Sunday’s shoe-shopping trip, when I went out to check out the Sketchers GoRun shoe and ended up coming home with two pairs of Nike Flexes, is a symptom I’ve seen before. It’s like I have a crisis of faith in my running. I don’t quite understand why, but I just have to try something different, so I start messing around with my shoes or my inserts.
Quite often, the change is disastrous, I go back to what was working before, and Planet Aid or Back on My Feet ends up with a pair of barely-used running shoes. Shopping therapy can get expensive, but at least the attempt settles me down. But sometimes I learn something new, something that I keep using even after the crisis has passed.
My favorite example occured two days before the 2004 Vermont 100. I stopped at the New Balance outlet on my way to Vermont and bought a new pair of trail shoes. They didn’t fit particularly well, and even if they did, it would be incredibly stupid to use any shoes for the first time in 100 mile race. But I bought them, got back in the car, and continued my trip. A little further up the road, I stopped, put on the new shoes, and went for a jog to test them out. Thankfully, I wasn’t dumb enough to actually use those shoes in the race. In fact, I ended up giving them away without getting any real use out of them at all. But buying them did help release a little pent-up tension.
Today I tried two changes at once which was probably dumb but, as noted, I’m not always above dumb. I did my 12 mile run in the new Nike Flex shoes that I bought on Sunday, and I also made some significant adjustments to the insert in my right shoe.
12 miles was farther than I should really go when trying something new, but I didn’t have any short runs coming up. In my current training plan I’ve replaced all the short runs with bike rides. I could have cut today’s run shorter anyhow, but I already felt enough like a wuss for skipping track. I did jog up and down the street a few times in my new shoes with the adjusted inserts before heading off. They passed that test, but I’ve been fooled over and over by things that felt great during a quick trot across the store, a parking lot, or a nearby sidewalk, but failed completely when I went out for a real run.
Luckily, today’s changes worked out well enough. The shoes performed well. I’ve tried Nike’s Free shoes before, and though they’re flexible, they’re too hard for me. They’re uncomfortable to run in, and I don’t get a good feel for the road. The Flex’s Phylite is softer, thick enough to provide decent cushioning, but thin enough so I get the feedback I need to help me keep my form. The forefoot isn’t quite as roomy as I’d like, but I wasn’t uncomfortable and I didn’t blister.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been using a medial wedge on the right insert to try to accommodate my foot’s external rotation. I allow for my cavus foot by using less wedge in the forefoot than in the heel. Many podiatrists have insisted I needed the medial wedge, but they don’t all agree. My most recent pair of custom orthotics went overboard in the other direction. The orthotic forced my foot to roll inward a massive amount, well beyond the neutral position. I gave up on them because when I ran, it felt like my lower right leg was flapping outward like a flag instead of supporting me.
Today I decided to get rid of the medial wedge. I left the heel in a more or less neutral position and I added a tiny lateral wedge to the forefoot. I also added an additional eighth-inch to the heel lift to make up for the thickness of the missing heel wedge. The effect was nowhere near as dramatic as the custom orthotic and the results seemed much better.
I actually had more trouble with my left leg. The combination of the Nike Flex shoes and my insert provided a little too much arch support on the left side, so my foot didn’t pronate enough, especially when I was running on the left side of the road with the grade also working against me. I should be able to fix that easily enough by using a thinner insole the next time I run in the Flex shoes.
My back does hurt a little more than usual this afternoon, but I’m still oddly encouraged by my results. The next big question is, do I try the insert changes on my 32 mile run on Friday. I’ll be running in my ASICS GEL-Hyperspeed instead of the Flex, so the effect might be a little different. Still, I expect I will give it a try.
(11.7 mi. run; 147#)