In-Depth Thoughts from The Girl
Alright, welcome down here to my little slice of the world!
As I have told you in the past, I’ve struggled with continuous running injuries. Two years’ worth of ups and downs, physiotherapy, and just wondering if it’s time I transitioned to cribbage or lawn bowling instead.
Then at the end of 2022, I reconnected with my friend who used to work at All4Running here in Amsterdam, and now has moved on to work with Brooks Running. We were chatting about life and running, and he ever so nicely asked “at this point, do you maybe think it might not be you, and maybe it’s your shoes?”.
If you’ve been reading along over the last couple months, you know that part of the story already. So now I’m skipping ahead as promised. My friend Tim from Brooks challenged me to take a break from my Asics DS-Gel Trainers, and just go with something, ANYTHING, (not even pressuring me to buy Brooks) with more support. Since at this point, I was staring down the barrel at the symptoms of my recurring metatarsalgia, I had nothing to lose, except for maybe the icepack I was carrying with me 24-7.
So, I went with him on this idea. At this point over the past 2 years, I have spent so much money on a sport podiatrist, Superfeet, custom made insoles, physical therapy for a ruptured Tibialis posterior, and pints upon pints of Ben & Jerry’s (emotional support, duh), what was one more expense of a new model of shoes?
Tim knew that I was probably walking a fine line on emotional stability here, and was really good about explaining to me the in-depth workings of running shoes, and all the shoe “tech” that has changed over the past 10+ years. So, while the Asics DS Gel trainers ARE still a good shoe, they just don’t fit the needs for my current running goals, and certainly not checking the boxes for supporting my body anymore. So being super reserved on the shoe adjustment, he suggested simply moving to the Asics Gel-Cumulus. Still a very neutral shoe, but offers way more cushion and support to help with the forefoot impact, and also has a slight heel drop to help support my previous calf injury. He said he felt there were still going to be better shoe options out there for me, but since I am a loyal Asics runner, and still a little skeptical of changing shoes, he felt these shoes at the very least could help alleviate the Metatarsalgia.
To give you some perspective on timelines here, this plan for new sneakers happened let’s say December 1st, 2022. At this point I was days away from calling my friend and bowing out of the Bermuda Triangle Running Challenge (a race weekend of, 1 mile, 10km, and ½ Marathon races in one weekend – January 15th weekend).
Get to the point already no? Are you ready for this? That same day I went a grabbed a pair of Asics Cumulus and I $h!t you not, I ran one time in those sneakers and the foot pain was GONE. Gone, Gone. Gone to the point I thought this was a prank of some sort. Gone to the point that I continued my mileage build-up to the Bermuda race weekend, and ran all three races without a hitch. Gone to the point that it was almost embarrassing that the shoe change was all it took.
So after the races in January, I caught up with Tim again and we agreed to meet up at the running store to do a REAL shoe fitting and stride assessment to see if we can even take this shoe upgrade to another level. I had promised to have this newsletter out right after the shoe fitting, but I felt I needed to really log some bigger miles in the shoes before getting too excited and reporting back.
We headed into All4Running, and even managed to drag Ray with us too. He of course was also wearing Asics DC Gel Trainers for the past 10-12 years because… well that’s what I bought him! Ray was actually really interested in the shoe fitting because he and the manager of All4Running were going to have a morning of testing out and understanding the pressure plates the store has for professional running shoe fittings. That’s a post on this Ray has coming down the pipes for another day, and YES Ray is now in different running shoes than what he’s been wearing.
Anyways, I think this is where the importance of a quality running store comes into play. The guys at the running store knew more about the inner workings of all of the shoe brands and models than I could have fathomed. More importantly, they knew how to take your running goals, your running stride, past/present running injuries, and create an equation for what type of shoe you needed. At that point, that usually leaves you with a handful of shoes to try on, and get a feel for which ones fit your foot and comfort best.
For me, I have a mid-to-heel strike running stride (pending on fatigue). I’ve had injuries in both the calf muscles AND forefoot areas. I’m a neutral – not overly pronating or supinating. And I’m running in mid-to-long distance running races. This all translated to me needing a shoe without too drastic of a heel drop height (this is a bit of an oxymoron term, as “heel drop” is actually the added height to the heel- think about it as the height of your high heels!). As well I needed a shoe with good support and cushion for those long runs. And as well, a good foam that allows for help with leg recovery after all that banging around on your legs.
After many many runs back and forth through the shop and up and down their built-in track and pressure plate system, we had our first lineup of shoes. If memory serves me correct, we had the Brooks Glycerin 20, Asics NovaBlast 3, Saucony Endorphin Shift 3, and Saucony Ride 15s. Later we tossed in some HOKA running shoes into the mix. My first impression on all of these shoes was simply they felt like running in moon-shoes or bouncing on a trampoline. A stark contrast to the lack of foam present in my Asic DS Gel Trainers. But most notably, in some of the brands like Saucony and HOKA, I just felt there was a complete lack of structure in the shoe. So with all the newfound “bounce” of my stride combined with a lack of (what I can only describe as shoe structure) structure, I was instantly concerned that long term I’d end up with injuries from those brands. The Brooks Glycerin 20, I really wanted to like. They had great bounce, support, and I honestly just liked the way they looked as well… but the shoe was too wide for my little feet.
In the end, I sided with the Asics NovaBlast 3. To be really transparent, I was still a little hesitant leaving the store with the shoes. I can’t describe how bouncy the shoe felt, and I was just thinking the whole time, this can’t be good for the stride long term- surely this trampoline underneath my feet will cause some sort of instability? The great thing about this running store (and you should check out what your own local running store might offer), is that since I spent the time to do the shoe testing, stride analysis, and put my trust in their expertise, if I ended up not liking the shoes in a couple of weeks, I could just walk back in and trade them for a different pair. That’s how much they believe in their process to get the customer in the right shoe. I have to say, it was worth the time to go to the store and really trust their process. Knock on wood, I really really love these sneakers. It took a couple of runs to really relax in the new shoe, but they have been great, I’ve had zero whisperings from my forefoot injury, and my calf muscle is like new. Even more notably, I can’t believe the increased recovery time after long, hard runs. I’m really impressed, and my legs are happy again.
The last thing I will say, as some of you might be wondering, is that I’m also still running in the Cumulus sneakers as well. I toss that pair in the mix once a week if I have a shorter run just to mix things up. As well, I have two pairs of the NovaBlasts now as well. With the new shoes and the absence of running injuries, I was confident enough to retire my custom orthotics (which the sport podiatrist said was the end goal – not to become reliant on them). But, one thing I have done to keep the feet flexible and not used to just one shoe for all runs, is I did keep a pair of my SuperFeet insoles. One pair of the NovaBlasts has the SuperFeet insoles, one NovaBlast without, and the Cumulus are as well just regular insoles that come with the shoe. So that is officially now my new shoe lineup, and I am just really really hoping this is the last I have to talk about shoes and injuries!
The last 4.5 months has been really exciting and encouraging to keep knocking down training cycles and long runs. There is something to be said for running happy!
So that’s it. I hope my running shoe journey maybe helps someone else. I’m not saying a shopping spree is going to change your running times, but if you have been doing alllll of the other things “right” and something else is just constantly going wrong in your running life, maybe take a trip to your local running store. Figure out who their crazed shoe guru is, and see if you can’t benefit from a change up too.
I promise to be back in your inbox around the end of this month. I have my first real race of the season coming up, and I’m excited to toe the line again… 12 years later. IYKYK!
Until then, safe and happy training days to you. And as always, thanks for reading and supporting DC Rainmaker.