The Myth of Over-Pronation

by Chris McClung

For over 30 years, the running shoe industry has put you in shoes based almost exclusively on one single variable – pronation. We are here to say that the industry’s concept of pronation, the need to correct it, and therefore shoe fitting is utterly and completely wrong. Further, the resulting technologies, such as the “post,” designed to “correct” this mythical, biomechanical fault of over-pronation are unnatural, inefficient, and likely the cause of more issues than they were designed to fix.

In fact, there is no such thing as over-pronation.

There, I said it.

Pause. Breathe. [Duck].

Since some of you might be reacting as people did when Nietzsche declared, “God is dead,” I’ll take a minute while you compose yourself, change your pants, or unfurl yourself from the fetal position clutching your Runner’s World shoe guide.

First, a few disclaimers:

1. I am not a scientist and this is not intended to be a science paper. This is just a conversation starter designed to promote discussion and encourage change in the industry’s concept of fitting so that you end up happier in your shoes and therefore happier with your running.

2. We are still learning too. Even though the degree of pronation has only been a small part of our fitting philosophy, the term “over-pronation” has been and still is embedded in our vernacular. With this blog, we are taking a stand against the use of the word and making a shift in our philosophy. This updated perspective has been honed through the input of scientific studies and with the experience of collectively fitting thousands of runners in our store over the last 5+ years. Many of these runners also train with us, providing a feedback loop and level of accountability for perfecting the fit that few stores have. This is just the tip of the iceberg on this discussion, and I am happy to discuss further with anyone interested. My email is at the end of this blog. In addition, we are “putting our money where our mouth is” with the Rogue Shoe Challenge, discussed below.

But first, let’s back up.

What is pronation?

Pronation is essentially the rolling inward of the foot as it comes into contact with the ground through each step. Most runners (or about 98% of you) pronate, generally landing on the outside of the heel as the foot contacts the ground and then rolling inward from the heel strike to toe off. The other 2% of runners supinate, rolling from the inside/out instead of outside/in. Those of us who pronate all pronate to different degrees depending on how the feet, ankles and legs work together. Beyond the mechanics of it, pronation is simply the body’s way of dissipating the forces associated with each foot strike. Without pronation, which spreads the load of ground contact over many milliseconds (instead of one) and over more muscles and tendons and bones, you would likely break your ankle when you hit the ground with one an intense thud.

f132425For those not familiar with the term pronation, you might be familiar with terms related to shoes and pronation such as “motion control”, “stability,” and “neutral cushioned.” The terms motion control and stability are typically associated with the word “over-pronation” or a foot that is supposedly pronating too much and needs correction. According to the running shoe industry, “over-pronation” is a biomechanical affliction evident when the foot/ankle rolls inward past the vertical line created by your leg when standing.

Most of us have seen such “over-pronation” in action, likely played back to us in slow-motion after running on a fancy, camera-equipped treadmill at your local running store or marathon expo. When we see it, we tend to cringe because we love symmetry, and we can’t help but want to correct or align anything that’s not symmetric. And, in this case, because we also love and are enamored by technology, often at the expense of validity.

But, there are two problems here:

1. The term “over-pronating” implies that there is a standard line over which “normal” pronation becomes “over.” But, who created that standard? If you look, you won’t find an answer. I submit that the line was created in the 1970s by our need for visual symmetry and by what has become millions of marketing dollars spent to sell you shoes, not by any true scientific definition of how the foot and ankle should work. What if those who pronate more than average have a greater need for force dissipation than others, a need that shouldn’t be hindered but rather facilitated? What if there is nothing to correct at all?

2. There is no scientific link to so-called “over-pronation” and injury. You can find studies like this one or even this one from a running shoe company itself that dispel the myth that “over-pronation” causes injury. As a coach, I deal with injured runners daily, none of whom have had injuries caused by pronating too much. In fact, I challenge anyone to name one single injury caused by this “dreaded” affliction. Not Plantar Fasciitis… that’s caused by tight or weak lower legs/calves. Not Runner’s Knee…. weak hips/ankles. Not shin splits… overuse or tight/weak shins/calves. Not IT band syndrome… instability/weakness in the hips and core. And the list could go on. In fact, as this article from Running Times points out, most of the issues that keep you from running start well above the feet.

Now many of you might say “But Chris, if it wasn’t for my trusted, high stability Brooks Adrenalines, I wouldn’t be able to run.” That might be true. I submit, however, that one of two things is possible in your case. Either a) you are responding favorably to something in the shoe, such as it’s relatively stiffness, that has nothing to do with the “post” or the perceived correction of “over-pronation;” or, b) you would actually be happier in something else and just don’t know it.

Gayle-BarronSo, if there is no such thing as over-pronation and if excessive pronation doesn’t cause injury, then how did we get here? One word: marketing. In marketing, you simplify the world to tell a story, a story that is easy to understand and that ultimately sells the product you want to sell – lots of it. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when running shoes were becoming a thing during the jogging boom, the shoe companies latched on to this singular variable because it was easy to understand, easy to develop a fitting philosophy around, and ultimately easy to sell. Then, an assault on “over-pronation” began as if it was an epidemic. Shoes were developed around it, the gloriously hard and dense foam “post” was invented to correct it, running stores were opened to preach it, and you were educated about it with everything from articles in Runner’s World to fun at-home wet-foot tests.

Now, I am embarrassed to say that you/I/we have been sold a truckload of bulls**t. I am embarrassed because I am the co-owner of a running store and am proud of the expertise that we provide. And, even though our fitting philosophy is different and our long-established ten commandments of shoe fitting mention nothing about pronation, our credibility is tied to the credibility of our peers and the shoe companies that work with us.

“Over-pronation” is not a thing and correcting it does more harm that good, inhibiting natural motion instead of facilitating it, like putting your foot into a cast with a brick underneath it. There are so many other variables that are important in shoe fitting – the relative flexibility/stiffness of the shoe, the cushioning, the weight, how it fits/feels, the way the upper hugs your foot, or the relative heel to toe differential (aka “drop”). I don’t even like to call it “shoe fitting” because that makes it about the shoe. It’s really about making your feet happy and allowing them, with your body, to move in a natural and efficient way so that you run free and effortlessly.

THE CHALLENGE

So, humbly, we take a stand for change by declaring, “over-pronation is dead” and by issuing a challenge to you. For anyone currently running in the chains of a posted shoe (see list below), we challenge you to let us fit you in a new, neutral shoe without the so-called correction.

If you aren’t happier and injury free with the new pair after 30 days (even if you run them ragged), come in for a full refund or exchange with no questions asked. And, on top of that, if you aren’t happy, we will throw in a $25 gift card to spend on anything else in the store as our way of putting our money where my mouth is. Take the Rogue Shoe Challenge. If you don’t live in Austin and can’t come see us in person, then we recommend shopping for “neutral” shoes with our online retail partner with a generous return policy: Road Runner Sports (Note: Use the link to the left for 10% off and free shipping). We dare you to be happier on your feet!

This challenge will run through June 30 at both Rogue Running locations. The shoes eligible for the challenge include:

Asics GT-2000

Asics Kayano

Asics DS-Trainer

Brooks Adrenaline

Brooks Transcend (sorry Brooks, but those “guiderails” are just a 360 degree post)

Brooks Ravenna

Brooks Beast

Saucony Guide

Saucony Hurricane

Saucony Omni

Nike Structure Triax

Nike Lunar Eclipse

Adidas Sequence

Adidas Salvation

New Balance 860

New Balance 1260

Mizuno Wave Nirvana

Mizuno Wave Alchemy

———————-

BREAKING!
Dr. Spears and Sports Performance International (SPI), Austin Fit Magazine’s #1 Sports Doctor of 2013, are now putting their money and reputation on the line with us in the Rogue Shoe Challenge. For those who might be wary of injury, SPI is confident in our shoe fitting perspective and is now guaranteeing the challenge as well. If you get injured while attempting the Rogue Shoe Challenge, SPI will provide you with FREE injury consultation and physical therapy to resolve the issue. So, you are now officially out of excuses to drop the “post” and liberate your feet!
Here is the fine print for those who also want the injury guarantee:
– You must be fitted during the weekly injury clinic with Dr. Spears at Rogue DT (Wednesday from 4-6 pm) so that we can collaborate with him on any special issues to address with the fitting.
– You must check-in with us at the first sign of an issue, so that we can proactively manage it.
– The injury must clearly be tied to the change in shoes. For example, any injury gained from otherwise ill-advised moves like doubling your mileage from one week to the next or doing some fancy parkour trick off the Pfluger bridge is on you!

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike. He can be reached at chris@roguerunning.com.

Do you Karhu? (Part III…the final part)

by Chris MacLeod

Steady3

Note: This shoe is currently only available at Rogue’s downtown location.

After my mini love affair with the supportive Fast, I was downright excited to give the Steady a go. As a shoe that’s advertised as a supportive, stable shoe, I was a bit surprised Karhu got this one through the Rogue front doors.

The answer to that…well, like a Facebook relationship, it’s complicated.  The Steady was quite simply nothing like I expected it to be.

First off, though I didn’t feel any of the Karhus could be said to run “true to size”, the Steady was by far the most egregious offender. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing when I pulled on my usual size 9:

SteadyLength

And then I followed my coworkers around demanding, “Look! Look at my foot! Hehehe!”

Unfortunately, the general feeling of “too-bigness” wasn’t mitigated by dropping down a size. Not only did I face my all-too-common battle with a bunchy upper, but my foot actually slid around when I started running in this shoe.

I’ve never had a narrow enough foot to merit ordering narrow shoes (and Karhu doesn’t make them anyway), but I’m afraid this shoe was just too big for me to give a fair shake.

For the sake of completeness, I did still jog around a bit so I could report the other features:

This shoe is quite stiff, giving it a nice amount of reactivity with the ground.

SteadyBend

It’s possible I’m a tad obsessed with taking this particular type of shoe shot.

Also, at 8.9(?) ounces, the Steady is noticeably lighter than other shoes in the stability category. Granted, you pay for this in less cushioning and less-noticeable support than a typical stability offering.

One other thing you sacrifice for less weight is the “new and shiny” feel of the upper. After just 20 minutes, the shoe looked like this:

SteadyFabricNobody tell Chuck, okay?

I’m pretty sure the creased decoration is purely that – decoration – and doesn’t represent an actual structural problem with the shoe. But, if you’re the type to try to keep your shoes pristine, consider this a heads up.

Steady3 Verdict

Pros: Very light for a stable shoe.

Cons: Sizing was pretty far off. Upper may be a tad too light to support its own decoration.

Overall verdict: I really don’t think the Steady fit me well enough to give it a fair shake. It’s not the shoe for me, but not because it’s lacking in technology or features. Not the most helpful shoe review, but for me, the shoe just don’t fit!

Karhu Steady3 Specs*
Weight 8-10 oz.
Heel/Toe Drop 12.6 mm (or 8 mm – we found conflicting reports)
Design Features

 

Construction:

  • New “EV-icient” EVA foam midsole
  • Assymetrical Karhu Fulcrum technology to help control overpronation
  • High-abrasion rubber on outsole
  • Reflective piping on upper
Available Sizes M: 8-13

W: 6-11

Available Widths Standard
MSRP $125
* – We were unable to find Women’s specs for this shoe.

Missed Chris’ earlier reviews? Check out the Flow3 here and the Fluid3 and Fast4 here.

—————

About Rogue

Stop by to check out the Steady3 and talk with the experts at Rogue Running – two Austin-area locations!

Do you Karhu? (Part II)

by Chris MacLeod

What was the first thought when I slipped on the Fluid3?

“Holy crap, this shoe is long!”

FluidLength

I dropped down a size and the shoe STILL fit like this.

Perhaps I should remember this the next time a customer is upset about how “big” their shoe is. Buying a Karhu is like shopping at Chico’s; everyone’s a size 2! (Gentlemen, don’t worry about understanding that last sentence.)

The next thing I noticed about the Fluid was how light it felt on my foot! This was quite odd, given that the Fluid is technically about half an ounce heavier than the Flow, but let’s just accept that if you want someone to estimate weight by hefting an object, I might not be your go-to person.

I think the reason this shoe felt “lighter” to me was its stiffer last, which gave the shoe a more responsive, “springy” feel than the Flow.

FluidBend

Not so flexy now, are we? (Ouch, I think I pulled something in my hand…)

The Fluid is still a tad heavier than I would choose for a 5K, but I could see using it for quality work. Full disclosure: My Flow fan friend (say that 3 times fast) calls it a “long run shoe”, so I perhaps I’ve just gone completely off the range on this one?

Drop-wise, the Fluid feels low, but not zeroed out, which I personally prefer. (The prodigal daughter writes shoe reviews, hehehehe!)

I might have to bite the bullet and admit I’m a cushion fan, because I also liked that I couldn’t feel the fulcrum as much in the Fluid, as compared to the Flow.

I’m starting to sound redundant with all the things I “liked”, so I’ll just say it flat out: I really LIKE the Fluid! I would never have pulled it off the wall for myself were I not expressly intending to review it, but I’ll take it as a life lesson that I shouldn’t be afraid to try new things.

The only real down side of the Fluid for me was that in addition to fitting long, it was also a bit wide on my narrow feet. Even cinching down the laces, I could just generally feel my foot moving around in this shoe.

FluidWidthWhy do shoes always look like this on my foot?

Of the four Karhus, the Fluid3 and the Steady3 (review to come) fall noticeably in the “too big” camp. They also came out at the same time, leading me to wonder if there was a machine calibration change somewhere on the assembly line.

Fluid3 Verdict

Pros: Light, responsive ride with enough cushion to stay comfy over longer runs.

Cons: This shoe is huge! Who do you think I am? Bigfoot?

Overall Verdict: For most runners, the Fluid3 would likely make a solid everyday trainer or a good transition down from more structured shoes. It’s not a racer, but it’s no pillow either.

Karhu Fluid3 Specs
Weight 8.9 oz
Heel/Toe Drop 8
Design Features Construction:

  • New “EV-icient” EVA foam midsole
  • Karhu Fulcrum technology (higher durometer EVA)
  • High-abrasion rubber on outsole
  • Open mesh upper
Available Sizes M: 8-13W: 6-11
Available Widths Standard
MSRP $125
*-We were unable to find certain specs for this shoe

Fast4

Remember that history lesson at the beginning of all this? As you can tell, Karhu is a brand that fills me with nostalgia. The Fast4, in particular, takes me right back to 1989.

Which is not a knock on the shoe in any way! I’m going to go ahead and ruin the ending right here: I LOVE this shoe. I’m just not 100% sure my reasons are entirely objective.

Technologically speaking, the Fast has the same basic features as the Flow and the Fluid. The fulcrum, the cloth upper, the crazy colors…all present.

But, as the “most supportive” of Karhu’s neutral shoes, these modern features are accompanied by a distinctly old-fashioned amount of cushion and structure.

FastMedial

Also, they’re purple, and I totally had a pair of purple gym shoes when I was six!

As you can see from the picture, the Fast also has a more “old-fashioned” amount of heel lift, with a full 14 mm of drop from heel to toe. With the recent takeover of low- and no-drop shoes, this is a legitimate rarity in running specialty.

The other feature of the Fast that can be tough to find these days – Adidas Boost’ shoes aside – is cushion. This shoe is soft all over (except for a surprisingly noticeable – and reassuring, if you tend toward overpronation – amount of arch support).

The toe is downright squishy, but not so built up that you feel like you’ll trip over it, and the heel feels like it includes a pre-installed heel cup. Which, granted, was disconcerting at first, but I stopped noticing the slight “bump” after about 3 minutes in the shoe. I suspect it would settle with wear.

Of course, all this cushion and support do mean that the Fast isn’t exactly a lightweight model. At 11 oz., it rivals bigger support shoes like the Brooks Adrenaline in weight, which explains my gut feel that for me this would be a long run shoe. As much as I love this shoe, it just can’t match the Fluid or the Flow in terms of the responsiveness I would want for track work.

That said, if you told me to pick a shoe to go run 20 miles in, the Fast would be a contender. (It also passed the “stand around” test with flying colors…I could work in this shoe all day.)

FastBend

Can’t you just see the cushiony comfort?

Fast4 Verdict

Pros: Pure cushioned comfort! Also, support. And purple!

Cons: A bit heavy with a large heel-toe drop that might feel a bit 1989 to you, too.

Overall Verdict: The Fast4 is a solid, grind out the miles shoe for those looking for a comfy ride. It does not feel “lightweight”, but if you yearn for the old days of solid stability, the Fast may be for you. Though advertised as a neutral shoe, I felt the Fast had adequate support for a severe over-pronator like myself.

Its sheer comfort could also make it a great option for those prone to impact soreness.

MensFastWallProof that the men’s version is not purple.

Stay tuned – the Steady3 is up next!

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About RogueStop by to check out the Fluid3 and Fast4 and talk with the experts at Rogue Running – two Austin-area locations!

An Open Letter: Lose the Shoe Finder!

by Chris McClung

I am hesitant to write this letter to you because of the storied history we have with open letters. The last one we wrote about Brooks and the demise of the Launch garnered more traffic to our blog than any previous post to date, but not all of the traffic was good. Some thought we came off as pompous know-it-alls attacking Brooks unfairly. While I happen to disagree with that assessment, I am also biased and perhaps a bit too results-oriented. After all, the Launch was happily saved this spring, returning from the dead with throwback colors. I would like to believe that our passionate plea for the Launch helped save it, but it doesn’t matter. I bought a pair last week and wore them on an 18-miler straight out of the box, enjoying every glorious step. Now, that’s what matters – finding shoes that disappear when you put them on…that have everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Back to the reason for this letter. To be clear, this isn’t about being pompous know-it-alls. This also isn’t about bashing Runner’s World, which seems to be a popular pastime in certain circles.  It’s about education and sharing expertise that will hopefully provide clarity in the midst of confusion and misinformation.

Two weeks ago, a gentleman came into the store with the June issue of Runner’s World, which contains the latest in RW shoe reviews and awards. As he entered, he opened the earmarked magazine to show me a fold out diagram labeled “RW Shoe Finder” and asked: “Can you help me figure this out?”

shoe finderAt first glance, the RW Shoe Finder resembles a bowl of spaghetti with meatballs (see the picture), and I think that is describing it politely. The diagram is confusing at best and completely wrong at worst. After reviewing it briefly, I told the man in front of me, in the nicest words I could muster, that the first step was simply to toss it aside. And, you should do the same. Now, I’m not talking about the whole magazine or even all of information in the reviews, as some of it is good and helpful. The Shoe Finder, however, is definite material for the recycle bin.

So what’s wrong with it? Where to start?

1. Runner’s World CANNOT provide objective reviews. Period. Full Stop. There is too much at stake for them. They collect millions in advertising dollars annually from the top shoe brands. Being overly critical or failing to select a certain shoe for a certain “award” could put those millions at stake. This is like listening to Fox News talk about politics and expecting an unbiased opinion. Not going to happen. Case in point: what’s on the back of the RW Shoe Finder? photoA 3-page fold-out Saucony ad for the new Kinvara 4. A shoe that happens to have been selected as this year’s “Best Update.” I don’t think I need to explain further (and for the record, we love the Kinvara). I personally believe that the reviews and even the shoes “selected” to be reviewed are more influenced by dollar signs than they are by any shoe expertise. Perhaps that is just the cynic in me, but until the editorial team at RW provides more transparency to their process, I will remain skeptical.

 

 

2. 15 shoe models are not enough. We carry over 100 models in our store, and there are still many more out there. The Shoe Finder says: “To find the best pair for you, answer the questions in this flowchart.” And, what if the best shoe for you, isn’t among the 15 they have “selected” to review? Then I guess you are out of luck. Now, I know what you might say. How could Runner’s World possibly review every shoe out there? They can’t, and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t pretend to have the ultimate shoe selector with 15 models in its database. And really, it’s 14 models, because you can’t count anything from Under Armour.

3. Nearly every question in this alleged Shoe Finder is wrong or misleading. This is the crux of the issue. The methodology embedded within this Finder is based on a shoe fitting approach that was developed 20 years ago, and that has gradually proven dated, especially in the last five years. It is the same philosophy that the shoe companies would generally like you to believe because it sells shoes with more technology… more stuff to fix your supposed problems at higher prices. What we know from fitting thousands of people a year in shoes (and then coaching them in our training programs) is that more shoe is generally not better. More is less and less is more.

A few examples:

The RW Shoe Finder asks: “Is your BMI 27 or greater?” The answer takes you down distinct paths on the Shoe Finder, suggesting the bulky, higher-cushioned shoes for those of us who might exceed this “magical” 27 BMI threshold (that’s 200 pounds for a 6 foot male like myself or 168 for a 5’6” female). In fact, if your answer to this question is yes, you only have 2 options to choose from. The Finder says: “Generally, the higher your BMI, the more shoe you need.”

NO, NO, NO. In our experience, the weight of the runner is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT when it comes to shoe selection. Ignoring issues with the BMI metric itself, what matters is the biomechanics of each individual regardless of weight and what level of cushioning he or she needs to achieve his or her most efficient gait. Most of the time, a heavy, high-cushioned shoe causes you to land “heavier” on your feet and therefore put more impact into your joints than a lighter shoe with less cushioning, regardless of how much you weigh. To those who might be carrying extra pounds, don’t fret… you have as many shoe options as anyone else when you walk in our doors!

The Shoe Finder also asks: “What is your arch type? High, Normal, or Flat?” According to the Finder, anyone with flat arches is assumed to over-pronate severely enough to need shoes with more support or stability. Here we find one of the central fallacies of most shoe fitting philosophies: a flat (or low) arch = needs stability.

In our experience, the height of the arch is irrelevant; what matters is how your foot and arch move from the point of contact with the ground through to the toe-off. I have seen plenty of runners with low to flat arches who have no issues whatsoever with over-pronation. In fact, the vast majority have very normal interactions with the ground. Unfortunately, most have been misdiagnosed and are running in posted stability shoes that inhibit their movement and efficiency, like running with a concrete block under your arch.

We fit 85% of runners in neutral shoes, while the running specialty industry average is 30-35%. And, last I checked, we don’t have a line of runners queued up asking for their stability shoes back. This isn’t to say that we are definitively right and RW is wrong; it just tells me that there might be an alternative approach that works and merits exploration and discussion.

A recent study talks about the link between pronation, type of shoe, and injury. There are two very interesting points made within the study. First, the breakdown of pronated feet within the random sample – only 7.5% of the total – is a very low percentage, much lower than the shoe industry would lead us to believe. Secondly, the study found that pronated runners actually had lower injury risk when running in neutral shoes than even neutral runners. Certainly, we can debate the merits of any study, but our real-world experience says that it’s amazing what happens when you take the shoe out of the way and let the body do the work.

4. The awards are suspect at best. I already mentioned the bias issue above, but there is also the issue of how these “awards” are chosen. What makes a shoe the “Editor’s Choice?” And, more specifically, why have Asics shoes been chosen in 5 of the past 8 years in this category? Is it that Asics makes the best shoes? Or does it relate to Asics’ advertising dollars? Or, perhaps the fact that RW hosts an awards party every year in conjunction with the New York Marathon of which Asics is the shoe sponsor? RW always has plausible deniability because it tends to choose a core, popular, franchise model from one of the major brands (usually Asics). This time, however, they jumped the shark by selecting the Asics Gel-Cumulus 15.

If this shoe is worthy of an Editor’s Choice award, then I need to eat my shorts. To be fair, it isn’t a terrible shoe by itself. Lots of runners will buy it and probably be perfectly happy with it. Most of those runners will be repeat Cumulus customers who haven’t changed shoe models since Clinton was President. The problem is that the entire shoe industry has completely changed, while the Cumulus has not. It’s a dinosaur in its category of moderately cushioned, neutral shoes. It weighs in at an absurd 11.6 ounces for men or 9.5 ounces for women, while most of its peers in the category (like the Mizuno Wave Rider or Saucony Ride) are now at least 1 to 1.5 ounces lighter (without sacrificing a discernible amount of cushioning). If an Editor’s Choice is to be made from this category, then the Wave Rider 16 would be the choice (check out this review if you want to know why). Even Asics’ own Gel-Excel33 would be a better choice!

Modern technologies now allow the shoe companies to drop significant weight from your feet without changing any of the functionality, cushioning or support. I would challenge Cumulus wearers to come in for an alternative. I guarantee that they can find a lighter, leaner shoe with equivalent cushioning, and that their feet will happily demand that they never go back.

Again, my point is not to pick on Runner’s World. My primary beef is with the RW Shoe Finder, as the reviews themselves are generally very informative, and in recent years, have become increasingly balanced on discussing the pros/cons of the shoes reviewed. I simply believe that it’s important to question what you read, and to view it with the appropriate counter-perspective in mind. If nothing else, I hope that this letter sparks debate about shoes and fittings and reviews because we all learn in the midst of good discussion.

Happy running… to the recycle bin and beyond!

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches half marathoners and those taking on the Austin Distance Challenge.

Best New Shoes of 2013

by Chris McClung

wave riderMizuno Wave Rider 16 – Best Update

Mizuno’s Wave Rider has been a favorite of runners since its first version. The shoe has a firm but smooth ride with a forgiving upper that keeps your foot in place while still fitting a wide variety of feet.  Version 15 of the shoe was its best iteration yet, until Mizuno topped itself with this latest iteration. Version 16 has the same midsole and outsole that everyone loves (from Version 15), but the shoe now has an all-new upper that weighs a full ounce lighter than the previous version. The shoe dipped under 10 ounces, which puts it on par with many lightweight shoes that have much less cushioning. By using new materials and making small changes such as reducing the size of the logo on the in-step, Mizuno dropped the weight of the shoe without compromising the cushioning or feel of the shoe under foot. And, if you can cut a full ounce from each step without changing anything else, why wouldn’t you?!?

 

launchBrooks Launch – Best Return from the Dead

The Launch has been the best-kept secret in specialty running since its introduction three years ago. It was so good, in fact, that Brooks made only color changes to the original design until they famously announced that it was being dropped from its line, with plans to end production in December of 2012. With the announcement, message boards and blogs exploded in uproar as many Launch lovers (read: fanatics) screamed for its return. Brooks finally heard their cries, announcing in December that the Launch would return with throwback colors this month.

The shoe is elegant in its simplicity. Its midsole is void of many of the “technologies” that mark the signature designs of other more-marketed shoes, but the simplicity is what makes it great. It is lightweight at only 9.1 ounces, but with a cushioned feel that can support any type of runner. And, the ride is so smooth that your heel to toe transition in this shoe makes your stride nearly effortless at any pace. Long live the Launch!

 

boostAdidas Energy Boost – Best New Innovation

 

The Boost just debuted in February and, with it, Adidas is getting more attention in the running shoe category than it has in a decade. The signature component of this shoe is a newly designed midsole material that, according to lab tests from independent sources, has the most energy return of any midsole material ever placed in a shoe. The material is also reported to be highly durable and resistant to the effects of temperature that can wreak havoc on traditional foams, making it a great pick to combat the Texas heat. Putting it on, the shoe has a plush step-in feel, and when running, it can only be described as abnormally bouncy. The bounce feels strange at first but, after the initial shock-value fades, makes you feel like you can run forever in it. The upper is snug, flexible and fits a wider variety of feet than most other Adidas models with a more-narrow fit. Also, look out for two additional versions of the shoe coming later this year, the AdiStar Boost and Adios Boost, debuting in August and October, respectively.

 

1400New Balance 1400 – Best New Twist

The New Balance 1400, like the Brooks Launch, is known for its elegant simplicity, with a pure-foam midsole and no added bells and whistles. The shoe debuted last year to rave reviews. At 7.1 ounces, it is considered a “marathon racing shoe,” but the level of cushioning in the shoe feels more like 9-10 ounces, thanks to its innovative RevLite foam from New Balance that weighs 33% less than traditional foams. The high cushioning-to-weight ratio makes it extremely versatile to be used as a training shoe by some or as a racing flat by others. In June, New Balance will release a version of this shoe with a new competition-style upper that is also used in their super-light track spikes. This twist will drop another ounce from the shoe with no change to how the shoe feels under foot, permanently re-defining what it means to have lightweight cushioning. This, my friends, is not your father’s New Balance.

sayonaraMizuno Wave Sayonara – Most Anticipated Debut

In July, Mizuno is dropping the popular Wave Precision from its line, the original lightweight trainer, and replacing it with the all-new Wave Sayonara. Though the decision seems like a big gamble, it is a calculated risk forced in part by the changes to the Wave Rider mentioned above. With the Wave Rider now at 9.9 ounces, the Wave Precision was too similar at 9.5 ounces, so Mizuno is giving it an overhaul with a new name in the Sayonara. At Rogue, we can’t wait. Though we have not been able to try it yet, the Sayonara is reported to be over an ounce lighter than the Precision, with a more responsive ride and faster feel, all while maintaining similar levels of cushioning. If the fit is as good as the current Precision, which has the best-fitting upper on the wall, then these changes could be a recipe for our new favorite shoe. Hello to the Sayonara, good-bye to your running group friends after you lace on these new shoes this summer!

 See the published version of this article on page 12 of Naturally Fit Magazine!

Ramblings, for your feet.

by John Schrup

I saw on Faceplant the other day some pictures of Bill Rodgers running in the Adios 2.  So, yeah, go getcher self some.  Win some Boston Marathons and stuff.

Watching the gang on the sales floor fit shoes is fun.  I participate here and there, but mostly I just mess things up, so I try to be invisible when people are fitting.  But the presentation has changed and I find that interesting.  Back in the day, when explaining the differences and similarities among shoes, we would reference cushioning systems, stability features, flex grooves, yaaaaaaaawn, etc., etc.  That was then and this is right, so we’re teaching now about things that make more sense to the individual who will purchase and run in the shoe, as opposed just selling some brand’s product because they came up with a more memorable acronym or some shit.  Now we teach about offset and stack height, flexibility and more importantly, how to make your body stronger, healthier and more athletic, so that what you wear on your feet is tertiary in importance, at best.

But let’s not get bogged down on offset, stack height and all those cool new things.  The tendency is to think that these numbers have magical properties that will make us better, more efficient runners.  If you were to wear only 4mm drop shoes, then no doubt you’d be all kinds of Kenyan in no time, wouldn’t you?  Just because you’ve wisely dumped your Kayano doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re landing midfoot and eating ugali and sukuma wiki.  It doesn’t work like that, though we keep looking for the elusive magical bullet.  I don’t know why, we just do.

When we tell you that the best shoe for you is the least amount of shoe you are comfortable with, we’re telling you that you are better than you think you are, that you simply do not “need” all the things you think you do.  I mean, it’s just running, man.  All that shit ain’t gonna make you cooler, faster, more African-er.  All the variables of the shoe—offset, flexibility, weight, fit, firmness—combine to make the shoe what it is.  You will know, intuitively, which is the right one for you.  Give yourself some credit.  Yes, you will.  We’re A.) not going to bring out something that wouldn’t work for you, once we know what to look for and 2.) not going to make the decision for you, unless there is something so glaringly obvious that we wouldn’t be doing our job to let you out of the store with an unwise choice.

You will know it is right because you won’t feel a thing.  Or, more likely, it will be the shoe that is the least noticeable on your foot.  If the fit is right, if the weight is right, if the firmness is good, if the offset is right—all of that—your interpretation of the feel will be that it disappears on your foot.  The proprioceptive response will be nothing, sort of.  It’ll be the closest feeling to nothing that you can get, wearing a pair of running shoes, that is.

I don’t know where that all came from.

A couple of you have asked me why I’m all obsessed with Newton.  I wouldn’t call it obsessed, exactly, it is just that I’m really enjoying learning some new stuff.  I mean, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?  There are times when the shoe reappears on my foot—going around corners faster than, say, easy—and I’ve been a little banged up lately, so admittedly there is some trepidation when I put them on, I don’t know why.  But they are much better than I’d ever have given them credit for.  The actuator lugs, as a technology, are much more valid than some crappy guide line flex groove or elastic arch band.  Anyway.  That’s that.

John Schrup is Rogue Running’s very own shoe guru, and has coached every age and every level of athlete in most every distance known to man … on planet earth! Including Team Rogue, currently. Don’t miss his Shoe Talk on Saturday, September 29, 9:45am at Rogue downtown (500 San Marcos St. 78702). Free and open to all!

Subtle Chuck, Amish James and Schrup go to Boulder: Day One

by John Schrup

I got a little bit ahead of myself.  Those Newton Distance that Jordan was supposed to send me had already arrived, and were placed on the shelf in the stockroom, because we are clever like that.  So I’ve got them on my feet now, double knotted, because I’m, you know, obsessive, and I’ve been told that I should wear them for a week or two, just kicking around, to soften up the membrane that the actuator lugs sit on.  I don’t know much about softening membranes, but if anything on these shoes dilate, I’m going to take up rhythmic dance.  So I’ll gladly follow instructions, because that’s what I do, and because the shoes were free.  What can I say? I’m a dirty whore.

Unfortunately, I won’t get to tell you about my experience in them, other than when I wear them around to the Central Market or whatever, for a couple of weeks because I’m going to be a good boy and do what I’m told.  Hold your horses, that time will come, and when it does I promise to be at once honest and stupid.  If something ain’t right, I’ll say so.  Over the next, uh, something weeks, we’re going to get real deep about Newton, the hype, the myth, the shoe.  Maybe I’ll post something every day.  Maybe every few days.  I don’t know.  I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.  We’ll try to be informative, entertaining, sexy.

To be completely honest, as I wear them around the shop, or on the short jog next door to Progress (all of, like, nine feet.  I PR’d!!) or to the Ho Foo–where they have lovely kales, don’t they?–for lunch, I’m a little embarrassed to have them on my feet.  Here in the shop, Sarah’s first comment when she saw them on my feet was, “Newton?”  Not that the majority of the population will even recognize them as Newton, the brand with the actuator lugs and are obnoxiously colored and cost as much as my Yaris, or whatever, but I feel that they will and then judge me for it.  Also, I don’t shave my legs, which is generally what you find when you see someone wearing Newton.  Though I am thinking about getting an aero helmet to wear to the farmer’s market because I want to be, you know, competitive.

That’s the thing:  They’re day-glo, or pretty damn near it.  Lots of very bright yellowish-green-yellows, some orange, splash of red.  You would not wear these with a, say, Brooks Brothers suit.  And not that I am usually aware of sartorial obnoxiousness.  One morning I walked in to meet my beloved Bitchwolves and my man, JG, looked at me and what I was wearing and in a tone that suggested slight disbelief, but which I interpreted as raw, unadulterated jealousy, said, “Really?”  So, yeah, I’m not real good with the fashions.  But these damn things are pretty loud.

The fit is almost what I remember from a few years back.  Almost, but not quite:  Really clean, pretty snug all over, but with ample room for the phalanges.  They’re pretty light, and I suspect that the fit helps with that as well.  The feel underfoot is pretty firm, just about what I like, but because I can feel the actuator lugs directly under the ball of my foot, I’ve got to admit that I’m still a bit skeptical.  But I’m cool with that.  I’m an open minded kinda guy.  I’ll try anything twice.  For money.

So that’s what I got.   Go ahead and mingle, but keep your eyes peeled for the house lights.  Stay tuned for Subtle Chuck, Amish James and Schrup go to Boulder.

Check it:  For those of you who fancy yourself a dedicated runner, a dedicated marathoner, who wants to find out what you’re made of, John coaches Team Rogue on T, Th mornings at 5:30.