Saucony Fastwitch 3: my perfect marathon shoe

I wanted to put in a good word for the shoes I wore on Sunday: the Saucony Fastwitch 3. I love these shoes for shorter races (half marathon on down), but had some misgivings about wearing them for a full marathon. Though I’d worn them on my longest training runs (up to 24 miles), my experience was that they’d feel okay until about mile 20, and then it felt like I was running on pieces of cardboard.

Jonathan convinced me to try out the Asics Speedstar. I started running with those a few weeks ago. They felt good on some mid-length runs and were definitely more substantial, yet still light. I’d decided to wear them for Steamtown, but at the last minute had misgivings. First, I noticed that the left foot was ever-so-slightly bothered by the shoe. Second, I have always regreted it when I haven’t I heeded the old adage “don’t try anything new before the marathon.” So while packing on Saturday, I went with the Sauconys.

My last few marathons have left me with varying degrees of mauled and/or blistered feet. As terrible as this last race was, however, the shoes did not make a bad race worse. Yes, my feet were tired after 20 miles, but when I took the shoes off after the race there were no problems anywhere; not even the hint of a blister. I’m sold on the Fastwitch. Now I need to start hoarding them again, since I’ve fast running through the three pairs I have now.

Big racing weekend…in Joizy!

We’re heading out to Long Branch, NJ for a morning of racing tomorrow. The forecast is for thunderstorms, low 50s and low wind. Except for the thunderstorms bit, perfect weather for racing! I won’t even have to wear my bug sunglasses.

Jonathan’s doing the marathon, which he’s been training for over the past five months. He’s gotten very speedy, so I have high hopes (all of them based in reality) for him tomorrow. At the very least, he’ll look fetching in his spiffy new racing togs. And I’m hoping to update my “Personal Bests” ticker with a new, faster half marathon time. If I can bring home some cheap hardware, more’s the better. We’ll see.

One side note: Can you believe what a piece of shit the NJ Marathon’s Web site is? What is this, 1996? Check out the tee shirts too; I think someone let their kid loose with Adobe Illustrator rather than spring for a professional designer. No wonder people laugh at New Jersey.

I’ll also be doing my first race in my hazmat orange Sauconys, which I wish I’d had for the April marathon.

I just hope we don’t get lost. Every time I got to New Jersey, I get horribly, irredeemably lost.

In other news, REI has the Garmin 405, for all you people who have to have the latest. I’m sure if there was a Garmin store in Manhattan, there would be a line of skinny people with ridiculously low heart rates lining up with lawn chairs 24 hours before the thing went on sale. I’m happy enough with my hulking 305 model for now, although I’ve promised myself that once I get down to a proper racing weight (meaning I’m not obviously fatter than everyone who beats me), I’ll spring for the new toy.

Race report to come…

Reuse-a-Shoe

Nike has a reputation for being exploitative and uncaring (thanks to Michael Moore’s ambush interview of then-Nike CEO Bill Knight in his film “The Big One”). But I discovered today that they’re not all bad.

Since I seem to be going through shoes like Kleenex these days, and I live with someone who is also piling on the miles, we have bags of old shoes lying around. Well, now I know what to do with them: donate them to Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program. Nike takes old shoes, chops them up into tiny bits and uses them to create a variety of synthetic athletic surfaces, which Nike then donates to local youth programs, parks, playgrounds, schools and other worthy organizations. You can donate any brand of athletic shoe. Even if you don’t believe in human reincarnation, you can still believe in shoe reincarnation.

Nike has a few dozen drop off locations around the country (and in Australia, the UK and Japan) or you can box them up and mail them off to Oregon — happy in the knowledge that now that your feet are done with them, they will absorb the pitter patter of other feet eventually. Find out more about the Reuse-a-Shoe program.

Road tested: Brooks Adrenaline 6

A short, but glowing shoe review: I’m constantly searching for the perfect shoe. While not perfect, the Brooks Adrenaline 6 comes close. In the past year I’ve tried out:

  • Adidas SuperNova Cushion
  • Saucony Trigon Guide
  • Montrail Masai
  • Salomon XA XCR Pro 3D
  • Brooks Adrenaline 6

I figure I may as well try different brands to see if one or another works out well in terms of fit, comfort and durability.

I originally ran in New Balance, but (and this is silly, I know) although they were perfectly fine shoes I’ve found that lately their shoe designs are just butt ugly. I don’t want to wear ugly shoes.

The Adidas were just weird. My first run in them was fine, very comfortable. Then, on the second run, the left shoe gave me unremitant pain along the outside of my left foot. This persisted for six or seven runs. I gave them to my sister, who has been delighted with them. Go figure.

The Sauconys have been fine, but not notable. They feel clunky and, although there’s a lot between my feet and road, they don’t feel cushioned. In fact, they feel a bit hard. I realize they’re a stability shoe, and so will be on the stiff side. But once you get into the 12th mile or so, running in a hard shoe isn’t pleasant. Maybe you get used to it.

The Montrails were an impulse buy. They’re a discontinued model that I spotted selling for $25 at Marshall’s. Before they were discontinued, they retailed for $90. They are trail shoes and I ran one 10 miler in them. My shins were worse the day after, although to be fair this was during my post-Thanksgiving racing tendonitis jamboree period, so the shoes may be fine. But I’m not taking any chances with them during marathon training. For now, I just wear them around the house.

The Salomons are the perfect waterproof shoe, as I attest to and swoon over in my previous review and its follow up.

Finally, we come to the Brooks shoe. I’ve run about 50 miles in the Adrenaline 6 so far and they are great shoes, for my feet at least. They are cushioned (but not hard) and lighter than the Sauconys, but with good support for my moderate overpronating. What I like best about them is that I am unaware of them when wearing them. Nothing’s pinching or sliding or rubbing or otherwise uncomfortable. I barely know they’re there. So they allow me to get on with the job of running.

Salomon shoe follow up

I went running today (in some of the wettest weather I’ve ever run in, actually) wearing the Salomon shoes I reviewed earlier today. I’m talking floods — I saw idiots who’d driven their cars into waist-high water being rescued.

The water I was in, however, was only just shy of my ankle bones. I can now confirm that the shoes are indeed waterproof. After 10 miles of wading through puddles, sloshing through mud and being pelted with rain, my feet were dry.

And whatever was causing my little toe blister yesterday has ceased to be a problem…probably just needed a little more breaking in. The shoes. Not the toe.

Road tested: Salomon XA Pro 3D XCR

I am becoming the Imelda Marcos of running shoes. To round out my ever-expanding collection, I recently purchased the Salomon XA Pro 3D XCR (is that not the most unmemorable model name you’ve ever seen?). They’re made for trail running (which I would like to do some of soon), but can be worn for street running too. Best of all, they’re waterproof (or claim to be — I’ll know later today) due to the GoreTex liner.

I shopped different models before buying these. I looked at The North Face’s line of trail running shoes, but users rated them as heavy/clunky. Then I looked at Montrail’s line, but kept seeing posts/reviews from people who said the shoes were great except for the fact that they tend to fall apart quickly. The reviews for the Salomon’s were almost universally positive. What did we do before the Internet?

I wore them yesterday on an interesting run: I decided to run to my polling place and vote, then complete my run. Although the voting stop was a mere mile into my run, I’m sure I stank when I got there. But the place was full of giddy Democrats (myself among them), so I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. I hope.

The remainder of the run was a five miler, and the shoes felt very good from the get go. No chafing, pinching, stiffness (although I do have a small blister on the top of one of my smaller toes on the left foot…hmm). They are also surprisingly lightweight. I think they may weigh even less than the New Balance 901s I use for racing. Maybe I’ll try these for my next race.

They are sized slightly large. I normally wear an 8 (well, I do on my right foot. The left foot is a 7.5), but those were too big, so I exchanged them for a 7.5 and they feel great. They are on the narrow side (but, again, not tight), and are longer than my other shoes.

The lacing system in interesting. It’s a single cord loop that you just pull up on (or loosen) to adjust, then slide a stopper in place. The eyelets are well-located…in fact they’re located perfectly for me, as I have a bunion on the left foot that doesn’t get along with certain shoe designs and lacings. For example, I like my Asics Gel Kayano XIIs, but I have to do a custom lacing on the left foot or my bunion screams bloody murder after about six miles.

The drawback to the lacing system is that I won’t be able to attach a timing chip to the shoes using the laces. That’s hardly a showstopper, though. I have about 9,000 safety pins in the car from previous races.

Today is quite rainy and I have a 10 miler planned for the afternoon. Having waterproof shoes completes my rainy day running wardrobe. With my new shoes (and a newly cleaned House), I’ll be running with a spring in my step later on…

Screw you!

Winter’s just around the corner, and frugal runners everywhere are looking for strategies to avoid slipping on our butts when the snow and ice arrives.

Cheap runners in icy areas, your prayers have been answered. An enterprising peer has devised a way to create your own foul weather running shoes. And all it takes is a trip to Home Depot, an electrical outlet, and a complete rejection of the Running Gear Industrial Marketing Complex.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you…the Screw Shoe.

Cushy Foot Gear: Adidas Supernova Cushion

Since my Asics Kayanos have hit the the 300 miler mark, I figured I should start rotating in a new pair for my long runs. Frankly, I’m not that happy with the Asics. The toebox is two narrow, which isn’t great, since I have a big ol’ honkin’ bunion on my left foot. And they’re too stiff. I think they’re designed for underpronators (or over? I can’t remember which is which) — whatever the condition is called when your feet roll inwards. Which mine don’t. So I’m aware of this solid chunk of plastic under my arch, which is sort of annoying.

I did some reading and decided to try the Adidas Supernova Cushion. I picked up a pair at my favorite online shoestore, Zappos (lots of user reviews and free shipping — even on returns!) and they arrived yesterday. I took them out for a spin — a little 5 mile easy run — and they are great shoes! I had an initial scare because the left one was hurting my foot. But I realized that in my enthusiasm, I’d laced it too tightly. Once I loosened things up, all was well.

The shoes feel very flexible. I think they’re for “neutral gait” runners. In any case, the “stepping on a solid chunk of plastic” sensation is absent from these shoes. They are also very cushioned (hence, the name). And light! I expected them to be heavy, what with all the padding both inside and outside the shoe (the blown rubber/plastic stuff is really thick), but they don’t feel burdensome at all.

The arch support is very good (I have mediumish arches), and the fit is snug through the middle of the foot, but nice and roomy in the toe box. And the heel does not slip. I even like the fact that the shoelaces aren’t too long (I hate that). The best part — they look cool.

I’m so sick of white running shoes. I don’t want to go out there looking like Nurse Ratched. So I try to find shoes that are either very colorful or keep a low profile.

Now I have the perfect companion to my other favorite shoe (for speedwork and racing), the New Balance 901.

I’m actually looking forward to my next long run to see if the magic lasts.

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