Sunday, May 19, 2013

Running Shoes Re-visited

Today is a landmark day as I went for my final run in the Brooks Adrenaline. I've been wearing this shoe for over 8 years, with 37 pairs accounted for in my training log.

The Early Years as a Fitness Runner
I started running back in 2001 as a way to stay fit. I was a treadmill runner and from about 2001-2005 my standard routine was a mile warmup, 30-40 mins of weight lifting, and then 4-5 additional miles on the treadmill. The runs were always at tempo effort. I didn't know what "tempo effort" was, but I just tried to run pretty hard to make sure I was getting the most out of my workout. And I did this 5 days a week! There were two reasons why I never attempted to go further than five miles at a time. First, my sports bra would chafe me horribly and I hadn't discovered body glide. After 5 miles, I could no longer tolerate it. Second, the bottoms of  feet would hurt me.

For shoes, I would go to Modell's, a discount athletic store, and buy whatever New Balance shoe felt the best. I chose New Balance because my college roommate seemed to like that brand, so I figured it would be good. I changed them about every six months. Miraculously, I was never injured.

Transition to Racing
At around the same time I started racing, a runner friend of mine suggested that I get properly fitted for running shoes. I went to Metro Run and Walk, a local running store, and was told I needed a stability shoe. The Brooks Adrenaline felt the best of everything I tried on. With that shoe, I realized I could go further than five miles without my feet hurting. Shortly after the new shoes came the discovery of body glide- which meant that my sports bra chafing wasn't going to hold me back.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6
In 2005, the Adrenaline GTS 5 was the current model. And when the 6 came out, I liked that even more.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6- Ready for the Marathon
But when the 7 came out, my knee immediately started to hurt. I thought I was injured until  I went back to wearing the GTS 6 and realized that it was the shoe that was causing the knee issue. Thus, I stockpiled. I went to every website on the whole Internet and bought every GTS 6 I could find. When the GTS 8 came out, I realized I could wear that shoe without my knee hurting, but I still preferred the 6. So my stock of 6's became reserved for half marathons and marathons only. Lasting me all the way through 2011, at which point my coach told me they were too old to run in.

Mizuno Wave Elixir: It Must Be Love
As much as I loved the Adrenaline, I found another shoe that fit me even better. In 2008, I discovered the Mizuno Wave Elixir, a lightweight shoe with stability. My foot is on the narrower side of normal, and Mizuno shoes are known for being narrow. I loved the way it felt to run in this shoe. But I was afraid that the lack of support would contribute to injury, so I reserved the shoe for speed work, 5K's and 10K's only.

In 2011, as I started doing longer track workouts, I realized I'd probably be okay for a 10-mile race in the Elixirs. I successfully wore them for a 10-miler, and then tried them out in a half marathon and the support was definitely sufficient.

Goodbye Foot Slapping and Heel Striking
In 2011, I noticed that my gait was starting to change. In the summer of that year, I started working with my coach and during our first long run, he told me that I was a foot slapper and I shouldn't be making that noise when I ran. He didn't provide any tips for stopping it, so I just tried to be more aware of doing it.

I think that my regular track workouts contributed to a more efficient stride and within a few months, I was no longer a foot slapper. I am not sure what I changed specifically, but I no longer hear the noise while running.

In 2012, I started to realize that I was no longer a heel striker. This wasn't a conscious change, it just happened naturally. Here is a progression of race photos which shoes my transition from heel strike to mid-foot strike.

Richmond Half Marathon, 2008
Potomac River Marathon, 2010- Heel strike not as pronounced

Crystal City 5K, 2012- Midfoot strike
Angel Kisses 5K 2013- Midfoot strike
The Search for A New Shoe
At the beginning of this year, I was starting to feel like the Adrenalines were heavy and bulky on my feet. I continued to wear them for long runs because they were the only shoes I trusted would carry me the distance without injury. I had also been rotating in the Mizuno Inspire, which is a compromise between the Adrenaline and the Elixir. It has more support than the Elixir, but not as much bulk and pronation control as the Adrenaline. It felt better on my foot than my Adrenaline, but I was worried it was just not enough shoe for the 20-milers and the marathon itself. Nothing could pull me away from my trusty Adrenalines!

Recently, I went to two local running stores for an updated recommendation. I actually hadn't been fitted for a shoe since 2005, and I was curious to see what they would say. The first store told me I would be fine in a neutral shoe, and the second told me I have slight pronation, so I needed a light stability shoe. Both stores advised that the Adrenaline was too much stability control and that it wasn't ideal for me.

Another interesting bit of information I uncovered was that my Adrenalines were too small on me. Sure, I frequently lost toe nails and my feet would almost always go numb. But I thought that was normal. And when I had tried on the larger size, it felt too big. Once the running store rep pointed this out to me, everything made sense. How wonderful would  it be to not have numb feet and loose toenails after a long run!!!

My Mizuno Inspires and Mizuno Elixirs were not too large on me. I bought those in a half size larger than the Adrenaline because they were narrow and fit better at a larger size.

So I had my answer. No more Brooks Adrenaline. The Mizuno Inspire will be my shoe for daily training and the Elixir will continue to be used for speed work and racing. But what about the two pairs of Adreanlines I have left that have low mileage on them? I figured I could still wear them on recovery days, like today.

But I was wrong. I don't know if it's mental or what, but my run in the Adrenalines today was simply unbearable due to how tight they felt. Unless my feet have somehow adapted to the properly-sized Mizunos, there isn't a good explanation for it. I actually cut my recovery run short this morning because the Adrenalines  were hurting my feet. How ironic is it that the shoe that once enabled me to go far beyond five miles, is now limiting me to five miles?! So I must say goodbye to those shoes forever now, and open a new chapter of running with solely Mizunos.


  1. Interesting-- a couple of years ago I switched entirely to mizuno creation from brooks adrenaline, I didn't like the changes they made in the shoe and the creation feels a lot lighter. Also it seems to me that mizunos in general are better for narrow feet with high arches, which I have.

    Maybe post-op I'll try a mizuno midfoot one. I've been trying to do as much as I can to pre-hab so I'll get back into running as quickly as possible... searching for new shoes would be a nice distraction too!

    1. The Inspire and Elixir aren't specifically designed for mid-foot strikers. But they work for me! I also have a Saucony Mirage, which is meant for mid-foot strikers, but I am only running 2-3 miles at a time in them because I know they can cause injury if you aren't careful.

  2. I've ran in the Adrenalines and like them too. However, now I run in Mizuno Elixir and really like them!

  3. Reading your shoe journey was super interesting to me as I feel like I'm just barely aware of shoes and how they work. :p I am currently in love with my Brooks Pure Connects. They were awesome for my first half and training, are perfectly narrow for my foot and light - and ALREADY discontinued for the Pure Connect 2s. *hmpf* I basically have been buying one new pair a paycheck until they are gone. :P

    Good luck with your new Mizunos!!!

  4. I'm also slowly transitioning toward more neutral shoes, though part of it is that I'm wearing orthotics which add some support, so e.g. the Inspires (which used to be my main shoe) are too supportive. The Elixir is my usual shoe now, plus the Saucony Kinvara for racing halfs and under (again, I used to run in the Mirage but the Kinvara plus orthotics works well).

    I still have an old pair of Brooks Adrenaline ASRs that used to be my trail shoes, though, that I wear as general walk-around-town shoes!

  5. Hmmm...I've heard that over times the foot gets stronger as your body adapts, and hence a better looking stride-good job, btw!

    This is probably old news and you've likely heard this before, but have you had a gait analysis done? That may shed some light.

    Good luck!

    1. I had one done at the running store a few months ago. And in August of 2011, I had a video gait analysis with a sports chiro. The only thing he noticed was my hip dropping slightly- which was causing the pronation. He gave me a bunch of hip strengthening exercises which helped, but I haven't been doing them lately. . .

  6. Ha! This is a really interesting post, given my experience yesterday. It is really wild how set we can be in our ways once we find a shoe that works. My mind is still blown away from what the running store told me. Glad you like the Inspires :) They have worked well for me through several races! I guess it is not time for the Wave Riders in the races...