We were in Boston waiting for the train that would take us to church on Sunday. There was a guy standing there, in a collared shirt and tie, eyeing us. I tried not to look like I was eyeing him, but I had my suspicions that he was going to church, too. Probably ours.
Well, we got off at the wrong stop by mistake and ended up being really late for the meeting, but when we finally got there, sure enough, Mr. Train Station was there, too. He said he knew we were probably going to the same place when he saw us at the station. He asked if we were running the race, and we asked him right back. We were but he wasn’t. He was there to sell his shoes at the expo. We asked him for his spiel, and he obliged: his shoes had no drop from the heel – the heel is the same height as the toes – and they have a wide toe box so your toes can splay with ease as you run. They sounded, oddly enough, right up our alley.
After church, and after visiting with friends, we stopped by the Altra ZeroDrop booth at the expo. We tried the shoes. We liked them. But it was really when Golden, the shoe man, told me that I would run faster on race day if I had at least a little padding in my shoe, that I was sold. We vowed to buy some on another (not Sabbath) day. And we did – several weeks later.
There were, unfortunately, some sizing problems and some color mix-ups, so I didn’t get mine until last Thursday. On Friday morning I laced them up for the first time and took them out for a none-too-easy 6-miler in which I seemed attracted to every big hill in Bountiful. It was seriously the slowest, longest, hottest (until today!) run I have been on in ages.
But my shoes did great. I didn’t think much about them, which, I believe, is the sign of a good shoe. Every once in a while, I thought that maybe I should pay more attention to how my feet were feeling, but then I realized that if I had to tell myself to do that, they were doing the job. Honestly, I hardly noticed them. They are very similar to my beloved FiveFingers in that they are superlight, very flexible, and they (mostly) don’t prevent my feet from doing what they want to do (like spread my toes).
However, they were not perfect. Near the end of the run I started feeling some tightness around the ankle. I attribute that to laces, which I am not used having on my running shoes. Maybe I tied them too tight? Also, I wore socks, which I am also unaccustomed to, and my feet got warmer than they do in my FiveFingers.
I went out again today for a flat-ish 5-miler (as flat as you can get in Bountiful) without socks, and while my feet were cooler, the shoes rubbed around my ankle and I now have a raw spot on either foot. Oops. Rookie mistake.
All in all, I like them. I think Altra has the right idea. I like the no heel-drop. I like the wide toe box. I like the lightness and the breathability. I like the idea of being able to run without an insert for extra padding during training and then to add one in for racing which, Golden says, will make me faster on race day – though I have yet to test his claim. (And which is also something that FiveFingers don’t give me the option of doing.)
I think they will be great to rotate with my FiveFingers. The FiveFingers are still, after two runs, my solid favorite. But these are a solid alternative.
Check them out here. They have trail running shoes, triathlon shoes, minimalist shoes, and performance trainers. Something for everyone.