Peacocks & Running Shoes

By Jeremy Sng
One thing that irks me about Singapore is our weather.
(Photo Credits: Jeremy Sng)

It is hot, it is humid, and whenever I return from a run, my shoes are soaked. Yes; running in Singapore entails that extra aspect of "running shoe management" which running in a cooler climate does not require. Methods of drying your running shoes abound, and that's an article for another day.

This hot-weather problem has led me to carry out most of my training indoors, in the gym. Be it on an exercise bike, an elliptical, or on the good-ole treadmill. Wherever I am, I tend to notice the people running on the treadmills in the gym; there are all sorts:

the casual runners in the attire provided by the gym,
the stylist runners in fashionable Nike attire,
and the serious runners in 2XU, Compressport, or what-have-you spandex.

There is another aspect of this that warrants some observations - running shoes.

You see, on-and-off I notice some who run with Vibram Fivefingers - those toe-shoes with minimal cushioning.

(for those who run in these and enjoy them, that's great! And this piece isn't meant to affect your enjoyment in any way. I've read about this topic time and time again in all the running and triathlon publications you can name, and I realize that proponents of the minimalism appreciate the fact that they are running as humans are meant to run (i.e., forefoot-focus, with almost-to-none heel striking).)

However, this is written for those who, for some reason or other, cast looks of disdain on those who do not wear Vibrams, or fancy shoes. This piece is for the running snobs. Not "snobbish" in terms of expensive equipment, but snobbish in the sense of claiming to possess a higher amount of running technical expertise over everyone else.

"Minimalist", "bare-foot", "McDougall-style" (named after the person who wrote a book on this topic), these are but some of the names used to describe thin-soled shoes which encourage what many call "natural running" - that is, landing and taking-off with your forefoot , rather than your heel.

You know something? Of the runners I knew back in University, even some who did a sub-2:30 Marathon which... would be phenomenal in Singapore, no one talked about minimalism, no one gushed about Vibrams, and no one - absolutely none - ran in them. These people could do 17 or 18-minute 5Ks easily after a social event the night before, and they wore running shoes which these Vibram-snobs in Singapore would frown upon (e.g. the basic Saucony or Brooks ranges).

My issue with minimalism is the same issue I have with "excessive compression" syndrome

(Photo Credits:
- does embracing minimalism make you a REAL runner? Are you any more elite than another person by simply having and running in a pair of Vibram Fivefingers?

Back to my example of the treadmill-runner in Vibrams - this person was stamping away at the treadmill. His strides were far from graceful, and his shoulders were all over the place (i.e., he was off-balance). A part of me wanted to speak to him after his run; we had crossed paths several times in the gym as i leave the gym, and as he is entering. Our eyes had never met, but the one time they did, I got this look from him - he looked at my shoes, a budget-last-season's model - then looked at my face for the briefest moment, and then looked away in a manner not unlike how a peacock would gaze away from anything less beautiful than him.

You know, at times like these, I like this meme. I really do; despite all its connotations. Sorry pal, those Vibrams don't make you run fast.

The Peacock is a common-breed of endurance-sport animal. He / she dons the latest, sexiest attire and shoes, and struts his stuff in the places where maximum visibility is ensured. Crowded gym? Check. Packed race venue? Check. East Coast Park in the evening? Check.

Oh dear, dear, Peacock. Perhaps you should simply run more, and shed some of those heavy tail feathers of yours. I'm sure you'll be a much faster runner that way.
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