Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shoe Overload

Hello my name is Adam and I am an addict.  I can't quit buying shoes.

Well . . . it's actually not entirely my fault (spoken like a true addict).  My feet grew a full size over the past year and (cue feminine lisp) nothing in my closet would fit me.

For the past few years I have run trails in the Mizuno Wave Ascend with much success at distances from 50K to 100 Miles.  After a couple of updates that I wasn't crazy about, the shoe slowly fell out of my best graces.  As as was gearing up for the AT last year, I tried to get used to something a bit more substantial to handle the stresses of long days on a rugged trail -- a "tank" per se -- quite contrary to the minimalist trend.  I found that in the Montrail Sabino Trail and happily destroyed nearly six pair of them last summer.  Even though most folks didn't like the Sabino (evidenced by Montrail discontinuing the shoe), the shoe worked great for my needs on the AT.  Once I got back home and back to normal training, it was obvious that the Sabino was far too stiff and bulky for the kind of running I was accustomed to (read: actually trying to run fast again).  So it was back to the drawing board.  Here are my cursory impressions of some of the shoes I've recently purchased and tried. 

Shoe #1: Montrail Mountain Masochist (original model):
My first impression was pretty good, but something just didn't feel "right".  Regardless, I put in quite a bit of mileage on two different pairs.  I have pretty high arches with a slight supinating foot-strike and this shoe didn't feel like it gave me the support that I needed for longer runs.  I can always tell when a shoe is insufficient in this support when my right arch starts giving me grief during a long run.  To fix this, I got a pair of the Montrail Enduro Insoles.  This helped immensely, but I ended up getting some pretty bad blisters in the last 20-miles of the 50-mile day at 3 Days of Syllamo.  My philosophy is that if a shoe causes you any problems at shorter distances, that it is a definite "no-go" for 100-milers.  Impression: Good shoe -- just not THE shoe for me.  The Masochist certainly has a place in my arsenal though.  Very light-weight and versatile.

Shoe #2: Montrail Bajada:
I was super excited to try this shoe after I read the preliminary review at  Montrail is certainly on to something here -- a minimal/mesh upper on a neutral base with a substantial rock plate.  Even though the Bajada is still a very good shoe, there are a few things that Montrail got very wrong.  My biggest problem is that they did not gusset the tongue.  I knew this was going to be a problem for me on the first run.  For some reason on my left shoe, the tongue slides way over and exposes the sock, leaving plenty of room for debris to get in.  This problem is exacerbated by the placing of the second lace eyelet being too far back, leaving yet another gap for debris.  Oddly enough, with all the issues getting stuff in, I found the shoe to drain very poorly -- go figure?  I partially fixed this problem by sewing a loop to attach the tongue through one of the upper eyelets.  This has helped, but the shoes are far too pricey to justify the need to augment them at home.  Hopefully when Montrail updates this shoe they'll wise-up and gusset the tongue.

Shoe #3: Montrail Badrock:
Sticking with the Montrail line -- which I believe to be one of the best they have ever offered -- I next tried the Badrock.  On paper, the Badrock looked like it might be perfect for 100-mile shoe for me.  Mesh upper, minimal toe-bumper, ample protection, medially posted (which I prefer in a shoe for 100-miles), and a wide toe box.  The Badrock is all these things, but something wasn't "right" for me in the heel.  I've been dealing with a nagging achilles issue on my left heel for the last year (probably secondary to a mild Haglund's deformity) and the heel just didn't fit me well.  All things considered, a good shoe but just not for me.  The Badrock is a great shoe to tackle the gnarliest of courses.

Shoe #4: Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 3:
Finally, this was the shoe I had been looking for -- right back to my first love (actually second love after the Montrail Leona Divide).  The Cabrakan sports ample underfoot protection (great for a rugged race like the upcoming MMT 100), yet is flexible with a fairly minimally overlaid upper.  It's far more shoe than the Wave Ascend that I was accustomed to.  The arch is probably a little higher than normal and thus well-suited to me.  In the past, I've worn after-market insoles to give myself enough support in shoes lacking a solid arch, but I really want to get away from this since it's just one more avenue of encouraging blisters.  I seem to be able to get by without the insoles in these.  One negative is that this shoe is a bit heavier than I would like and retains water a bit much, but hey, MMT is in 2-weeks and I better get my stuff together right?  I really like the gusseted elasticity of the tongue, the soft toe-bumper, and how the shoe eats up technical trail.  The shoe is by no means "perfect, no shoe is, but hopefully I've found at least a temporary winner.

So there you have it.  I hope someone finds this info helpful in their own search.  I've got to work extra hard now to make money to cover my habit!