Since my injury last Feburary-March, I decided to try a completely different approach to the shoes I run in. After recovery, I looked to explore some new types of shoes. Previously I’d been running in stability shoes, typically from a few different brands (Asics, New Balance, Saucony).
Through either facebook or all the various running sites I visit, I learned about a company called Altra. I actually had been looking at the brand for over a year before I pulled the trigger and invested in some of their shoes. There are a few unique features of their shoes including the foot-shaped toe box as well as zero drop. A shoe’s “drop” is the height difference from the heel to the toe. Most running shoes have a “drop” of anywhere between 6 and 12 mm. A zero drop shoe is flat all the way across (hence a 0 mm drop). The store where I purchased my first Altra Running shoes only had one style in the size that I wear. I went with the Altra Provision 1.5, which is one of their stability shoes. These shoes tend to a run a little on the small size and the original US9.5 that I ordered was too small. Typically I have been US9.5 in all my running shoes. I returned the shoes and purchased some US10 shoes and these fit much better.
Putting these shoes on, I noticed that the shoe kind of hugs your foot. With the widened toe box, your feet/toes aren’t squished like most running shoes to their narrowness. One of the neat things that the company does with their shoes is they provide a little instruction booklet in the shoe box. This explains that these shoes aren’t like your average running shoe and your body (feet, legs) aren’t adapted to running in these shoes long distances right away. They suggest a long, slow break in period so your body adjusts to the shoes. Some of the reported differences is that there is more strain on your achilles due to the zero drop. My first run with the shoes was a very short 1.6 miler. I definitely felt different muscles working in my legs with these shoes.
At the same time as the Altra Provision 1.5, I also decided to try an even more stable shoe than traditional stability shoes: Asics GEL-Foundation 8. This shoe is classified as a motion control shoe. Motion control shoes are the most “stable” shoe to help with pronation. I threw on these Asics right after a short run with the Altras and boy did I notice a huge difference. It felt like my feet were in a large boat with the Asics. The Asics are also a bit heavier than the Provision but they felt more stable.
For awhile I would rotate between these two shoes and then I decided maybe I needed a 3rd alternative for a shoe because I was still experiencing some aches and pains. I know shoes aren’t the key to solving all injuries, but I had also implemented some other tools to help with my injuries. I bought a foam roller and started rolling. Also I looked up some good stretches to help with previous plantar fasciitis and knee pain.
A good deal came up for the Altra Repetition. This was a departure from the “minimalist” Provision 1.5 and actually is deemed a “maximalist” shoe. These shoes have a thick foam cushioning running along the entire underside of your foot. These types of shoes have been used for many years by a lot of ultrarunners who do 50+ mile trail races in the mountains. Slowly the maximalist movement has trickled into the road running scene a little. I figured that having a shoe with some extra padding may actually help offset the lightly padded Provision and be different than the motion control Asics. After trying the Altra Repetition, I really liked these shoes. They provided some great cushioning and also had the zero drop that I preferred for trying to run with a mid-foot strike gait.
So over the last year or so now, I’ve had a 2, then 3 shoe rotation that seems to work. I haven’t had any major injuries (*knock on wood*) in the last year or so. Still a few areas of aches and pains but nothing long lasting like some of my previous injuries (which I’ll talk about later).
Up next in the rotation will be the Altra Provision 2.0 (to replace the 1.5), Saucony Guide 8 (to replace the Asics), and keeping the Altra Repetition (as the mileage is much lower than the other two at this time).