Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I've Got a Guy For That: Painless Running Shoe Shopping

Part of my plantar fasciitis recovery plan was to get new running shoes, an activity which is usually fraught with frustration. From finding the right size, to avoiding the latest gimmick, buying shoes has always been a crap shoot. Worst of all, I thought I had found a winner with the Merrell Trail Glove 4 . They were lightweight, comfortable, and promised all the rewards of a minimalist shoe.

This all held true, until it didn't. It's like a friend had turned on me: suddenly running in my Trail Gloves left me with debilitating pain in my left foot. I tried running with them using orthotics, no dice. My body was loudly and clearly telling me it was time to get new shoes.

I had one glimmer of hope during this upcoming shoe buying experience. I've got a friend, John, who works at Metro Run & Walk in Springfield. For years he's been encouraging me to come out and get fitted for running shoes. Now, with pain and no clue what shoes I should buy, I finally made the effort to visit him.

The shopping experience was almost surreal. John asked me some questions about my running, which as far as I can tell, solicited only vague answers. He measured my foot and inspected my orthotics. He then returned from the back room with two pairs of shoes. I slipped each on in turn and they both felt awesome. I ended up selecting the first pair, paid and walked out with my brand new kicks.

There was no stream of endless shoe styles to consider; no mental battle as to whether I was wearing the right size. It was just: put shoes on, feel good, move on.

So far I've logged about 20 miles of activity in the shoes. My right foot, the one without the plantar fasciitis is in heaven. My left foot has been achy during my runs, but this is orders of magnitude less pain than I was getting with my Trail Gloves. There's no doubt I've traded the lightweight sports-car feel of the Merrells for a bulky Cadillac ride in these new shoes. But with my current injury, the luxury feel is just what I need.

I was happy to leave all of this alone: I had shoes that fit and were comfortable. But Shira was doing some online shopping and managed to come across a review for the Brooks Ghost 11 (size 12, 110288 1D 006), the shoes I'd bought. Reading the review, I found the shoes were decidedly on target for my needs:

I came across this shoe when I ran into a sore Achilles tendon. Usually I run in zero drop shoes but sometimes running with this style of shoe can put a lot of stress on the Achilles tendon. While making the Achilles tendon and calf muscles stronger can be a good thing getting Achilles tendonitis can sideline any runner. I still love running in my Altra running shoes and they’re my shoe of choice for race day but I now rotate in the Brooks ghost 11 when I feel like my Achilles tendons are getting tight. Just like a good bowler uses a few balls a good runner will have a few different shoes when they need them.

Wait, your zero drop shoes stopped being comfortable and you needed a more comfortable option? Me too!

When it comes to performance I wouldn’t give the Brooks ghost 11 high marks. It is a big bulky shoe that isn’t built for speed. The shoe is great for an easy run or recovery run but when I try to go fast it’s just plain hard in this shoe. If you’re a speedster I would skip the Brooks ghost 11 and get something lighter without as much bulk on the bottom of the shoe. If you’re focused on endurance only and have ankle issues the Brooks ghost 11 is a great choice.

I'll gladly trade speed for endurance and comfort. Any run I finish injury free is a win. This reviewer suggests there's value in using both a minimalist shoe (my Trail Gloves) and the Brooks ghost 11 in tandem. That's a novel concept, and perhaps when my PF fully clears up, I'll give that a try. Until then, I'm going to relish my new uber comfy shoes.

And if I did need a shoe built for speed, I'd have a solution there too: head back to Metro Run & Walk and ask John to work his magic again.

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