[098] New shoes

Swim: 3,000 m/93,745 m

Bike: 10.5/809.4 miles

Run: 6/264.8 miles

I’ve finally arrived at a moment that I’ve been both anticipating and dreading for some time – buying new running shoes. My current shoes have accumulated about 350 hard miles and I’ve started to feel the telltale soreness in my knees that lets me know I’m due for a new pair. But rather than browse over to Holabird Sports and reflexively buy another pair of the same shoes I’ve been wearing, I decided to visit the local running store (LRS) to get refitted from scratch.

Here’s a little glimpse at my running-shoe history: I trained for and ran my first race in some department-store tennis shoes that did the job but weren’t doing me any favors overall. When I decided to make running more of a lifestyle, I went to the LRS to get fitted and ended up with a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS. It was a cathartic moment when I put them on and jogged around the store’s track – it was as if these shoes were made exactly for my feet. I bought them and we shared many happy miles.

But when I went in for my next pair, the model had changed and they didn’t feel so great, so I was introduced to the Adidas Supernova Classic, which I continued to buy for a few years until recently, when that model was discontinued. After the initial fitting, I had been buying them online since I knew what I wanted and could save lots of money. When the Classics were discontinued, the website suggested another pair of Adidas that replaced the Classic – the Supernova Adapt. And these are the shoes I’ve been using since last fall.

But since I’ve taken my running to a new level this year, I want to reflect my commitment in the choice of shoe I’m running in. I want to make sure I’m running in the right shoe instead of just getting the same pair without exploring my options. I want a shoe that can handle the half-marathon training I’ll put it through this season – a shoe that is light enough for the track and yet substantial enough to get me through longer training runs of up to 15 miles. So last week I once again journeyed to the LRS with a clean slate – to test out the latest models from several manufacturers and also to explore some lighter options.

But with the excitement of searching for “the one,” I’m also hesitant to introduce new factors to a situation that has essentially been working well so far. What if running in a lighter shoe makes me more susceptible to injury? What if it feels amazing in the shop and I don’t start feeling pain until 50 miles on the new shoes?

When I arrived at the store and informed the salesperson of my mission, he was eager to help. He checked out my current shoes and told me that they are actually a stability shoe, and that my stride was actually very good and my footstrike was hitting in the optimal place, so I should definitely be in neutral shoes. (The Adidas Classics were neutral, but when I bought my most recent pair online I must not have realized what I was getting.) He brought out several pairs of shiny new specimens – Brooks, Mizuno, Nike, Adidas, Saucony. Many of them were eliminated quickly – there wasn’t that “Aha!” moment I had experienced years before with the Adrenaline and then the Supernova. The closest thing to success was the Brooks Defyance 4, which felt great and well-cushioned, but perhaps almost too cushioned and heavy for my taste. There was another that was thisclose to being right – the Adidas Boston 2, a lightweight trainer – except for a tight toe box on only the right shoe.

In the end I left empty-handed, but with a solid feeling of what was working and what wasn’t. There was one more shoe that I really wanted to try – the Saucony Kinvara. It’s another lightweight trainer that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, and I wanted to at least try them before making a final decision. But the LRS didn’t have them in my size. Browsing online later that night, I found that Running Warehouse had a sale on the Kinvaras and the Adidas Boston, and a free return policy, so I ordered a pair of each to try at home. I liked the Boston at the LRS enough to wonder if the tight toe box was just a one-off on that particular shoe or if there was actually an issue with the model.

Adidas Boston 2 (left) and Saucony ProGrid Kinvara 2

Finally the shoes arrived yesterday, and I was more than excited to try them out. It turns out that this set of Bostons felt much better and didn’t have the toe box issue. If I had tried these in the store I probably would have bought them. But the Kinvaras are just on a whole new level. I don’t know if I can explain the feeling, but where other trainers have felt amazing because of the way they cushion my feet and wrap them in a snug, comfy layer of bounciness, the Kinvaras just feel like they’re hardly there. It’s like they’re an organic part of my feet and not so much a pair of soft cushions I’m strapping on before a run. They feel amazing.

And they’re colorful! I’ve been getting a little tired of the same old white/silver running shoes, and have been itching for something a little bolder. I’m not a loud or outgoing person, but this is one instance in my life when I want to let my shoes do some talking – to convey the amount of carefree fun and excitement that running has brought to my life this year.

My reservations about the lightness of these shoes remain. I will be listening to my body closely through the next several weeks as I start piling on the mileage in the new shoes. And if it happens that these shoes don’t work out in the way I’d hope, I’ll be open to switching back to something a little more substantial, like the Defyance. It could be that I end up phasing them in – I run three days a week on the FIRST program, so I might use them once this week and twice next week before using them on all of my runs after that.

I’m a little sad to have to return the Adidas after choosing the Kinvaras, because they feel like a great shoe that’s a shade between the Kinvara and the Defyance in weight and cushioning. But I don’t want to go too far with my lightweight experiment before knowing whether it’s been the right decision. But, for now, I can’t wait to get out for my next run!

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2 Responses to [098] New shoes

  1. Steena says:

    You just told the same story I had with run shoe shopping. I stopped at three different LRSs and never had the a-ha moment. It’s a stressful process run shoe shopping! Glad you found some fun shoes, hope they work out!

  2. David H. says:

    Have you thought about alternating shoes? I like doing that. I have this big fear about finding shoes soon as my favorite pair are no longer being made. I actually have an unopen pair in my closest because I stocked up a bit.

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