I remember shopping back in middle/high school when my Mom paid for sneakers (and wish I could go back to her buying them!) and I never bought any based on a reason other than “these look cool!” I remember an associate at Foot Locker told my Mom and I, “You know they are running sneakers when the backs are more cushioned than the front.” It’s amazing how far running sneakers have come in the 15 years since I started running (fifteen years, really?)
It’s rare that I try on sneakers in person. I don’t like to feel pressured (and then guilty) when I don’t buy sneakers and somebody spent time helping me. I also don’t trust the “fit experts” at any of my local stores. Fleet Feet put me in stability sneakers because I overpronate, but as I watched more and more people come into the store in times I was there, they put nearly everyone in stability sneakers of some sort. You’re trying to tell me every runner in Buffalo is better fit in 14 oz, 12mm heel-toe drop, clunky pieces of rubber? Nah.
While I am nowhere near an expert in running sneakers, I’ve learned so much after a year of physical therapy where I believe I can make a better educated decision on my own. Many of the issues I had when I went to physical therapy have started to disappear or become less apparent with various running specific exercises. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking the store associates because for the average runner, the “fit experts” are going to be way more helpful than an uneducated guess based on appearance (hello high school Brittany!) or a blanket review read online. But for me? I’ll make my own decisions, please.
That being said, after years of running stability and motion control sneakers, I ventured into the Newton world with their Distance U model. I basically jumped into midfoot striking, convinced that’s how I was running. In reality, I was just heeling striking in a pair of Newtons with lugs. The sneakers made me feel fast at 7oz with a 2mm drop, but I ran them out quickly (or at least that’s what my physical therapist told me when he first saw them).
After that, I received a pair of Brooks Ariel 14 sneakers to wear test. When I received them, I knew I didn’t want to run in them. I felt like I looked like a Grandma! And not the fast ones that win Masters, either. They were those heavy control sneakers everyone tried to put me in, but I was desparately trying to get far away from. After some runs it turns out that I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t love them either. Thankfully I wasn’t running often so it didn’t matter much — 12 oz. and a 12mm heel-toe drop was probably the highest and heaviest I’ve ever run.
I bought a pair of Newton Energy NR‘s when they came out thinking I’d love them as much as my Distance U, but I didn’t. I got the same size (as recommended) but apparently my foot shrunk as my arch started to strengthen with my new exercises. I only put about 20 miles on these (4mm and 9oz) before sneaker swapping with Hollie. I can’t remember which sneaker she had (Motion or Gravity?) but I only have run once in those. They fit better, but they didn’t agree with my ankle at that point in time. Considering I was just coming back to run/walking at the time I tested them out, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea.
Once I got cleared to actually start running again and my PT told me to get something with a low heel-toe drop, but supportive. To be honest, I still haven’t found what he suggested. I bought Saucony Mirages (but the previous model – 4mm, 8oz) and have been really happy with them for the most part, though he wasn’t happy when he could bend them so easily at the midfoot. How can I have a low drop without that kind of flexibility? Most of my runs felt decent, but sometimes my ankle twinged a little more than I like to feel during recovery. I’ve put under 100 miles on them, but have worn them a number of times for everyday activities (I know, I know) and now they are starting to wear around the ankle.
Whoops. Time to buy new sneakers!
I now am the proud owner of Saucony Virratas, which have about 5 measly (but happy!) miles on them, run on back to back days. They are the lighest sneaker I’ve owned (6oz) and zero drop! While they are less supportive than the Mirage, I went with them because my ankle always feels best when I’m doing barefoot drills. They have quite a bit of cushion which by sight makes it surprising to see a 0mm difference. My Wednesday run (just over 2 miles) and my Thursday CrossFit session (just over 1 mile) were the first days I ran back to back since this winter. Typically at some point my ankle would bother me during the run, just a “hey, remember to not do too much too soon” feeling, but I didn’t experience it once during any part of the workouts. Could these be my miracle shoes?
I ultimately want to transition to a less supportive, minimalistic sneaker. My feet (so far) feel awesome in the Virratas, but I know I still need the cushioning while my tendons and still getting used to the impact of running again. I love the idea of barefoot running (but would never run barefoot for a race, or on something that isn’t grass) and I know it’ll take a while to even get to a less cushioned shoe. For now, I’m excited to head out for another run this morning and see how it feels after 3 runs this week.
Thanks Laura for the Saucony sneaker addiction I’ve starting to have…