Let's Talk Shoes: In Search of My Sole Mate
Asics provides a solid well-made product, and all one needs to do is scan the feet of any start line racing crowd to see how loyal runners are to the brand. But I wonder whether we continue to buy a shoe over and over again because we simply have gotten used to it or because it truly is the best shoe for us. Do we just get comfortable with a brand and fear changing it up, thinking that the slightest change will lead to injury? Runners tend to have such a fear of injury that they become a bit paranoid and even superstitious about making the slightest changes or adjustments to their running regimen. This has been my own personal dilemma this past year. I am finding the same old routine isn't working so well anymore. I am relatively certain I will always own a pair or two of Asics, but in the last year my running needs have changed, and I think that what works well for ten, thirteen, fifteen miles is not necessarily going to carry a runner through a full marathon. Even the slightest discomfort is going to be compounded, sometimes to an excruciating point, after 26.2 miles of pounding and abrasion. Again, a myriad of factors probably comes into play, such as a change in running form when fatigued, but I have begun to wonder whether that shoe exists that will carry me though a marathon in complete comfort. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But I have become evermore curious about stepping outside the (toe)box and trying other brands -- partly because I'm not so sure anymore that one brand/style suits all my running needs and partly because I've become more exposed to and even a bit attracted to other brands I am seeing out there in more specialized running magazines like TrailRunner or reading about in online discussions with other runners. Until recently I had never heard of Hoka One One or Altra or Ecco or Skora, and I am intrigued, quite frankly. Maybe I have been settling all these years and haven't yet met my sole mate.
Here then outlines my ongoing quest to find THAT shoe. That shoe that provides enough support while feeling light, that shoe that feels snug enough to keep my toes from moving around too much in the toe box, that shoe that doesn't have some stiff constricting piece that rubs my feet raw. In light of this ongoing quest for the best, allow me to introduce my current shoe collection, what I am currently wearing and for what purposes, as I contemplate my shoe satisfaction level and what I ultimately desire in a shoe:
Pearl Izumi IsoTransition: My duathlon/triathlon shoe. These are nice and light with quick-pull lacing for a faster shoe switch-out during transitions. They have worked well for me so far. I don't compete in very many duathlons/triathlons, and the ones I do are fairly short (sprint distance).
Pearl Izumi SynchroFloat IV: I bought these shoes because I like the lightness of PI. I have an older pair of Streaks that I have had good luck with and use for racing short road races, distances from 5K to 10K. I bought the SynchroFloat because I was looking for a lightweight shoe that still had as much support as possible for marathon running. I wanted this to be my quintessential marathon shoe, but so far I am not seeing that happening. I wore these at the Air Force Marathon without really breaking them in and ended up with very sore, very fatigued, very blistered feet... the worst I've ever experienced. The verdict is still out on this shoe, but one thing is for certain right now, it isn't the shoe I go for when heading out on a run.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12: These shoes were recommended when I went to a running store for the all-important gait analysis. I find the Brooks Adrenaline to fit exactly like Asics 2170s, very similar shoes in my opinion. The problem with this shoe is that the salesperson talked me into buying a whole size up rather than the standard half size up, so this shoe simply is a bit too big. I also found that the back of the shoe was hitting my Achilles. As a result, I wear this shoe for winter road running. The added room allows for a pair of Smartwool socks to be worn over my usual running socks.
Inov-8 Road X238: I love these shoes. I wear them for shorter road races or short training runs. They are comfortable and light, with or without socks. This is a brand I will probably buy again.
Ecco Biom Trail 1.2: My technical trail shoe at the moment. The Ecco shoe is solid with good tread but a little stiff with weird angling in the toe box. I haven't worn them a lot yet, but I didn't have any comfort issues when I ran the 7.45-mile Wild Wild Wilderness trail run this past September. I don't see myself buying another pair of these though.
Odd curvature to the Ecco Biom
Salomon Speedcross 3: These are my winter trail shoes with an excellent tread and Climashield water/element protection. These shoes fit well and are comfortable. I have had good luck with them and will probably remain loyal to Salomon for a trail shoe.
Asics 2170: At the moment this is my marathon go-to shoe until I find something better. I wore the 2170s for both the Prairie Fire Marathon in October and the Rails to Trails Marathon last weekend because I am not yet brave enough to trust another brand for 26.2 miles after the failed new shoe experiment at the Air Force Marathon. I find the 2170s to be a bit on the heavy side, and I usually end up with at least one good-sized blister. I am starting to blame the very roomy toe box for my sudden tendency to blister. I will probably continue to wear Asics for training runs, but I am hoping to find a slightly lighter, slightly snugger marathon shoe.
Skora Base: These are the latest addition to my running shoe collection, and, boy, are they different and currently have my fullest attention. Being a minimalist shoe, they scare me a little. I have always been all about support and stability even if that meant added weight. This shoe is lightweight and fits snugly but comfortably. I am in the process of officially reviewing this shoe for Skora, so I will keep this analysis brief since I have perhaps only about 12 or so miles on them so far. I already find, however, that this is the shoe I want to grab for my training runs. I will tell you why when I write a full review after I put them to more of a test.
Additionally, when buying new shoes, I have never been interested in showing off with the latest model or coolest colors. I am a function/price shopper and have become addicted to www.theclymb.com. I will run in the boring white color scheme any day if I can save a chunk of money by doing so. Let me stress, though, that I do believe in quality and higher end models. I tend to believe that you get what you pay for when it comes to running shoes. If you are serious about running, don't buy the cheapest pair that you see on the shelves at the big chain sports store down the road. That is one reason I like The Clymb so much; I can afford a little bit better shoe by buying it on clearance.
Please share your own shoe experiences. I am interested in knowing what your current shoe(s) of choice is/are.