I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I love having a great pair, but I hate the buying process — never knowing for sure if the shoes are right until after you have worn them a few miles.
What adds to the difficulty for me is that I wait until my shoes are way too worn out before buying a new pair. Under these circumstances, EVERY pair of shoes feels great!
This week I went to one of my favorite running shoe stores to get half marathon shoes. There is a difference between the shoes you wear for short fast distances and longer distances. The short-distance shoes can be super light and very flexible with no padding. The long-distance shoes (for me) need to have some support and more padding. But when in the shoe store, the more supportive shoes can feel very clunky, making it hard to know if they are right.
|Altra “zero drop” shoes. Look at that low heel!|
After trying on some clunky shoes, my sales guy asked if I had ever tried “zero-drop” shoes. He explained that these shoes have a very low heel — in fact the sole is the same height almost the entire length of the shoe. Since racewalkers prefer a low heel, he thought I should try them.
As soon as I put these shoes on, I loved them! It is really difficult for me to walk in them and NOT use racewalking form. It feels natural to hit the heel and roll my foot. And my foot really can roll in these shoes. The toe box is huge so the toes can spread out and grab the ground. Of course, this is supposed to be for runners trying to run more naturally, but it feels pretty good for walking too.
My main concern with these shoes is there is very little support or padding, which is why my feel roll so well. How will my feet feel after a couple of miles? I had a bad experience during the Country Music Marathon starting at mile 10 in too-light shoes.
Despite these concerns, I bought the Altras. So far I have worn them for about 8 miles, 2 to 3 miles at a time. The manufacturer recommends gradually adding mileage because the shoes are so different. I can tell that my shins feel different. They are pushing harder when I walk, which is a good thing. It also feels as if the very back of the shoe might end up with rubbing issues. I’m keeping an eye on that. If I’m setting my feet down in a racewalking “floaty” step, I think they will be fine. However, if I get into a plodding motion, as I do sometimes, I think my feet will hurt.
So, here I am just three weeks from the half marathon without shoes for the race. I can either wear a pair of old, worn out clunky shoes, or I can try these super light “will probably make my feet hurt” shoes. Or, I could buy another pair of shoes and hope I can break them in in time for the race.
I’ll let you know what I decide.