Monday, April 28, 2008

Favorite Shoes?

My brother in New Hampshire started running again and asked me for some advice about what shoes, socks, shirts, accessories I'd suggest. I didn't have any real suggestions or favorites to recommend. That seemed a bit sad. So I thought all weekend and decided to come up with a few of my favs...

Shoes: I can't pick just one! My favorite road shoe is the Mizuno Wave Revolver. It's a racing flat, but I use it for both roads and trails (as long as the trail isn't too technical). I prefer lightweight, flexible shoes. The Revolver only weights about 7 oz and the toe can be bent to touch the heel. It also has a wide toe box which I need for longer ultra runs when my feet swell up. I have two favorite trail shoes: the New Balance NB 790 and the Teva X-1. The NB 790 is basically the Revolver made for the trails. It only weighs about 7-8 oz and it is extremely flexible. The extra trail features are slightly better traction and a bit of toe and underfoot protection from rocks and roots. Still not the best shoe for really muddy or technical (serious rocks & roots) trails. The Teva X-1 (now replaced with the Teva X-1 Racer or Teva X-1C) is a great all-around trail shoe with the best drainage of any shoe I know. It has a lot more cushioning, traction, and protection than either the Revolver or NB 790, but still comes in at a fairly lightweight 10 oz. All three shoes are lightweight, airy, and have a medium to large toe box.

Another lightweight (and VERY flexible) shoe that I like is the Nike Free. I am half addicted to this darn shoe. At times I feel I should throw all my other shoes away and only use this sucker. Other times, I want to get rid of it and swear to never be silly again. I know some people use it for full length ultras (including Clinton Lake 30 miler), but I have only used it in training runs up to 10 miles on fairly easy trails. If I could find them cheap (E-bay?), I'd probably buy and use them more often. I enjoy barefoot running in warmer weather and these shoes let me "sort of" experience the benefits of running barefoot. I truly believe barefoot running (and Nike Free running) is good for your feet and your running stride/efficiency.

Socks: Any non-cotton socks work well for me. Lately I've preferred the thinner coolmax socks like DeFeet. If I'm in a VERY long ultra in hot weather, the Injinji toe socks work well (they suck in cold, wet weather). In cold weather, I prefer SmartWool socks.

Shorts: Again, no real preference here. I used to love a Mizuno short that isn't made anymore (it was sort of between the current Mustang and Maverick) . Now I've been running mostly in Brooks Tempo short (it's fairly inexpensive). Any wicking material short with a crepe liner works for me. For REALLY tough and LONG ultras, I have used Salomon XA Twinskin shorts. They are a hybrid short/tight and seem to work well to prevent chaffing.

Shirts: This is repetitive, but again, I have no real favorite shirt. I tend to go for Mizuno shirts if I buy them, but nowadays all the darn ultra races are giving away technical fabric shirts. I haven't actually purchased a running shirt in over 2 years! I really love the 2007 Clinton Lake race shirt (Brooks half-zip Equilibrium shirt).

Accessories: SportShield (chaffing prevention), Hydropel (foot protection in soggy conditions), and BlisterShield foot powder (for dry conditions). I only use Hydropel when it's a long ultra in wet conditions (rain, serious mud, streams, etc). Lots of adventure racers swear by the stuff. I recently switched from BodyGlide (works OK) to SportShield (works very well) for everyday chafe prevention (nipples, under arms, between thighs, etc).

Best places to buy your running stuff...Body n' Sole Sports (local running store in Champaign, IL) or on the web at ZombieRunner. After thinking all weekend, I still don't have any super-favorites. Oh well. I hope this list helps my brother Stephen in New Hampshire...and brother Mark in Washington too. I'll let bro John (with serious knee problems) off the hook...for now. Everyone is welcome to post their favorites in the comments to this post.

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