Aside from my recent purchase of the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail, it’s been quite awhile since I bought some new running shoes for daily training — probably around a year and a half. Since my running was either non-existent or spotty in the post-injury months last summer, I didn’t need new shoes. So I’ve been coasting along on a bunch of models from 2008/2009, primarily the Pearl Izumi Streak 1 and the Saucony Fastwitch 3. I’ve been racing in the Asics Gel Hyperspeed 3s and still like those a lot.
Now that we’ve gotten that preamble out of the way, let’s talk about some new shoes. Since I am (knock wood) once again ramping up my running to a consistent 40-50 mpw, I felt it was time to purchase some new kicks. As noted in a previous race report, I really like the Minimus 10 Trails, both for racing and walking around in (they look great with jeans). Since those have worked out so well, I thought I’d pick up a pair of the Road models, since you can never have enough racing shoes.
I’ll say what’s most important first: the Minimus Trail and the Minimus Road share a model number and not much else. Whereas I was instantly in love with the feel of the Trails, I suspect that the Roads are shoes that I will grow to love. Some of that may have to do with the fact that I was expecting them to feel like the Trails. They do not. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Trails are extremely light and thin, meaning there’s hardly any material on the upper and you’re meant to wear them without socks. The sole is flexible as hell and you will feel every pebble and root you step on. They are fantastic shoes. So imagine my surprise when I strapped on the Road model in preparation to do a track workout, only to discover a shoe that is more rigid than Dick Cheney. The Roads feel like a track spike without the spikes. They’re stiff and there’s not a lot of sole hitting the ground. Like the Trails, they are almost truly a “flat” — there’s almost no heel-to-toe drop. If you have achilles tendon issues, or you are not a true “neutral” (meaning your foot tends to roll either inward or outward) runner, then I would stay away from this shoe.
I have to say that I didn’t like them over the 15 minutes of warmup running on the track. The Bronxville track is a hard surface anyway and the shoes just made it feel harder. I also noticed that they’re a little larger than the Trails. I had to tighten the laces a bit. But overall, these two models are made for my feet: wide toebox, medium width midfoot and extremely narrow heel.
Where these shoes really shined was during some longer repeats. I was running 1200s (and a fast mile) today and once I got going they felt really good. The stiffness didn’t seem like such an issue at faster speeds and I felt like my feet had a lot of support. Given the “hardness” of the ride, I probably wouldn’t wear these for anything longer than a road 10K (if even that). I’ll probably wear them in the Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem in a few weeks.
The other model I upgraded was the Pearl Izumi Streak. I went through about five pairs of these during marathon training in 2008/2009 and they were great shoes for long runs especially. Mile 22 felt as comfortable as mile 2 in those shoes. But on a scale of 1-10, they were always about an 8. They had a few minor, but annoying, problems: the first was the sizing, which always felt about a quarter size too big. You have to size up in these anyway (to 8.5 for me, a half size up from my usual 8 in a runner), but that was too big. An 8 was too small. So I’d end up wearing thicker running socks to compensate (or two pairs). They felt like clown shoes because of this.
Also, the toe box was slightly too wide, so I’d end up with blisters and, eventually, callouses on the first and second toes. Finally, I didn’t like how the sole flared out in front and back, and the heel had odd, round plastic inserts that always looked to me like they’d been stolen from a disassembled sex toy.
For once…for once…a shoe company has improved rather than destroyed a shoe model over time. In the Streak 2, Pearl Izumi has fixed those three problems. These shoes are the bomb. My measure of a regular trainer is how aware of it I am when I’m running. I am not aware of wearing shoes when I run in these. They fit perfectly, are light, and seem made for my feet and running form. Running 9:00 pace was comfortable as well doing some strides. The longest I’ve gone is 7 miles, but I can’t see them having an issue at longer distances. I’ll try them out on some longer runs, which these days top out at about 10 miles for me. While the Streaks are not the most attractive shoes in the world, they are keepers.