11 February 2012

Shoe Saga

I have weird legs and feet, and as a result I have a hard time buying shoes. I'm trying to replace my current shoes, and it's not easy. I'm going to write down everything I know about my feet, legs, and shoes I've run in, in the hopes that I'll figure out what to do.
  1. I am bow-legged, more so on the right side.
  2. I have pretty average arches, but I walk on the inside of my right foot (which I think is related to my bowed leg on that side) so the right arch seems flatter when I do a footprint test.
  3. I have weirdly long middle toes that hurt a lot in some shoes.
  4. I think I overpronate, but when people watch me run, they say my gait is neutral. This usually results in buying neutral shoes and they never feel supportive enough.
  5. The idea of motion control shoes worries me because they always seem so heavy, and I'm not sure I need them.
  6. I have huge big toe callouses, worse on the right foot.
  7. I can stand heels-together, toes pointed way out (like ballet's first position) and bend my knees directly forward. It freaks people out.
I'm currently running in Brooks Ravennas. These have been pretty good and I've been injury-free since I started running in them. According to Brooks, they "provide just the right amount of support for mild pronation." I don't completely adore them and they haven't lasted very long, so I'm not sure I want to get another pair, but I might end up doing that if nothing else works.
Here are all the shoes I have tried in the last few years:
  • I used to run in Asics 2100 series shoes. I liked them for a long time but then I got a pair that I didn't like, but I can't remember why. (Stability)
  • A few years ago I replaced my Asics with a lighter weight pair, something in the GEL-1100 series. I thought it was weird to feel the road so much. I bought them because they were cheaper than the 2100 series. (Stability)
  • The next pair of shoes I remember running in were Asics Nimbus. They were comfortable while I trained for my first 5k last year, but they gave me huge big toe callouses which hurt a lot. (Cushioned Neutral)
  • Last summer I tried Asics Gel-Kayanos; they gave me bad toe blisters and I sent them back. (Stability)
  • I also experimented with Newton Lady Isaacs, but injured my posterior tib tendon around the time I was wearing them and haven't worn them since. (Neutral)
  • I bought Salomon Crossmax Neutral trail shoes, but they came up to high for my ankles. Thinking back on it, I was actually wearing these shoes the first time my posterior tib tendon hurt. I was on a long run and was trying to emulate the foot strike I had when wearing the Newtons. Maybe this was a bad idea. I took advantage of Zappos super liberal return policy with these, and got myself some non-running-shoes. (Neutral)
  • I tried NB Trail Minimus last fall, but I only ran in them a few times, around the time I got injured. Haven't worn them for running since. (Minimal)
  • I bought Brooks Pure Cadence at the end of last year. I loved the cushioning. I wore them once a week for 3 milers for a while, but then one day my posterior tib hurt so I've shelved them until after the marathon. (Not sure what to call these.)
  • I ran in Brooks Trance 10s last fall while while I was recovering from my injury. They seemed okay at the time but the Ravennas ended up being my favorite of the two. The Trance seem really stiff in comparison, like I'm running with bricks on my feet. (Stability)
  • I also tried Brooks Ghost; not supportive enough. (Neutral)
I decided today (why did this take me so long?) to check out the soles of my Ravennas. The right shoe is on the left in this picture (and vice versa). You can see the inside toe (in the middle of the picture) has really worn away from the right shoe. No wonder my feet are starting to get sore! According to this wikipedia page, that means I overpronate. (Unfortunately that wikipedia page also said I'm probably underpronating if I'm bow legged?!)

The inside left toe is also worn, just not as much. So I think that settles that. I need stability shoes. But do I need motion control shoes? I'm not sure. I don't think I can be "severely overpronating" if the people at the running store who watch me run say that my gait is neutral, right?

For the past week I've been obsessively shoe shopping, since my feet are starting to ache in my trusty Ravennas. I've used every shoe finder there is, and they all give me different results. I ordered 3 pair last week (Mizuno Enigma - too small, Mizuno Creative - ran in them today, lots of weird aches and pains, Brooks Glycerin - don't seem supportive enough). These are all neutral shoes, so I'm not surprised they didn't feel right.

After more research today, I've made a list of shoes to try on. These are all stability shoes:
  • Brooks Adrenaline + Ravenna 3
  • New Balance 860, 993, 1260, 1770
  • Asics 2170 (I still have a soft spot for these, even though my last pair in this series wasn't great)
  • Mizuno Nirvana + Inspire
I wish I knew how people figure out what shoes are right for them. Sometimes I order shoes from Road Runner Sports because they have this amazing return policy. The trouble is, you can't try them on. Same with Zappos, although they aren't obviously as knowledgeable about running shoes. Sometimes I buy from Marathon Sports, because a) it's a great local business and b) in theory they watch you run and help you figure out what to get. But I think I tend to give them confusing information so I don't always get the right shoes, and their return policy is not as liberal as the online stores. Sometimes I go to a big sporting goods box store so I can try on as many shoes as I want in peace and not take up valuable floor space in a smaller shop.

If you're still reading, you're my hero. Please tell me how you found your perfect shoes.


  1. Tried on Brooks Adrenaline, Mizuno Inspire + Nexus, Asics 2170 last night:
    - 2170 not cushioned enough
    - Nexus felt awesome and great flexibility but I worry they don't have enough stability so I didn't get them.
    - Inspire and Adrenaline: bought. These feel similar; Inspire fit was a little better, Adrenaline felt slightly more stable. Had to go up to 9.5 in Adrenaline! My feet are growing.

    Still curious about motion control shoes and Mizuno Nirvana but they didn't have those.

  2. More shoe data: I bought Mizuno Alchemy from Marathon Sports, ran in them once and decided they are way too voluminous for my little feet. But I probably can't take them back. I tried on the Nirvanas also and they were good but I thought the Alchemys were better. Now I think I was wrong.

    Ran in Brooks Adrenaline twice: the first time they seemed okay, but the second time my posterior tib and/or achilles ached. Could have been from wearing the Alchemys yesterday? Seriously thinking of returning to the Ravennas. Woe is me. :)

  3. I was going to recommend going to Bayside Runner, on Long Pond Road in Plymouth, but Natick is a little far from there. If you do ever find yourself in the area, though, Adam is awesome. He will analyze your gait and help you find the right shoes. Also, if you aren't happy with the ones you end up with, I am pretty sure he will let you exchange them.

  4. More shoe data.

    I went to Marathon for cushier shoes because the Ravennas were feeling a little tough on long runs. The salesman *made* me buy Asics DS Trainer 17s for some reason. He was adamant. They killed my bunion - I had a week of bunion pain from those. They felt decent except for being too narrow in the toe.

    I returned those (horrible experience btw) and bought Asics Nimbus 13, size 9. They are a bit too big but 8.5 was too small. They are pretty comfy - no bunion pain, but my big right toe hurts (callous) and they kind of slap down on the ground. Not flexible enough?

    The day after the Nimbus I finally bought some Asics GT-2170s. In these, the 8.5 is perfect. We'll see what happens with them. Weirdly, they seem way cushier than they seemed when I tried them on last month.

    I still think the Ravennas are the best for me, but I have some hope the 2170s will be even better.

    Also I will never shop at Marathon Sports again, they are so incredibly snotty about returns, when it's clearly stated that their policy is 15 days for store credit even if you've used them. Can't stand it over there anymore. Really wanted to support the little guy but not at any cost. I'll stick with Road Runner Sports. And Dicks, when I know what I want and I want it right now.

  5. Tonight I returned the Hoka Stinsons I bought recently because they gave me pretty bad left hip pain. Too bad because I liked them otherwise.

    At Marathon Sports I tried on tons of shoes: Adrenalines (felt decent but since I took them back before I can't buy them again), NB 860 (weird fit on the inside of the shoe), Saucony Mirage (meh), Asics 2170 (hey I already own these!) and Mizuno Inspires. I loved the Inspires but had a feeling I've bought them before. And I have. I returned them because they were too tight, but tonight I tried on a 9.5 and they felt great. So maybe I should get them...

    I'm back to shopping at Marathon Sports because I had this big fight with RoadRunnerSports over their gross "sales" tactics (25% off anything you want! no fine print but it turns out they wouldn't honor it on electronics or strollers, so I still don't have a GPS watch!).