As the weather changes, it officially becomes “go fast season.” The miserable months of running in multiple layers, on the dreadmill or perhaps, just taking off, are finally over. Here in Maryland, we had the mildest winter of my entire life. Still, most mornings are only in the low 30’s. It’s hard to want to go fast in that kind of cold. I actually tweaked my hamstring at the end of January, and I think part of it was from doing a track workout on a particularly chilly day while not properly warmed up. Nonetheless, the time has come for changing gears in runs and races. The question is, what should I run in? As shoe technology has advanced, we have seen several brands try to take concepts from their racing shoes and implement them in their everyday trainers.
When I was a younger runner, the typical plan was to wear a nice, cushioned trainer but on race day have a shoe that was quite different and much faster. A shoe that you would only put on race day. Now, I see people training and racing in carbon-plated shoes. While I am not in favor of that, I do see the advantages of training in a shoe that is closer to what your race day shoe will feel like. I like to equate it to a baseball player swinging a bat in the on-deck circle with a weighted donut on his bat. They’re still swinging the same bat but when he takes the donut off, has has that much more speed and control.
The new designs we are seeing in shoes are astounding. The midsole materials that are now available in everyday shoes used to be reserved for only the most expensive and premium racers. It allows a somewhat older runner like myself to still feel the wind rush through my remaining hair follicles. By giving myself the chance to easily pivot from a shoe like the Altra Tempo to the Altra Vanish (the same shoe but with an added carbon plate) I can ensure the shoe works for me on training runs before lacing them up for a marathon. It’s crazy now to think that was sort of the norm just a few years back. I recall racing a half marathon in a pair of shoes I tentatively jogged one lap around my neighborhood, just to make sure I did not get blisters. Then, I put them on and raced and had such pain in my knee afterward. It was a shoe that had a short shelf life, a high price tag, and was unlike anything else in my shoe rotation. Keep in mind this was pre-Run Moore or even the ease of buying shoes online. You just had to take the risk if you wanted the reward. Thankfully, there are more recourses and more options to really dial in the shoes for your style and distance.
If you are hunting for a shoe to race this spring, I would encourage you to look for shoes that have a similar companion shoe. At the very least, a shoe that has a similar drop and concept. So, if you always run in a high drop trainer like a Brooks Adrenaline, do not expect to have a good experience on race day if you pull out a pair of Hoka Carbon X 3’s. They are so different by design that you will do yourself a disservice no matter what your fitness level is. If you do not like a shoe with a rocker, be consistent in your racers vs your trainers. If you have bad calf’s and like high drops, stick to something with a higher heel. Think of the philosophical properties of your shoe and try to make a lateral move in the same direction come race day.