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Do We Need To Be Shoe-Brand Loyal?

Do We Need To Be Shoe-Brand Loyal?
How I switched the type and brand of shoe I use

By Alix Shutello

Up until recently, I would walk into my neighborhood running store (I am fortunate to have a Potomac River Running Store and Road Runner Sports literally about 10 minutes from my house) and tell them to pull the ASICS 2100 size 9 shoe off the shelf. I’d pay my $95 and walk out the door.  Over the holidays, I began working on my core and incorporated more speed work and hard-core p90X type training into my routine.  I got stronger….and faster.

Over the past couple of years I’ve talked to more and more people about the shoes they wear. Many, like Bart Yasso of Runners World, get so many free shoes that he just runs in whatever he feels like it.  Ray Charbonneau, an ultra runner from Summit, MA, describes in his book, Chasing the Runner’s High, all the multitudes of shoes he has. I figured if these two have a bunch of shoes, so should I.

So I got to thinking…..

Do we need to be brand loyal?

And further…..

Do I need to always wear stability shoes?

I’ts Not Me…It’s the Shoe!

I’m in pretty descent shape but my legs were hurting whenever I ran. I was convinced it was not me. I mean, come on. I run, play tennis, do yoga, and torture myself to Tony Horton’s tapes. I “should” be in good shape and there is no reason why my legs should hurt all the time. I was fed up, frustrated, in pain, and grumpy. There had to be a better way…so I started to read, research, talk to physical therapists and people who know more than me about this stuff and I came to the conclusion that I needed to try another shoe. The question was, which one?

In late December I was on the Road Runners Sports website looking at the incredible shoe sales that were going on. I started reading the reviews and remembering what I had read about people using multiple shoes and articles about how it’s good to alternate between different running shoes. I started thinking about my fitness level and my conversations with specialists…did I really need a stability shoe anymore? They didn’t think so and neither did I!

So I challenged myself….

What if the stability in the shoe was what was wrenching my back?

There was only one way to find out.

Leaving Stability and Going Neutral

Saucony Pro Grid Kirvana: A Minimalist Shoe

I was fortunate to get (for testing purposes) the bare minimalist Terra Planas  (the EVO) to run in this fall. They are really minimalist to the point where I only run a couple of miles in them at a time. They are such a departure from the ASICS shoe and what I noticed was that while my legs were a little tight after using them, they were not in pain and my lower back felt good. This is what gave me the courage to try a neutral shoe but I had no idea which shoe to choose.  So I when I was on Road Runner Sports web site I read through the shoe reviews and bought a pair of neutral minimalist Saucony ProGrid Kirvanas and my ASICS 2150s on a super sale (I basically bought two pairs for the price of one). I figured I was not breaking the bank my experimenting.

I could not wait to try the Sauconys. The first day I ran in them I was an immediate fan.  I ran in them a few days and felt so good I was giddy because I was in no pain. A week later I put on my ASICS and ran 6 miles. As my legs began to crunch up and hurt I said to them, “this is the last time I run in you.” It appears, that I wasted the money on the ASICS, not the Sauconys!

So fast forward to today when I went into Road Runner Sports to buy a second pair of neutral shoes (and use my birthday gift certificate and 25% off coupon). I came home with a brand-spanking new pair of Brooks Ghost 3s. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d buy a Brooks shoe. They were always heavy, clunky, unattractive and ill-fitting (for me anyway). I know many people run in them and are loyal to them.

When I went into the store I asked to try on the Nike Frees because I’ve heard so many good things about them but alas, I did not like their fit. The Sauconys fit better.

Brooks Ghost 3: Neutral Shoe

The sales person suggested I try the Brooks Ghost 3. She suggested them because of our discussion about how running form now is concentrated on running toward the forefoot as opposed to running on the heel strike (like I was brought up to do).

“These will tilt you forward a bit,” she said, “but they are light and I think you’re going to like them.”

I really felt a difference. Here I was testing a neutral shoe with some support, but room to move. I was hooked and after all my discounts, walked out of the store paying only $30 for my new shoes.

So I’ll keep you posted on these shoes.

In conclusion – moving to a neutral shoe proved good for me. I wanted more than one pair of shoes because that’s just my mantra these days. It is expensive to have tons of shoes, but the savings I get with running clubs and so forth helps. Always talk to people before making a decision. I took a gamble on the Kirvanas but I figured I had nothing to lose.  I got lucky and love the shoe.


1. It is ok to try a new shoe! If you have pain in the shoes you are running in there are a few reasons for this:

a. they are ill-fitting
b. they are not the right support (or too much support)
c. they are old (over 6 months and you should get new shoes!)
d. you had a life changing event (gave birth, lost/gained weight, lost/gained fitness) which means you need to evaluate your running style and form and possibly switch your style of shoe and/or brand.

2. It is beneficial (though expensive) to have two pairs of shoes going at one time. Technically I have three including my ASICS but I’ve relegated them to weekend sneakers (sorry ASICS!)

3.  Just because you have run in a certain shoe all your life does not mean you cannot try another brand. When you go to the shoe store, try on other shoes just for kicks. You might be surprised at what you find out about yourself.

4. It is good to tell friends and relatives to give you gift certificates to your favorite running stores so that for $30 you too can try a random shoe you’d never have buy for $90 just for the hell of it. Incentive helps.

5. You can always go to the Runners Illustrated Facebook page and ask questions of the great runners and athletes who share their thoughts and stories online. 

Have a great run today!



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