That being said, I am willing to try just about any shoes that meet some basic qualifications:
- neutral - i.e. little or no built in support or motion control
- relatively light-weight, i'd say less than 10 oz per shoe
- low profile/low to the ground
- low heel-to-toe drop
- flashy looking is better than plain, but comfort rules over looks every time
Despite the fact that the ancient Greeks evidently thought that it was the "ideal" foot shape (as seen in their statues) can make for a major hassle in finding comfortable shoes.
I feel like I'm on a constant search for the perfect shoe. Over the winter and early spring, I've been running in a few different shoes. I've found a few I like and will keep around, but I haven't found that one perfect shoe.
I ran most of my trail miles in the New Balance MT101. This was the update to the MT100, which were pretty much glued to my feet during AC 100 training in 2010. I don't need to spend too much time on the MT101. It's a decent shoe, and very similar to the MT100, but in my opinion, not as comfortable. And more importantly, the shoe has been replaced by the MT110. I've heard good things about the MT110, but unfortunately for me, the shape of the toe box is such that I can't possibly wear it. It has a very steep "slant" from the big toe to the little toe and my long second toe just doesn't fit. They're great looking shoes and people love them, but I doubt I'll ever know!
If I size up so that my second toe fits, the shoe is way too big for my big toe and heel. I have this same problem with all of the New Balance Minimus line.
In 2011, my favorite road shoe was the American Flag Bowling Shoe K-Swiss K-Ruuz. I used it for most of my road training, some fire-road runs and raced in it at Wildflower, the Pasadena Half Marathon and the
S.O.S. Triathlon. When K-Swiss made the updated K-Ruuz 1.5 available at Kona in October - months before it was available anywhere else - Tyler was kind enough to pick me up a pair during his trip there. According to K-Swiss the 1.5s would be lighter and much more comfortable than the original version. And they were right!
Knowing that I wouldn't be using the K-Ruuz 1.5 at North Face, I didn't put many miles on them until after the race, in mid-December. But since then, I've put more miles on my two pairs of K-Ruuz 1.5 than any of my other shoes. They're super lightweight (6 oz) and feel very low to the ground.
The upper is mesh, and they feel really cool on warm days. They still have the made-for-triathlon heel tab that helps you get into the shoes quickly during T-2. K-Swiss made one huge improvement to the upper vs the original K-Ruuz - they removed this awful piece of nylon or plastic from the top of the toes that, between the hard material and the seams to attach it, made the shoes unwearable without socks.
They're not particularly flexible and do have a 10mm drop. They have these nifty drainage holes in the soles, which are great if you're running in the rain, but on trails or dirt paths, they just attract pebbles.
I've used the K-Ruuz 1.5 for speedwork and long training runs, on roads and some mild trails. The shoe treated me really well in all the marathon training and were great at the Ventura Half Marathon, but I could have used a little more cushion for the LA Marathon. My feet started to ache somewhere after mile 20. Truth be told, I was already feeling totally like crap by then so I might have been focusing on the specific pain in my feet in order to ignore the general pain in the rest of my body, but regardless, I doubt I'd use them for another marathon. I'll definitely keep this shoe around for speedwork and any road race shorter than a marathon.
I also put a lot of miles on two pairs of the Brooks PureConnect. In late November, I wrote a review of the PureConnect (check out that post if you want to see some photos of how the shoes hold up with about 150 miles on the soles). At the time, I already knew it wasn't perfect but did order a second pair and did end up running The North Face 50 in this shoe. I wouldn't do that again. The toe box is narrow and for longer runs; when my feet expand and need more space, this shoe jams them in, especially around my forefoot. For "shorter" runs - really anything up to 13-15 miles, the PureConnect is a pretty good shoe. It works for me on the road and on trails (despite the fact that rocks do sometimes get lodged in the gaps in the sole), but I find that I've been mostly using it for trails because I have road options that I like better.
The last shoe that I've been wearing is one about which I have some mixed emotions. The Skechers Go Run is actually a much better shoe than I ever would have imagined and trying to get past the little "S" on the side of the shoe has been a psychological challenge. But, I actually really like the shoe.
When it initially came out late in 2011, I was dubious. Then Meb signed on with Skechers and I read a few good reviews and I was intrigued. During a visit to Austin in December, I happened to meet a Skechers rep and pretty much begged him for a pair. Since then, I've only put about 150 miles on them. They're a comfortable, flexible, lightweight shoe that feels fast. And they come in lots of colors, including some fun, flashy ones. (If I got another pair, I'd probably go with the orange and blue or grey and orange ones.) The "rocker" bump in the middle of the sole is noticeable when you walk in them but only when you're walking. Once you start running, it pushes you to a mid- or fore-foot strike and you don't (or I don't) feel it at all.
Part of my problem with this shoe is that it is not particularly well-suited for trails, not even rocky fire roads. The gaps between the "pods" covering much of the sole fill up with pebbles and small rocks regularly, especially in the midfoot, where the grooves are the deepest. The below picture is from a run the other day which ended with a gravelly section. Because the sole is thin you can feel the rocks and stopping to get them out gets old pretty quick.
And trails are where I really put in most of my miles. I assume that the "pods" and the gaps between them keep the weight down and help with the flexibility of the shoe. Great for the road, not so much for trails. In addition to not wearing them on the trails, when I was training for the LA Marathon, I knew I was going to run that race in my K-Ruuz 1.5s, so I wore those shoes for long training runs instead of the Go Runs. That meant that, for a few months, the Go Runs got relegated to my mid-week tempo run. But now that the marathon is behind me, I've been running in the Go Runs much more regularly and enjoying them more and more. On my recent trip to NYC, I brought them instead of any other running shoe and did runs of 10 miles and 9 miles in Central Park. I'm actually more excited about the future of Skechers' running shoes than any of the other brands I've been wearing. And supposedly, Skechers has a trail model coming out at some point soon. I'll definitely give those a shot!
So my quest for the "perfect" shoe continues, especially for a trail shoe. A friend who reps a shoe company loaned me a pair of their new trail shoe and so far I like it. I need to put more miles on them before I can really write a review, but with the way I've been running (and my plans for the next couple of months), that shouldn't be too long!