Recently, I overheard a hobby runner commenting (clearly intended as a criticism) that runners obsess over their running shoes. Ironically, that is a truth that most runners would accept – only they would be hearing it as a compliment. Bikers are the same (worse?). (I wonder, what do swimmers obsess over – flippers.. hand paddles?) This just after I had bought myself 3 different sets of running shoes in one weekend. I kept my mouth shut.
My go-to training shoe for more than a decade has been the ASICS Gel Kayano (11.3 oz, 10mm drop). I have a wide (some might say podgy) foot and, thankfully, they offer a 2E model. Choices of toe box width seem to be a rarity in the training shoe industry for some reason – I guess either there aren’t many of us, or fat-feet people just don’t mind the squeeze. They are a solid, stable shoe that I have found works well across different terrain. They are workmanlike, reliable and durable so I’ve never had cause for complaint. However, they are a tad on the heavy side, so for a lighter race shoe I’ve been using the Saucony Kinvara (7.5 oz, 4mm drop ) or Zoot Ali’i (9.9 oz, 8mm drop). The latter seem to have changed their last and the fit for me is now off, so despite the very cool quick change Boa Closure System they will not be on my replacement list. The Kinvara are still my shoe of choice for racing until, and unless, I find something better – i.e. even lighter but with more impact protection. In writing this, I realize I must be fairly insensitive to varying shoe drops, as I never worry about it when buying a shoe and find myself running with a wide range of drops. Fortunately, research has indicated that comfort trumps concerns about drop as this Runners World article indicates.
However, back to the main event: last weekend I decided to be adventurous and see if it makes a difference to try different shoes for different terrain. I bought three sets of shoes, the On Cloud Venture (10.1 oz, 6mm drop) for trail running, Hoka Clifton (9.3 oz, 4mm drop) for roads (and a set of my trusty Kayano as back up). After two weeks of use, I have to say I’m impressed. The Cloud Venture have a toughened toe cap to deal with the bangs and scrapes of trails, and a kind of inner liner around the opening to catch and keep out any flying debris. Plus they have plenty of front foot room and the structure of the sole provides good grip and bounce on variable or slippery terrain.
The Clifton’s are also pretty roomy and the extra cushioning, without making one feel like a bouncy castle is strapped to your feet, provides plenty of protection against the ravages of impact from road running.
I’m not about to give up my Kayanos, but the new additions to the collection will allow for less compromise and better choices for differing terrain. As for racing shoes, that’s another question and TBD for now.