Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Search For A Perfect Shoe

I'm the type of person who will research until they are blue in the face before they buy something. My manical desire to find the product that best fits me has created some arguments in relationships in the past and well has driven me close to insanity. While this method works great for finding the perfect TV, car or other normal consumer good it does not work for running shoes. Reading reviews of running shoes is like reading a parents review of 5th grade play. The details will be there but in the end the reviewer won't tell you what is really good or really bad about the shoe, the only way to know what works best is to try them.

Since I was bitten by the triathlon bug I have tried no less than 4 pairs of sneakers. I've fallen victim to technology, I've believed in the latest fad and betrayed better judgement by listening to some salesman in a running store; below are the shoes I tried and the stories behind them:

BROOKS GLYCERIN


My first attempt at finding a shoe that worked with my body mechanics was the Brooks Glycerin. A Manhattan sneaker store determined that I was a mild pronator with a medium arch and had me give the Glycerin a go on their treadmill. This shoe was really comfortable and kept my knees and back feeling fresh but the honeymoon was short lived. About three weeks into wearing these sneakers my big toe on my left foot swelled up and would wake me up at night as it throbbed. Turned out that since Brooks promotes more of a mid-foot than a forefoot strike the sneakers had a tendency to put too much pressure on my big toe causing the joint to become inflamed.

End Result: Sold on slowtwtich for $50


NEWTON GRAVITY TRAINER

Newton Running has produced the most controversial running shoes in the past few decades. The sneakers are unlike anything I had ever run in. To promote forefoot running the shoes utilize "lugs" underneath the balls of your feet making the heel higher than the toe area. This is supposed to mimic barefoot or natural running. I found the Newtons to be incredible. Without question they were the fastest shoes I have tried and my easy pace was an 8 minute 30 second mile, with tempo runs breaking the 7 minute mark. However, the shoes had a fatal flaw for me. A big reason why I was unable to run in the Shamrock Marathon was becasue of the Newtons. For each run I did over an hour I'd start to get cramps in my calves, after 10 miles these cramps would become dehabilitating and at one point I fell down in Central Park to crawl over to a bench. Originally I had believed that this was due to nutrition and hydration until I realized that the Newtons were forcing my ankle to flex too much during my stride, never allowing my calf to relax (the muscle was contracted the entire time). Since ditching the Newton my calf cramps have gone away.

End Result: Pain > Results, sitting in the bottom of my closet

SAUCONY HURRICANE 10


A new Road Runner Sports opened up in Paramus, NJ recently. The opening was pretty well aligned with my ephinay about the Newtons so I hopped in my car, headed across the GW and met with them for a shoe fitting. Road Runner Sports has all sorts of fancy gadgets to figure out arch type, stride type and all that - they even have you run barefoot on a treadmill to see your natural running style. Similar to Jack Rabbit the RRS guys recommended a slight stability shoe but one with some beef for longer training runs. The Hurricane 10s have been great, I feel like I can run forever in the shoes and have no calf, knee or back pain. The shoe is a bit heavy for a race shoe but for training they are tremendous. My long distance mile splits at an easy pace are around 8 minutes 40 seconds and in tempo runs I can easily hold a 7 and 1/2 minute pace - a bit slower than the Newtons but without the pain I can run longer and more often.

End Result: Great training shoe but I wouldn't wear it for racing

SAUCONY FASTWITCH 3


I may be jumping the gun on declaring my run for this shoe but my god is it AWESOME. Last night I did my first long training brick of the season and these shoes felt simply incredible. The outer mesh provides just enough stability to keep your foot from sliding around but is so light that the shoe feels like a feather. The sole is firm and very responsive. These shoes are fast - very fast. Coach Eggers had me run 25 minutes at an easy pace last night then I was to "lay it down" for the last 5 minutes. For the first 25 minutes of the run I maintained an 8:30 pace and in the last 5 minutes I upped the speed to a 6:30 pace, no calf problems, no knee issues - I think I've found my racer. Plus who can argue with the orange color - they simply have to be fast, right?

End Result: This seasons racer and thus far my favorite shoe


8 comments:

Shannon said...

My husband is maniacal about his sneakers too especially for when he jogs. It's more about comfort for his wide, size 14 feet which are on the flat side. He finally found a pair about 15 years ago, New Balance in a particular style. When he was told by a salesman a few years ago that NB wasn't making them anymore, he called the company who gave him the number to their warehouse so that he could buy from their surplus.

Once you find that magic pair, you don't want to give them up...EVER.

Laura Williams said...

Wow. I didn't realize there was so much to think about with sneakers. They're all I wear, but I'm more a "try on a bunch of pairs until I find the one that doesn't rub the side of my foot" person.

Great post, thanks!

steve said...

hilaryous. u waste so much money!

Denise said...

Hey if the sneakers don't fit you just want to quit! You Go!!!!

Jrex76 said...

Weak man... Those Newtons encourage good running form. You're better off bearing through two weeks of pain, and reaping the rewards later on.

Wingman said...

jrex76, the calf pain was after 2 and 1/2 months of running in those shoes - up to 10 miles I feel great in them, can't handle anything over that which is what most elite athletes have also said.

JulyDream said...

Would you please review some women's running shoes for me? :P I need a new pair and haven't the slightest clue what I want. Of course, I think the ankle needs to heel first. BLAH! I hate injuries. :) Happy hump day!

Hilton said...

I identify with the brand professionally. Those running shoes are perfect. Got the Saucony hurricane 10 running shoes from Amazon.com with massive discount offers.