I’ve Got the Running Shoe Blues

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months, you know that I’ve been going through some Running Shoe Blues. Here’s a quick recap:

  • I had been wearing Saucony Mirage 4s for two years, but they were becoming scarce, so I decided to try something new
  • Local Fleet Feet fitted me with Saucony Guide 9s, which gave me horrible blisters
  • Tried to exchange the Guide 9s, but didn’t get much help in the store. Decided to have them special order the Saucony Mirage 5s.
  • After two weeks of no communication from the store, called them only to find out that the shoes had never been ordered. Finally actually ordered them.
  • When I finally got the Mirage 5s and started wearing them, I ended up with a quad strain and pain in my right foot due to not enough room for my toes
  • I have been training ever since in my old Saucony Mirage 4s and dreading more forays into shoe shopping.

A couple of weeks ago, Fleet Feet emailed me that they were having a sale where if you brought in an old pair of running shoes, you’d get $20 off a new pair. Now, I know I said I didn’t think I’d shop at Fleet Feet again after the above saga, but it was a good deal, and a good opportunity to get rid of the Mirage 5s, which I had definitely worn too much to do a full return.

I went in on a Saturday, and started from scratch–I was measured and observed by a staff member (who couldn’t have been more than 18 years old), and she determined that I could wear neutral shoes, which I pretty much already knew. I tried on 7 or 8 different pairs, with a big focus on trying to find something with enough room in the forefoot/toebox that my big toe wouldn’t rub like it did with the Mirage 5s. The two pairs I liked best were Brooks Launch 3s and Nike Zoom Vomero 10s. I chose to go with the Nikes because the material in the toebox was much more flexible, whereas the Launches were a bit more stiff, and I was worried about my toe rubbing.

After having put about 13 miles on the Nikes, I’m already pretty sure they won’t work out. After every single run in them, I’ve had varying degrees of pain and tightness in my right Achilles and calf–especially after my 5 mile leg of the 100 on 100 Relay. I think this can be attributed to the fact that for the last 2+ years, I’ve been running in a shoe with a 4mm heel-toe drop, and the Nikes have almost a 13 mm drop. I probably should have factored that in more closely when trying shoes on, but I was just so happy to have enough room for my toes that I didn’t really think about anything else.

I’m planning to go back this week or next and exchange the Nikes for the Launches, which still have a higher heel-toe drop than I’m used to, but smaller than the Nikes. I also remember distinctly feeling like there was less under my heels in the Launches. I just hope that my toe doesn’t end up rubbing.

I’m just so frustrated. I feel like back when I was only running 10-12 miles a week, shoes didn’t make so much of a difference. I just bought a pair of Nike Frees at Olympia Sports and ran in them. I didn’t know anything about cushioning or heel-toe drop or minimal vs. maximal and I was FINE. I didn’t have any injuries or pain for the first year I was running regularly. I have to wonder how much of my shoe issues this year are due to overthinking things. Like, is it really the shoes that are the problem, or is it my over analysis of the shoes’ potential impact on my body that’s messing with me? Somehow it feels like having more knowledge is actually more of a burden than just being clueless and buying some random shoes and going with the flow.

How long did it take you to find your “perfect” running shoe?

17 thoughts on “I’ve Got the Running Shoe Blues

  1. creakyjointsrunning says:

    Hey sorry about your shoe problem. There are some newish brands that have wide toe boxes. I just picked up Altras for trails, but they have road running shoes with the wide toe box as well. i run on roads in Asics, and I just think of blisters as a just a part of breaking in a new pair of shoes… And a lot of times shoes that give me heel blisters at first, turn out to be pretty good kicks in the “long run”. But that’s just me. Oh, and Hokas. Have you tried Hokas? Topos? Two other brands with some innovation and new designs. I liked my hokas but in marathon training they wore out a few months sooner than I would have hoped. Never tried topos, but they also have a wide box and I’ve heard good things. @runfargirl reviewed her topos on her blog recently… Anyways, that’s my 2 cents. good luck !

    • Rae says:

      Thanks for the suggestions! I’d love to try Altras, but unfortunately there are ZERO stores around me that carry them, so I wouldn’t be able to try before I buy. I’ve tried Hokas on and they’re definitely too narrow, and too much cushion makes my toes go numb. I may just have to bite the bullet and order some Altras online, just to see.

  2. charissarunning says:

    Ugh shoe shopping can be rough. I’ve been lucky enough to find my “magic” shoe – the Kinvara 5 – but I’m reluctant to try the newer models because I know that slight changes can really throw off that magic. I’m now trying to figure out my feet again though because after running exclusively in the Kinvara 5’s for nearly two years, my ankle/foot injury in part shows that I may need to supplement them with another pair so as not to overwork all the same muscles on every run. I just got the New Balance Fresh Foam Zantes and although I haven’t run in them yet, it’s always a good sign when they feel like clouds when walking 🙂 I definitely think we tend to over-analyze on this issue. In the past, I’ve usually gotten a good feeling about the right shoe immediately when I slip them on. In my experience, if it feels weird when you slip it on, your foot will probably never get used to it. The last two pairs of Asics I got (2+ years ago!), that was the case. Good rule of thumb: they should feel like little clouds or pieces of heaven on your feet when sitting, standing, and walking first before you consider them for running. Be very picky. Try on #alltheshoes till you get that wonderful feeling. Good luck with your next pair!

  3. txa1265 says:

    That is a tough question … for the first 20+ years of running I simply went ‘cheap’ – sure I dedicated running shoes, but I would never spend over $50, and basically got the most comfortable pair < $50 at the mall in Braintree / Burlington / Framingham / Nashua. 🙂

    In 2012 when I committed to running a marathon, I decided to actually buy some 'real' running shoes and spent close to $100 on a pair of Nike Free Run's with 4mm drop at Dick's Sporting goods. Those were awesome, so I bought another pair … then tried New Balance Minimus, which didn't work as well (zero drop, low cushion) and were really dead by 800 miles (short for me). Then back to the Nike and tried the Saucony Kinvara – another 4mm drop shoe – and they have been with me through this year, when I bought some Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit … which are awesome.

    During this time I also tried Merrell Vapor Glove (super minimal) and Saucony Virrata (like Kinvara but zero drop) and have basically decided that the lightweight 4mm-ish shoes are what work well for me.

    As a result I am pretty settled for a few years – I keep price shopping (thanks ShoeKicker!) to buy more of the Nike or Saucony shoes, but won't go with much of anything else.

    This has come up repeatedly on many sites I follow – too often shoe companies screw around with the fit and styling of their shoes so you just think you're safe and then BAM the new version is crap! Ugh!

    No real advice – except for you to be VERY clear about replacement / satisfaction guarantee period with any stores you buy from … these things are too expensive for us to simply eat the cost of the shoes, and they don't want to take them back (even if they are supposed to). Shops like this are hurt by the internet – so don't be afraid to pretty much say "look, if I wanted inflexible take-it-or-leave-it shopping I could just save money and buy online"

    • Rae says:

      Thankfully Fleet Feet has a VERY forgiving return policy, so I will definitely be taking the Nikes back. I plan to also ask if they have any of the Free RN Flyknit, because I tried some on at Dick’s yesterday and they felt GOOD. Like, really good. And I used to run in Frees, so it’s not like I need the extra support another shoe would offer. Fingers crossed they carry the Free RN, cause this store is very fond of higher support/cushion shoes.

  4. Fallon @ Slacker Runner says:

    I hate shoe problems! I tried the Launches and ended up returning them- I’ve learned I don’t fare to well with lots of toe space. Have you tried Skecher’s GoRun? They have 4mm drop and an open and very soft toe box. I may soon be where you are, I loved my PureFlow 4’s but hate the feel of the new 5’s. 4’s in my size are hard to find now so I bought the 5’s in hope that I could get used to them. 😞 Good luck!

    • Rae says:

      I knew you would feel me on the show problems, haha! I haven’t tried Sketchers, that just seems so…odd. I think of them as a fashion shoe brand, but it may be worth a try.

  5. hellyontherun says:

    I agree with Charissa (and you) in that for me, when I first try on a shoe, I can tell right away if they’re “the one”. They just *feel* right (and then I of course run in them as well). I found and fell in love with the Brooks Ravennas but then they changed them on me and they didn’t give me that feeling anymore. When I started searching again, I was like you, over-thinking things and getting super frustrated. I finally went to a small, local shoe store to get fitted (instead of RoadRunner where they have ample 18 year-olds giving assessments) and they recommended an Asics shoe (one I hadn’t tried) and Newtons. I was super scared to try Newtons but I decided I had nothing to lose. I LOVE THEM. I made sure to try them at a point in my training that I wasn’t running a lot so that I could ease into them and have yet to run a full marathon, but they’ve produced PRs in all distance leading up to the full. They don’t last long (they only give me about 200-250 miles) but I do love how they feel.

    Anyway, I hope you find something soon. Shoe searching can def be stressful ❤

    • Rae says:

      That’s how it was with my Saucony Mirage 4s–perfect immediately. I’ve heard good things about Newtons, but I don’t think anyone near me carries them. That’s the curse of living in a relatively small state. I hope I figure it out soon. This uncertainty is so frustrating!

  6. Sophie says:

    Oh, I can feel your frustration. Over the past 4 years of casual running, I’ve been loving Nike Free 3’s and 4’s. Never had any problems with them. We don’t have running shops with people actually able to help you choose the right shoes here were I live, so I’ve been on my own. Since my most recent pair (not counting the Free 5’s I recently bought and hated after just a couple of runs) really needed changing now I went on a serious research spree, to find a shoe as close as possible to the Free 3’s, but with more cushioning and heel support. Bought the Saucony Kinvara 7 which has a 4mm heel drop (my sweet spot), a flexible sole and a wide toe box. They seem to be exactly what I was looking for. Fingers crossed!

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