Saturday, October 20, 2012


"I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes. I had one thousand and sixty."
Imelda Marcos

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos during a state visit at the White House in 1966.
U.S. Library of Congress image
1,060 pairs of shoes . . . that's a girl's dream! I only have 37 pairs, not including flip-flops and athletic shoes. I especially like to buy gold heels (4 pairs), black flats (3 pairs), ankle booties (5 pairs), and black heels (4 pairs). But these are not duplicates, my friends. Each has its specific function and is not substitutable for any of the others. Totally justified. ;)

Wearing 6 different pairs of athletic shoes this week for workouts, I realized that I am also well on my way to a nice collection of sports footwear.

My New Balance 890s have long been my workhorse, long run training shoe. But lately, I've found that the size 7.5s are too small and the 8s are too big, so I had to take a plunge into the world of running shoes . . . 

The choices are almost unlimited. From barefoot to minimalist to transition to neutral to stability. From Nike to Saucony to New Balance to Mizuno to Brooks to Adidas to Asics and beyond. From heel drop to cushioning to toe box room to arch height to motion control. It's a confusing place. How do you pick out a running shoe?

This is how I made sense of it. 

First, I want to know what the "heel-to-toe drop" (or sometimes "drop") of the shoe is. This is the height the heel is raised above the forefoot. Most so-called traditional running shoes have drops of 12-15 mm. Barefoot-style shoes are zero drop. I've found that the smaller the drop, the harder your calves have to work. Now 0 mm, that's hardcore. No way am I putting my calves through that! My preference is to stay between 8-12 mm for my long run trainer, but I am open to experimenting with as low as 4 mm drops for shorter runs. Most sales people will not know what the drop is on any shoe. Be prepared to Google with your smart phone.

Second, I look for fit. There are a lot of fit issues you can spot right away in the store. You don't want your toes to be bumping up against the top or front of the shoe. This is because your feet flatten out quite a bit during your foot plant. The arch of the foot flattens out, so you need some room in there for your toes to both move forward and to splay out horizontally. You also want your heel to feel comfortable in the shoe's heel cradle. You want your midfoot to feel secure.

There are other fit issues that you can't know about until you have put quite a few miles on the shoes (so it's best to find a store that has a generous return policy). For example, the first time I ran in the Saucony Ride 5s, I got blisters on my arches. I could have never known this by running a few steps on the store's treadmill. I ended up running 50 miles in those shoes - and after each run BLISTERS. The arch was too high. I returned them. You'll also know if the shoe is too small after your first long run. A telltale sign of a black toenail is feeling pressure under one of your nails . . . imagine a clothes pin clamped to your toe. That's how you know you've succeed in giving yourself a black toenail.

Third, I want to experience how the shoe rides. Whether they feel good on my feet. This metric includes things like - does the shoe feel stiff or flexible in the mid foot? Is the cushioning spongy? springy? too thick? too thin? Is there enough room for my toes to spread out during the foot plant? Do my feet feel happy when I run in them? You won't know the answer to these questions, or what your preferences are, until you've tried on a bunch of pairs.

I like shoes that are flexible in the mid foot. I do not like shoes that have posts - i.e., hard plastic anywhere in the mid foot. I don't want my foot guided by the plastic. I want my feet to move naturally inside the shoe. I prefer minimal cushioning. I hate spongy cushioning. I want to feel the ground when I run. I like a lot of room in the toe box to allow my toes to spread out. But I like my heel and mid foot to feel cozy and secure.

Color? I don't really care about it that much, but my preference is anything NEON and BRIGHT. Just don't want anything too crazy, like these:
How did you pick out your running shoes? What shoes have you loved? Hated?

In training, my weeks keep getting more intense, moving closer and closer to race day. This week I had a great week. I completed my hardest workout ever! 11 x 0.5 miles @ 9.3 (6:27). It took me 90 minutes, over 9 miles. I was exhausted! But utterly amazed that I did it!

Week 7: 10/13-10/19 (33 miles)

Saturday (10/13): Long run in Mission Bay, 15 miles. First half at 9:00, next four at 8:30, last 3.5 at 7:30. Last run in my Saucony Ride 5s (blisters).

Sunday (10/14): Jet skiing in Mission Bay, not really exercise, but very fun!! Recovery run, 4.5 miles in Solana Beach at 10:00. First run in my Saucony Kinvara 3s (light weight, liked).

Monday (10/15): Very stiff from long run still. 60" yoga. Omm. Unshod.

Tuesday (10/16): Speed, 11 x 0.5 at 6:27 pace. This took me 90", the longest I have ever run on a treadmill! Wore the New Balance 890s (v1) (another black toenail developed).

Wednesday (10/17): Moderate effort tempo run on treadmill (it was 100F in San Diego!). 40" run with 7:30 pace towards the end for 10 minutes. Upper body weights. Wore the Brooks PureFlow (springy, fun!).

Thursday (10/18): 45" plyo, legs, and core. Wore Nike Pegasus 26s (spongy cushioning perfect for plyo).

Friday (10/19): I played in a doubles tennis tournament and made the playoffs for the first time!! But we got slaughtered in the semifinals. 6-2. My partner asked me, "Have you been working on your volleys?" More of an accusation than a question! My court shoes are Nike Zoom Breathe 2K10s (stiff sole, lots of toe protection).



  1. Good for you for trying different stuff! I wore Saucony's years ago (high school cross country days) and loved them but when I got to college our team wore Nike. Then halfway through college we switched to Asics and it it sort of stuck. I love Asics. I did venture out after 13+ years to try Brooks this past spring. I tried Pure Flow, Launch and Trance 11 (very supportive). I did like the Trance 11 but they are pretty pricey. ($140-ish!) Currently I am training in Asics Gel Nimbus but racing in my Brooks Launch. It's working for me so I guess I'll keep going. I just wish shoes were not so expensive. I try to stick to the 500 mile rule which means I need new shoes around every 3 months. I just look for the best online deals I can find. My two running buddies are really into Newtons but I'm afraid of going that minimal plus they have both struggled with injury after injury since they switched shoes. Some people are just very loyal to a certain brand even if they get injured repeatedly.

    My main shoe qualities are:

    1. how the shoe feels when I run in it
    2. if it doesn't cause any injuries
    3. if it is not too pricey.

  2. Wow, I had no idea a pair of running shoes could be that expensive! I assumed they are all about $100. I think people get caught up in thinking minimal is better. But definitely no injuries is the most important quality! Finding something that works and sticking to it is sound approach.

  3. I never heard of blisters on arches before...sounds painful.

    1. If it is a gross foot thing, I'll get it. The toenails are definitely more painful. I am a blister pro from my days as a gymnast! ;)