In Which Jenn Selects New Running Shoes (Small Giveaway!)

Hey, remember that time I went to Road Runner Sports for a shoe fitting and walked out of the store with the Nike Vomero 10? And remember how I wasn’t sure it was the right shoe for me after awhile? And then remember how I ended up loving it and using it anyway?

And then remember how Nike ruined everything by changing the Vomero 11 so much that it didn’t feel like my shoe anymore? 🙁 🙁 🙁

When your favorite running shoe betrays you, there is only one cure: a new fitting. In that spirit, I used my half-day off last week to head back to that same Road Runner Sports for a new go-round with their Shoe Dog fitting system.

The Shoe Dog process starts with a fitter asking you some questions about your goals, mileage, injuries, etc., and measures you feet. After that you run on a treadmill while a video records your steps (one thing that was different – last time they had me do it barefoot, whereas this time they put me in some neutral, basic sneakers).

A weird thing happened: after watching the video, my fitter declared that I had mildly flexible ankles and needed a support shoe. Last time my fitter declared that while I had some very slight flexibility in one ankle I was definitely neutral and he would never put me in a support shoe. So shoe fitting is not an exact science, I guess…

Anyway, with my new diagnosis in hand I headed over to the try-on area, where some employees brought me a bunch of shoes to try. There were several treadmills available, and I was left to pop a pair on and give a bit of running a try largely unsupervised (it was pretty busy and I guess I looked like I knew what I was doing?).

First up were some New Balances; I’m not sure what model as I couldn’t seem to locate that info on the box. Not that it mattered because the second I hit the treadmill I haaaaaaated them – they were so loud and clunky and stompy! I felt like a Clydesdale and not in a good, majestic way. Just a loud, clunky, stompy way. Instant pass.

Next I tried some Asics Gel Kayanos. I liked these well enough and found the gel interesting underneath my toes, so I stuck them in the maybe pile. One annoying thing, though: there was a tag attached to the laces, something informational about the gel, I think, and I was constantly afraid I would trip on it as I ran. Knock that off, Asics!

I also took shots at the Brooks Adrenaline and Adidas Boost Supernova, but neither of them really registered with me. I didn’t feel blind hatred a la the New Balances – I even gave the Adrenaline a second chance – but they both ultimately went into the no pile.

One thing I remember distinctly when selecting the Nike Zoom Vomero 10s was the beautiful fit. I specifically recall pulling them onto my feet and feeling Cinderella-esque comfort. I hadn’t been brought any Nikes, but I wanted to know if they could pull it off again.

I was initially brought a pair of Nike Odysseys, and they looked like the winner for awhile – essentially the structured version of the Vomero. But there was something slightly off. The fit wasn’t flawless; I felt my foot inside the shoe, if that makes any sense. I had accepted this in shoe fittings in the past, but after my transcendent Vomero 10 experience I was reluctant to do so again.

So I requested any other structured Nikes with medium-high cushioning they had – and when I slipped on the Lunarglides, I knew I’d found the one. It was that same incredible feeling of the shoe kind of… existing around my foot, you know? Bonus: they were $30 cheaper than the Odysseys and super cute. Score!

Did I make the right call? That remains to be seen. I learned from the Vomeros that sometimes you have to give your body time to adjust to change (I’m a slow learner). I’ve taken the Lunarglides on a couple runs now, and so far so good. Further updates as events warrant!

Mini-contest of sorts! My receipt came with a one-time-use $20 off coupon to Road Runner for a friend. Should work online, not just in store. (Sadly it’s for new customers only.) I’d be happy to give this away to anyone that wants it. If that includes you, reply to this post by noon Monday. If only one person replies, great! It’s yours. If multiple people want it, I’ll assign numbers and randomly pick a winner. And if no one responds by the deadline, the first person to ask for it gets it regardless of time lapse so long as the coupon hasn’t expired (September 30). Good luck!

Cannot be used on Nike’s latest release, the Ruffian (runs large).

When was the last time you had a sneaker fitting? What criteria do you use to make your selections?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is Confused About Shoes

I am confused. Confused about shoes.

I just wanted to rhyme. That’s my blog post for today. Thanks for stopping by!

Nooooooo, I will elaborate. Maybe one of you magical readers can alleviate my confusion.

Last summer I went to Road Runner Sports to get fitted for running shoes. I’d been using Brooks Ravennas pretty happily for awhile but it never hurts to reevaluate now and again, no? Roadrunner had a whole fancy pants process for determining my best fit, including videotaping me running barefoot on a treadmill. My shoe specialist told me that while my right foot does pronate bit, my left foot remains absolutely neutral; as such, she would never have put me in a support shoe like the Ravenna in the first place. Gasp!

What followed was your standard shoe fitting montage: I put on, like eleventy-billion pairs of sneakers, ran in them a bit, slowly narrowed it down, and eventually settled on a pair of the Nike Zoom Vomero 10, a neutral model with a ton of bouncy cushion. Not did I enjoy said bounciness, they fit my feet like an absolutely dream – no breaking in required!

At first everything was great. I ran some training runs with no issues. I even set a new PR in my first race with them. But then the National Capital 20 Miler happened, and I came out of it with a messed up hip and angry knees. In terror of the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon, I bought a new pair of Ravennas and used them for the marathon instead, convinced that the problem was that the neutral Vomeros didn’t provide enough support for very long distances.

So I wore the Ravennas for the marathon and that was fine – up to a point. I finished the race no problem, but my knees and hip definitely bothered me. Then two weeks later came the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and it being a shorter distance I decided to go with the Vomeros again. Indeed, it turned out to be a much shorter distance (more on the quarter marathon here), so much that I wound up knocking out a quick 5K a few days later on my own. No issues.

Until a few days later, when I attempted to run a few miles on the treadmill and began experience steady discomfort in my right Achilles tendon. This pain – not sharp but constant – followed me around for a good six weeks before I finally gave up and gave myself a couple weeks off from running entirely. Suspecting the Vomero’s lack of support, I wound up running the WDW Marathon at the beginning of January wearing the Ravennas again, with the help of professionally applied KT Tape on my Achilles.

Luckily that worked, and from then it was nothing but improvements until I felt no pain at all. Great success! And you would think, too, that this would cement my love of the Ravennas forever. And yet…

I do love Brooks Ravennas. They’re really great, supportive and cushiony. But they’re heavier than the Vomeros, and my God, guys, I can’t even find the words to explain exactly why the Vomeros feel so good, but the fit is just… right. They feel… bespoke, almost. I don’t know. They feel good.

So for whatever reason I’ve been breaking out the Vomeros off an on for shorter runs over the last couple months… and over the last week and a half I ran a practice 13.1 and then 15 miles in them. No pain, no problems.

Correlation, as we know, does not imply causation. Let’s look at a couple things that could have caused my pain for other reasons that happened to coincide with the arrival of my Nikes:

  1. As I mentioned the other week, I wasn’t quite as ready as I could’ve been for my long distance races. In all honesty my muscles weren’t sufficiently prepared, at least not for a good showing.
  2. The National Capital 20 Miler is a trail race, which is generally going to be harder on your body than a treadmill or road race. I do train outside, but a lot of my route is sidewalks and paved trails; I don’t get a ton of packed dirt and grass time in.
  3. As opposed to the shoes, it could’ve been the one-two-three punch of Marine Corps Marathon, Wine & Dine + walking around Walt Disney World, then squeezing in another early morning run the day later that caused my strained Achilles.
  4. Or all of the above could wrong and the neutral ride of the Vomeros could be the culprit after all.

This is, of course, speculation. I am by no means a professional fitter and an unproven diagnostician. And I’m feeling very uncertain as to where to go from here. I think I may have outgrown my beloved and steadfast but clunky Ravennas. I love the Vomeros and have been experiencing success with them of late, but I worry that there may be a mileage threshold there and I don’t know where it is. Nike does make a support Zoom shoe called Structure, but I hesitate to start purchasing shoes that haven’t been specifically suggested to me. Maybe I should go back and get fitted again? I just don’t KNOWWWWWWWWWWW

Any suggestions from the audience? What have been your best and worst shoe fitting experiences? Shoe-related injuries? How do you select your shoes? Have you ever bought a shoe blindly based on description? Obviously I’m interested in any shoe-related tale you wish to share, so sound off!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Gets New Sneakers At Road Runner Sports

Guys! I finally got myself re-fitted for sneakers and it was WAY more involved than last time.

A little background: I’ve been using the Brooks Ravenna 5 since October of 2013. It replaced a pair of Nike ProFits that worked pretty well but in which I occasionally succumbed to some knee pain. The Ravennas seemed to take care of that problem, and I used them happily for almost two years.

Until the Ravenna 5 was phased out for the new 6 model. Sure, I could’ve just bought eighty pairs of 5s on clearance and hope my stash lasted me the rest of my running career; likewise, I could’ve just bought a pair of 6s and trusted they would rock. But I wanted more than that. I wanted to try on shoes!

The past couple times I’ve had sneaker fittings they’ve taken place in a Fleet Feet. I probably would’ve gone back there but I happened to drive past a Road Runner Sports near work one day and figured I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did because their fit process is INSANE.

The process began with the help of Mesa, a fit expert who ran the technological side of what they call the Shoe Dog fit method. She did a lot of your standard stuff – asking me about my running habits, any problems, if I was training for anything, getting a shoe size. She also had me stand on some sort of pressure device that determined my pressure points (here I was complimented on my arches; Mesa said they were the highest she’d seen. FTW!).

Things started heating up when she had me take off my shoes and hop on a treadmill – and a video camera recorded me running from behind. Mesa brought up the footage and slow-mo’d her way through my stride, showing me how my left foot stayed perfectly straight as it hit but my right turned inward just a bit. “I actually never would have put you in a stability shoe like a Ravenna,” she said. MIND. BLOWN.

(Side note: Mesa also fit me for some custom shoe inserts during this process. A coworker of mind warned me against these, saying she had tried them and taken them back as they were causing her problems. Regardless, I knew they would be expensive and didn’t want to spend the extra money when I was already buying crazy expensive shoes; still, I let them go ahead and make them since it’s part of the process. I even tried them in a couple pairs but they felt weird more often than not. Maybe they would’ve helped and if you want to try them, go ahead! Personally after my third pair I asked if I could toss out the inserts during my search and they were fine with it – no pressure at all. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Or don’t, as the case may be.)

I was then handed over to Lee, Master of Shoes. Poor, wonderful Lee! I put him through his paces for the better part of two hours, and his smile never slipped. It was a pretty great process, actually – Lee would bring me shoes he thought would work for me, and I would put them on and go run on the treadmill. What I liked I kept in the pool; what I didn’t got tossed. (I never touched the Ravenna 6. SCANDAL! SACRILEGE!)

I tried a pair of Sauconys, two pairs of Brooks (Ghost and something else I don’t remember), a pair of Adidas (“a wild card” according to Lee), Nike Zoom Vomero 10, and the Asics Nimbus, which really DOES feel like running on a squishy cloud. The Adidas and Saucony shoes were briefly in the running, but I ultimately found the former lacked bounce and the latter were too wide.

That Nimbus squishiness tempted me, but there was something about the way the Nikes fit that felt right. Indeed, in a way sneakers had never felt right to me before, like they were made to hang out with my feet. I hadn’t yet tried every brand in the store, which some might say is less than thorough (next time, Mizunos and Hokas!), but that fit… what shoe dreams are made of, I tell you.

I did get talked into one thing – a VIP membership. It does cost $20 but you get a minimum of 10% off for a year (that day I got 20% off due to a sales promotion). I am often suspicious of such programs but I’m sure I’ll need at least one more pair of these in October for MCM, so I don’t think it was a bad call. This may or may not be a good deal for you – take a moment to consider before you commit.

One pack of socks later and I was out the door with my new Nike friends! As of this writing I have now run with my Zooms three times and I continue to be pleased with them. They feel good! They do – and will continue to for a bit – take some getting used to. Going from a stability shoe to a neutral shoe changes the requirements you’re making of your muscles, so I am proceeding with caution. But very optimistic caution! I’m taking them on their first outdoor, real-terrain spin on Thursday morning. Wish me luck!

When were you last fitted for running shoes? Have you ever switched brands unexpectedly?

Jenn is running the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon for the Diabetes Action Team. Will you help her earn her bib while fighting diabetes? Click here to make your tax-deductible donation.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!