The Shoe Tryouts: Lightweight Tempo Shoe

I’ve been digging running with friends/ people lately; I ran into Mike’s co-worker Colleen at our gym the other week, and we set a run date for Tuesday mornings! Today was our second time running together, and knowing I was meeting up with Colleen was the only thing that kept me from hitting snooze at 5:30 AM.  Colleen is a lot faster than me (she’s so good about slowing down for me), and it’s wonderfully humbling and motivating to run with her.

I mentioned the other day that I’ve gotten really picky about running shoes over the past year; I used to only care about the width of the shoe (to accommodate my wide feet), but lately the wrong shoes tend to cause cramping in my arches, and/ or my bunions get red and painful.  My favorite shoes to date have been the Glycerins 8/10/11 (I use these for long runs) and the NB 890v3 (for speedwork, easy days).  But when I went to replace my beloved 890s, I found that the 890v4 felt very different to me; no matter how I adjusted the lacing, my arches hurt or my feet slipped around in the shoe.  Thus, the shoe tryouts began.

The Shoe Tryouts

To replace my speedwork/ tempo shoe, I decided to try out several pairs from Running Warehouse, which has a generous return policy (90 days to try out the shoe).  To ensure the shoes were still in retail condition, I ran just a couple miles on each on asphalt to test them out.  The three pairs I picked were rated as similar lightness to the NB890s, neutral fit and with decent forefoot cushion – all factors that seem to work well for me right now.
0428151308 First up, Brooks Launch. 0428151308a I thought the Launch would be a good fit for me, as they appeared to be a lighter version of the Glycerins. The shoes were very comfortable walking around, so I took them out for a short speedwork session outside.  But during the warmup, I noticed that my left foot was cramping, and while it got a little better during the intervals, my arches were in pain after I came home.  I gave them a second try during an easy run a few days later, but my left foot started cramping immediately and didn’t improve over the next couple of miles.  RETURNED.

Next – Hoka Cliftons!
0428151308b I was pretty excited to try these, since I had heard a lot of hype about how soft they were. I loved that they came with an extra pair of inserts to customize the fit of the shoe. But I was nervous that the shoes would feel too chunky and affect my gait….well, after a tempo run, I can attest that they DO feel very soft, kind of like a stale marshmallow – it’s a wonderful landing, but it doesn’t take long to smush down, which is a good thing because you can push off again quickly.  That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone but me.  The rounded bottom also enabled fast heel-to-toe transfer, so my turnover felt great and smooth.  I loved these so much that I used them on a long run the next day.  Don’t let their chunkiness fool you; these are seriously light shoes.

Finally – NB Fresh Foam Boracays 
0428151308cHonestly, I didn’t feel the Fresh Foam lived up to its name.  The forefoot felt harder than the other two shoes, and my left foot cramped up in this shoe too.  I’m not sure why it does that; I think my foot is trying to grip the shoe when the fit is wrong? At any rate – RETURNED.

Verdict: Hoka Cliftons.  These shoes make running (even tough tempos) a joy.  I still prefer the heft/ support of Glycerins for my long runs, but I’ll be wearing the Cliftons for my tempo runs.  I’ve also heard anecdotes that they’re not the most durable shoe (the cushion wears down), so I’m hoping that wearing them only 1-2 times a week helps them last!

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