Posts Tagged ‘New Balance’

Agony of the feet

March 12, 2017

There’s a phobia for everything. Podophobia is fear of feet. Agliophobia is fear of pain. So I have Agliopodophobia, I guess. And the headache to go with it.

Some runners have shin splints or sore knees. I have feet that have morphed and changed over my 40ish years of running. They no longer conform to traditional running shoes, and shoes that worked in the recent past have been discontinued, so finding the right pair is an endless cycle. The pain issues are kept at bay when I’m home chugging around my usual trails and cross training on my bike or swimming to keep from wearing my feet out, but right now I could use some relief.

It’s with great irony that I write this as Nike unveils the shoe that’s supposed to help the most elite runners in the world complete a marathon in less than two hours. That’s great, but what kind of resources is the shoe giant expending to keep over-50 runners on their feet a few more years? We’re certainly a bigger demographic than those twiggy Kenyans who defy gravity.

So, this is what’s on the floor next to my workspace.

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Worst part is that they’re all rejects, collected within a week. I had high hopes for each that they’d solve my issues and allow me to keep hitting the pavement. So far, no dice. I even went off the reservation for the Altra Impulse (yellow/pink ones) which look like “corrective” shoes of a bygone era. I had such hope — I waited for their delivery with desperate anticipation — but sadly their weirdly exaggerated square toe shape just didn’t do the job.

Not shown are the Hoka Cliftons that I wore for a couple weeks then sold online when they caused one of my toenails to violently detach from my foot. That wasn’t good, but other than the toenail they mostly didn’t hurt my feet, so I kind of liked them. They’re the kind with almost clown-like huge soles, called “maximal” cushioning. It was a new feeling for me to run a good 8-10 miles one day and not have sore feet the next day (other than the one toe that was in pretty constant agony), so the Hokas had some redeeming value.

The reason for this exercise in footwear testing is that there’s a race event on my schedule this spring that I already have something like $300 invested in. I don’t want to miss out on training and I’m actually enjoying “long” runs again (long for me). I’ve figured out the right mix of Tailwind to avoid dehydration and cramping (which is HUGE), started getting some speed work in on short run days… it was all lining up for me until I had to admit I couldn’t wear the Hokas any more. Back to square one, and no running for a week as I waited for new shoe orders to arrive.

Don’t tell me to check online reviews — I’d catch holy hell if Someone knew how much time I’ve spent trying to research the right shoe. Forget the online gurus and comparison guides and “best of the year” articles. It all comes down to how it feels on YOUR foot, which today meant blowing most of a Saturday trying on one pair after another.

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Apparently after working my way down the above pictured wall of shoes today IN EACH OF THREE DIFFERENT STORES, the simple request for shoes that fit and don’t harm my feet may indeed be elusive. It’s strange that New Balance makes great trail shoes that work for me (Leadvilles) but it’s been such a challenge to find NB road running shoes that fit right (note the purple Vazees in the “rejects” photo — never even wore them across the living room!). There were even Nikes and Asics in the mix during a full day of running shoe shopping today, and I haven’t worn those brands in many years.

I’ve thought about keeping a spread sheet of all of the different types of running shoes I’ve had — or remember having — so I don’t go back to bad ones that didn’t last or caused problems. It’s a waste of time though because manufacturers are always coming up with new styles and materials.

Here’s my rating:
“fresh foam” soles that everyone is selling: good if there’s enough in the right places. not everyone is a heel-striker and the foam is too thin under the ball of the foot in so many shoes

stretchy mesh uppers are a great addition to shoe options, especially when paired with fewer stiff design components that rub against the foot over long distances (even some Asics have bonded designs rather than their old stiff style on the sides as shown in photo below)

integrated tongues that are seamlessly part of the upper rather than a separate piece sewn in — fantastic!

 

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I love running shoes, but I love running in them most — not spending a beautiful Saturday schlepping from one store to the next, hoping to find something adequate and not painful.

In the end, I forked over an extortionate amount of money at a specialty running store after trying on at least 10 pair and listening to the advice of a saleskid who wasn’t born until I’d been running 20 years. I took the shoes home and did 6 miles in them.. and will probably take them back tomorrow. The struggle is real.

Doing it with Sole

April 29, 2011

Have you seen all of those retro-looking sneakers people are wearing these days? It seems every athletic shoe company is coming out with a “minimalist” version of footwear that’s supposed to improve our lives. More than taking us back to the track shoes of the 1970s, they claim to be restoring our natural gait, circa 5,000 BC.

The company that’s most noticeable in this category is Vibram*, of course, with their Five Fingers footwear. I am completely flabbergasted by the number of people interested in trying and willing to drop $100 or more to wear these monkey-like things. When I tried them on, I felt some empathy for those seeking a cool new piece of gear, but couldn’t imagine either wearing them in public or running off-road in them. I mean, the trails here aren’t exactly free of sharp obstacles, and minimalist literally means that the only protection you’re wearing is a thin rubber coating on your foot.

Vibram's Five FIngers: primal or prescient?

I’m not saying I would never wear them if I had $100 to blow. But I live in a world of pavement and hard surfaces and aging, probably arthritic joints in my feet. It’s notable that the minimalist trend is supposed to take us back to our natural stance and gait, yet few people run on natural surfaces, like the woman on the Vibram Five Fingers website photo who is wearing the minimalist “shoes” on pavement.

Simply put, I am the last person who will be sucked in by this trend. I prefer running shoes with some cushion. It doesn’t mean I can’t adjust my gait to land on my forefoot, as so many now preach, because it does make sense (even New Balance, which has been making cushioned running shoes for decades, has a “how-to” video on their website).

It’s interesting that Nike’s website offers a simple shoe selection option that is light on the minimalist trend. Their “Free” series retains a thick, although lightweight, sole for cushion, claiming that the shoe’s interior construction mimics a barefoot experience because it doesn’t constrain natural movement.

I write this with memories of the most recent Boston Marathon in mind. I was on my feet for 3 days prior to the event, working at the Marathon Expo for runners at the Hynes Convention Center and thankful for my well-cushioned running shoes. While it was great to be amid the showcase for so many running products and services, it amazed me how many were geared to injuries. There were biofeedback units for pinched nerves and sore muscles, athletic tape that is supposed to ease painful joints and muscles, and so many strap-on ice packs I began to wonder why people run when it’s a sure route to agony. Even the Brooks shoe company set up their display to resemble an Army medical tent like those in the tv show M*A*S*H. Anyone else see the irony in that?

Next door to us at the expo was a London-based minimalist shoe company that provided me with free samples. Although I saw the price tag that was above $100, I can only compare them to the jelly-plastic sandals that you generally see in dollar stores. One of my daughters read the accompanying literature and had this observation: “They claim that stimulating different parts of the foot by wearing these shoes is reflexology … careful, if you walk the wrong way they may cause you to lose control of your bladder.”

I may be showing my age but I’ll admit to a general reluctance to dive into new gear that may be fabulous, may disappoint — or may cause harm.

After all, when something’s not broke, why fix it?

I found shoes that work for me, so I've girded against shortages or "improvements" that may make them hard to find in the future

*Vibram is practically printing money with those minimalist Five Fingers, but they also make the heavy-duty soles on many hiking boots. Go figure.


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