Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Running Shoe Reviews for the Wide-Footed Woman

I currently run 2-3 times a week, 3 miles at a time, using a forefoot / mid foot strike.  After various injuries (newbie running post here) and my old gym shoes literally falling apart, I knew it was time to invest in some real running shoes.  When I first started looking into them, all of the different options seemed overwhelming.  The easiest thing to do is start with going to a running shoe store.  The SAs there should be able to help you evaluate your gait and get you fitted.

Some shoe tips:
  • Your feet get a little wider throughout the day and also swell a little bit while running.  If possible, try to do your shoe fittings later in the day when your feet are biggest.  Some shoes felt great in the morning but became very uncomfortable by mid-day.
  • Go up 1/2 a size to account for foot swelling.
  • Bring your typical running socks and ask if you can do a light jog in the shoes you're trying.  Some stores will have treadmills for this.
  • Identify the attributes you'd like in your shoes (high cushioning, minimalist, etc.) as well as the problems you've had in the past
Let's start with the shoe winner:
Asics Gel Nimbus 14, 8.5D Width, (buy here)
Neutral
Gel cushioning at forefoot and heel for shock absorption
Nimbus 14 has a wider toe box than Nimbus 13

After 2 failed running shoe store recommendations (below), I took what I learned from my SAs to search for my own shoe.  Asics is known for their comfort and cushioning, so I knew I wanted to start there.  I searched the Runner's World amazingly comprehensive site for highly rated shoes and then went to my local DSW (this location was in the athletic part of town where it seems like people are running / biking 24/7 - other locations, and even dsw.com, did not have these shoes) to try on the options.  I tried this one, Gel Cumulus 14, and Gel Kayano 18.  The Kayanos were the most comfortable, followed by Nimbus and then Cumulus.  Though I was tempted to go with the Kayanos (consistently rated well), I hesitated because my last SA was very adamant that I should be running in a neutral shoe.  I decided to go with Nimbus and ordered online since wide widths were not available in the store.  All of the normal width shoes rubbed against my pinky toe.

I tried both 8D and 8.5D.  They were vastly different.  Though my foot length fit the 8, the width did not.  One of my SAs had previously explained that different sizes as well as different shoe companies will widen the shoe at different points.  The 8.5 was roomier in length (which to me was actually more comfortable) and the width was perfect.  Make sure to try a couple sizes in a given width before moving on to a different shoe.

Overall, I'm quite happy with my purchase.  The cushioning is amazing and it does have a pillow-y quality to it.  I still run on my forefoot / mid foot, but when I walk afterwards, the heel cushioning is a treat and makes each step feel positively springy.

I'm still curious about the Kayanos though and wonder if a stability shoe would be better suited to my needs than a neutral one.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12, 8.5D Width, (buy here)
Stability

My first SA put me in a Stability shoe after seeing me walk barefoot (with socks) around the store.  I agreed with her because I knew I had at least one pair of sneakers that had completely collapsed inwards at the arch.  Trusting her expertise, I went for a couple of runs in these shoes and didn't bother trying them on for an extended period of time indoors.  After those runs, I couldn't bear to wear them anymore due to the foot pain it was causing.  The forefoot area was just too firm and stiff. The heels felt nice, so I think maybe this shoe is better suited for heel-strikers.

I went back to the store hoping that maybe they could recommend a good insole for me.  I was surprised that they instead suggested I return them despite being worn outside.  An older SA (so I assumed more experience) then suggested Saucony (below).  

Saucony ProGrid Ride 5, 8B Width
Neutral
After returning the Adrenalines, the next SA re-evaluated my walk and decided that I needed a neutral shoe at a normal width.  She didn't want my foot to move too much while running and explained that Saucony features a racquet shape to allow for a roomier toe box without having to go to a D width.  They felt pretty good in the store so I took them home for further evaluation.

Wary from the Adrenalines, I wore them indoors for a few hours to see how they felt through a longer wear period.  As the day wore on, I started to feel more and more rubbing against my pinky toe on top of not feeling like I had enough forefoot cushioning.  So I returned these and was thankful to find the Asics Gel Nimbus 14 (above).

In the end...
I think the lesson here is to get guidance from experts and know that it may take several iterations to find the right shoe for you.  

I wound up also getting a pair of orthotic inserts (Powerstep Pinnacle) which, in conjunction with lots of stretching and not pushing myself too hard, seems to have really helped me recover from shin splints.

How did you find your perfect shoes?

22 comments:

  1. Wow! didnt know there were so many options and things to consider. Im not a runner, more of zumba kinda girl.

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    1. I didn't before I started! It was very daunting at first.

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  2. I went to a running store last year and blindly bought what the SA told me...I had severe knee and shin pain after 2 weeks of running - and I did warm up and cool down stretches, didn't over exert myself, etc. I ended up at another running store (they're en masse here in CO), and they gave me a much more thorough test on a treadmill with computer. They recommended the Nike Lunar Eclipse, which is neutral to over probation...my gait is neutral, husband's is over, I have med width feet on the narrower side, husband's is extra wide, and we both wear these with zero issues. He runs 10 miles or more, and his ling battle with foot issues is over!! We buy 2-3 prs at a time so he doesn't have to worry about discontinuation. Haha! Anyway, I think it's important to buy where you can return if it's not the right fit since SA's can't anticipate IRL results...once you find the right sneaks, then order online for sure. I may try to motivate myself to run again??? ;)

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    1. I would love to try a more technological approach to finding the proper shoe! Maybe in SF? Thanks for sharing! I may have to try your husband's method of buying several pairs for spares. :)

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  3. My asics just died =( but i got a ton of use out of them. the padding at the back of the heel on one had gotten worn down and was starting to rub. i have my old new balances which i loved but are covered in paint and dirt because i use them for yardwork, and i have some nikes that i've been using that are new, but i never wore because i didn't like them as much (felt a little big), but never took them back. so i've kinda been on the lookout for a new pair. (I ran track back in the day, but have been slacking off lately because it's ridiculously hot outside.) i like the shoes you picked!

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    1. Let me know what you decide to buy! Do you think you'll go back to New Balance or continue with Asics?

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  4. I've tried a million pairs. The problem with me is that my feet are slightly narrow, but also that my right foot is about half a size smaller than my left. I've tried everything short of buying two pairs of the same shoe in different sizes (and I really don't want to do that given how expensive running shoes can be). I love the cushiony feel of asics but they're ultimately too "heavy" for me. The running shoes that fit me best are actually Pumas, believe it or not. If I'm looking for a new running shoe, I'll try 20 different neutral shoes and eventually end up with minimalist Pumas (adidas isn't bad either). They run a bit narrow and they are lightweight. I really don't "need" a lot of cushioning when I run, even though they feel fun to walk around in. I do better with a minimalist shoe. I generally find Nikes too wide in the toe box and rub too much in the inner side of my arches so I get awful callouses (my arches are normal to a bit high, so I don't get it). But the latest version of Nike Frees are really good and are really popular amongst runners who like minimalist shoes. It also helps that they come in super fun colors! So that's what I'm wearing now. :D

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    1. I'm really fascinated by the minimalist shoe movement - I like the concept of getting back to how humans should run naturally. That said, I think I'd need quite a bit of training and getting used to them before it would "work" for me. A friend went to barefoot running and ran on grass for several months (I think) before getting comfortable. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  5. whooo i took my nimbus out for a run the other day. i love them!

    i did notice the toe box was very wide, but it doesn't bother me.

    i def need the cushion. shoe buddies!

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    1. Hehe, hiya shoe buddy! Glad you like yours too! Cushy is the way to go for me :)

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  6. Hi there -
    Have you tried the Nike free runs? I'm on my second pair of the free runs 2...they are super light weight and comfortable. I've run half marathons with them and don't get sore or blisters from them. :-)

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    1. I haven't! But I definitely will when it's time to try a new pair - thanks for the recommendation!

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  7. I used to wear Sauconys for running, but found that my feet always felt overheated. I switched to Asics and haven't looked back. They have great ankle support, which is an issue for me due to past injuries. My heels feel very secure in every pair of Asics I've owned, while they slip out or move around other brands much more.

    My latest pair is the Gel-Kahana, which is good for trail running.

    There is definitely a difference between different styles and brands!

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    1. I love the breathability of my Asics! I can actually feel breezes go through as I run which is spectacular when I'm feeling warm. Thanks for sharing your shoe story!

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  8. Oh wow! Thanks SPG for such a fantastic and informative posts! Great tips btw on when to buy shoes. The first tip applies to buying all shoes too :D
    I'm not much of a runner but I think I would have gone the same route as you to find the perfect shoes bc ultimately time and wearing them will tell how comfy they are. I have a pair of asics too and I really liked the cushioning and support it gave for working out on the treadmill.
    After reading your post about postpartum fitness...It gives me hope that I can get to running. Thanks for such an informative post! :D xoxo, Phoebe

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    1. Aw, you are so sweet - thank you, Phoebe - that means a great deal to me :) Let me know if you decide to get back to it! I am loving how it makes me feel (+1 for being healthier and +1 for skimming some fat)!

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  9. First let me say that I just found your blog...OH MY GOODNESS!!! You are SO TALENTED!!! I am so going to do your Exploding Bow top tutorial. I have spent the past several minutes scrolling through some of your posts and they are awesome. I can't wait until I have time to go though everything. You are amazing. I am not into running so I don't have any perfect running shoes. I really wish I could get into running.

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    1. You are so sweet - thanks so much for reading and leaving such a kind comment!

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  10. First off, go girl for running 3 miles, 2-3x a day! When do you find the time?? And I agree, go to a running store. They know their stuff. My Brooks are amazing, rec by the SA. And I only use them for running, not for walking around town or gym classes. They're not made for side to side movement and such. Plus, I don't want to have to replace them frequently. I have a slightly raised arch, so I definitely needed the arch support. Great review, tho too technical for me ;). Except for the "pretty colors" comment ;). Here's to future running. Argh, I gotta get back to it!

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    1. Oh no, 2-3x a week - doing that much in a day would render me a very broken / injured person! I usually run Saturday and Monday mornings. If I can squeeze something in mid-week, I'll do that too :) If I'm including stretching and my cool-down walk, it takes about an hour total which isn't so bad. I very much encourage anyone interested to get back into it. The post-run feeling of achievement is amazing!

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  11. Wow! you run 3 miles 2 to 3 days a week? That's amazing. I used to run when I was in school but I stopped. I tried

    many times to go back to the routine. I am not looking for a running shoes right now but I will make sure to come

    back to read it when I am purchasing one!

    Great post

    xoxo Narae

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    1. Thank you! I definitely worked up to it slowly and I now love that feeling after the run :)

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