Maasai will wear)

Here is a picture of a fellow delivering sugar cane. He will pull this cart, running not walking, from sunup to sundown and never suffer from shin splints even though he wears nothing but flip-flops. I know this because I talked with these guys every day and asked them about such things.

Running in "civilization" I often want more protection for my feet than sandals offer, but I don't want to use the over engineered monstrosities that pass for running shoes.

My solution has been to use "Wu Shu" shoes. These come from China and are designed for martial arts.

They have no arch support, a thin flexible sole, no build up in the heel, and almost no padding. Practicing martial arts you really need to feel the ground and to be able to get onto the balls of your feet, which also make these a great shoe for running. The shoe is quite light, has a sole that allows the foot to roll to the sides and offers very good protection from the sort of detritus found on the streets around here. They also have a very wide toe box. This is one of the very few shoes that I can feel comfortable in toe-wise.

Perhaps the best thing though is that these shoes are very inexpensive, about $20 US retail and half that if you get them wholesale. The place I get them from, Kwon martial arts supply allows instructors to set up school accounts for substantial discounts.

There is one caveat though, the shoe tends to size a little small. I get mine a half size larger than my street shoe size. Considering that I can get about ten pair of these shoes for the price of one pair of "premium" running shoes it is a small problem.


Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
Finally a topic that is not related to politics! I can appreciate what you said about your favorite "running shoe". But for us poor "soles" (pun intended) who have a genetic "defect" resulting in no natural padding on the bottoms of our feet whatsoever (read "walking on bare bones", ie. Ouch!!), we can use all the padding we can get. Walking barefoot is torture. Thus, my favorite "running shoe" is the Reebok "Classic Leather". (Ahhhh, no pain....)

P.S. I wonder what the evolutionary significance of this "disorder" is, if there is any??????


Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
On second thought, maybe this has nothing to do with evolution. Maybe it is just another "thing" I can blame on the White Sands Missile Range, my home town's "Main Attraction"......


Salma said...

Gee Whiz!! Maybe this topic does have something to do with politics!!! Hmmmm.....

jasonencke said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Mushtaq,

What makes a good running shoe in your opinion? After Navy boot camp I really enjoyed running. But the only shoes I've felt comfortable running in were Nike Air pegasus. Why are the "normal" running shoes bad? My step-son has wide feet as well and we almost always buy him NewBalance since they are the only shoes we have found to fit his feet. Maybe we'll try the Wu Shu since he destroys shoes anyway maybe it will save us money also, insha'Allah.

Mushtaq Ali said...

Wa alaykum Salaam Jason,

The answer to your question is complex enough that I am going to answer it in a full post.

I would recommend the wu shu shoes for your son as they will help to keep his feet strong and they won't cost a fortune.

Ramadan Mubarak,


Janet said...

Don't forget the comfy li'l Merrell Barrados. Breezy and unstructured, but unlike your wu shu's, these seem to run a half size big. Check them out Salma:

Salma said...

Dear Janet,
Thank you for the information. I'm sure there must be something better out there than what I wear. And after about 6 months of wearing Reeboks, the inside cushioning compresses, and I have to buy a new pair. (That is, I "should" buy a new pair). For someone with feet like I have, I really should be wearing shoes that help, not hurt, their already disadvantaged condition. I guess I never grew out of the mindset that I grew up with and that circumstances dictated to be the case throughout most of my adult life: You get one new pair of shoes once a year, and that is it...... My podiatrist would not be happy......

DefSufi said...

I live mostly in my numerous pairs of Chuck Taylors from Converse. I agree... the less padding and the more I can feel the ground under my feet, the better my balance, and the less my feet hurt. The only other shoes I can wear all day are the infamous Doc Maartens, which have a thick, solid sole (and become the "ground"), but don't wrap tight around the top of the foot and distort it (or become a trench for the foot in the padding in the sole like those high-end cushy shoes eventually do, also messing around with the placement of those tiny bones)... LET THERE BE "WIDE" FEET!

sabiwabi said...

Very good informations. I was looking for new running shoes and I never thought of not having more cushioning. Wow. I like your philosophy though, it makes sense. And any excuse I can find to wear All Stars into my mid 30's is always going to be used. ;)

I am going to share these running shoe posts with my sister. She is a marathoner. I wonder what her reaction will be to this. She spends hundreds on running shoes each year.

Justaguy said...

Yeah, at the kung fu school I work out at in Beijing American students are always coming in to start classes in expensive shoes with really good ankle support and padding that make it impossible to practice Bagua. I wind up having to politely suggest that they get a pair of wu shoes, but a lot of people have a problem believing that a shoe you can get for $4 is better than the one they spent over a hundred on.

epricq said...

Hi! I came across your blog while researching minimalist shoes. I'm interested in a pair of Wushu shoes, but someone told me that the sole is about 3/4 an inch thick, which seems a little thick for my personal preference. Could you give your own estimate? Thank you so much.

Eric B

Mushtaq Ali said...


The thickness of the soles on Wu Shoes are no where near 3/4 of an inch. It looks more like 1.5 cm from what I can tell. It's thin enough that I can feel the ground through them.