Welcome (back!) to Tuesdays on the Run. Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs for Beer and Bling and I are hosting this weekly running blog link-up. Heads up for you bloggers out there, next week’s topic is injuries! Today’s topic is Running Shoes, but any running-related post is welcome to link up.
The Back-Story (because you know I like to have super long blog posts, sorry about that)
When I ran pre-kids (over a decade ago!) I ran in ASICS Nimbus. I loved them! So when I started running again in 2012, I went and picked up another pair of their newest version, the Nimbus 14’s. I really loved them and stuck with them for a couple of years. But then my eye started wandering. I started exploring other shoes. I went to a local running store and got assessed and they put me in a pair of Brooks. They felt great at first and then somehow I ended up getting tight calf issues and a touch of Achilles tendonitis. I relegated the Brooks to yard work and ran (pun intended) back to my trusty Nimbus. Because running shoe companies can’t stop tinkering with things, they tend to release new models every year (kind of like cars). I didn’t get a chance to stock up on my 14’s before they went out of stock and were replaced by the 15’s.
At that point, if I was faced with adjusting to new shoes anyways I figured I’d try something new. I found a really cheap (well cheap compared to the new Nimbus 15s I was looking at) pair of Altra Torins. They sold themselves as having a foot shaped toe box and a more natural zero drop. More on that later. Well, for the price I figured it was worth the risk. I ordered them and when they came I was a little put off by how weird the shoes looked on. That foot shaped toe box just looked strange to me.
The shoes came with two pairs of inserts. One is a “trainer” pair with a bit of arch support designed to help you get used to the shoes. Eventually, you’re supposed to transition to the normal inserts which have no arch support under the theory that you should have strengthened your feet enough not to need external support.
The shoes also come with the instructions to gradually transition them in if you’ve been running in regular running shoes so that your feet and calves have a chance to adapt to the different muscles required for running in zero drop shoes.
Zero-Drop (what does that mean?)
Zero drop is a great phrase to throw around to impress your running friends. It means that when you are wearing the shoe that your heel is at the same height as your toes. The heel of the shoe is not elevated. Most standard running shoes have some degree of “drop” from the back to the front. My Nimbus 14’s had a 13.1mm drop. So the heels were 13.1mm higher than the toes. Most running shoes range from zero to 16mm drop so my old shoes were at the high end. this meant that switching to a zero drop shoe would be a bigger adjustment for me.
It actually took me about three months to fully transition. I started using my Torins on shorter runs. I definitely felt the extra effort required by my calf muscles. I actually think that wearing my Torins all day after the Tink 10k to tour the parks and Expo contributed (one of many factors) to having such a bad half marathon at Tink the next day. I hadn’t adjusted yet to the extra calf effort and all that walking after a 10k fatigued my legs too much.
The angle of the shoe can affect how your foot strikes the ground while you run. There is lots of controversy about that, but generally a mid-foot strike pattern is considered more desirable than a heel strike pattern or a fore-front foot strike pattern. The zero drop shoe is said to encourage the mid-foot strike, but I’ve always run with a mid-foot strike so I didn’t notice any change there. Altra also claims that it strengthens the lower legs and I absolutely have noticed that. My calf definition is dramatically different since fully transitioning to the Torins and my feet do feel stronger with less tweaky twinges.
The Torins are a highly cushioned shoe, especially for a zero-drop shoe which tend to be more minimalist. As a “non-skinny” runner, the extra cushioning is welcome to help prevent stress injuries. I’ve been able to increase my weekly mileage and add speed work without injury (knock wood) while training in my Torins.
Foot Shaped Toe Box
Funny looking or not, those toe boxes are the main reason I’m sold on these shoes. Every other running shoe I’ve worn has felt ok during the run but after I’m done I can’t wait to rip them off. The front of my foot never felt roomy enough and sometimes actually hurt. I couldn’t switch to wide shoes without the heel slipping right off but the toe boxes were never wide enough. I also refuse to wear those pointy shoes (I call them mouse nose shoes because they look like they should have whiskers on the tips) to work. I just don’t see the benefit to torturing my feet. I sold shoes in high school and college (yes such a sexy job) and I saw first hand the results of women shoving their poor feet into shoes too short, too narrow and too pointy. Not for me, thanks!
The Torins are a completely different story. I can come home from a 10 mile run and my feet feel great. I often sit down to cool off and don’t even think about taking my shoes off until I am ready to take a shower. They are amazingly comfortable and a refreshing change.
Altra also says that the foot shaped toe box allows your feet to spread out naturally helping with stability and allowing for a more powerful push-off. I’m not sure if it’s the shoe or the speedwork or a combination, but I have noticed a difference in my stride. Generally part way through a longer repeat or a tempo run, I’ll suddenly notice I’ve shifted into a super-efficient stride with a stronger pushoff.
It’s hard to argue with images like this:
The Torins are sized just a little small. I wear a 6.5 in street shoes and a 7.5 in running shoes. The 7.5 in the Torins is just a touch too short. The 8.0 is too big (I ordered a pair and tried them on several runs). Until they make a 7 3/4, I’m going to stick with the 7.5 and accept that I might lose a toenail every now and then. I do have strangely shaped toes with the second and third toes being longer than my big toe, so my feet may be the problem!
Altra truly does more than just throw some pink on a shoe for its women’s models. This graphic shows all the customizations for their women’s shoes.
My Torins have held up very well to regular use. I’ve been running in them for about 8 months and am just now breaking in a new pair. I had a problem with several pairs of my Nimbus 14’s where the heel blew out after just a few runs. I didn’t have any part of my Torins that failed on me and they lasted longer than I expected.
Because Altra has released version 1.5 in the Torins, the original version is super cheap right now. I got four pairs for $150 recently (I’ve stocked up!). The new version is $120 which is about average for running shoes.
Weight: 7.8 ounces which is lighter than my Nimbus 14’s but still a fairly heavy shoe for racing in (if you’re a serious racer). Pretty standard for a trainer. The new Torin 1.5 is 8.3 ounces.
Colors: The original Torin came in teal/black and fuschia. I now own several pairs in both colors. The Torin 1.5 comes in black, green and blue.
Where to buy: My favorite online running shop is runningwarehouse.com. Several online groups have discount codes that make their already low prices even better. If I’ve been fitted for a shoe in a local running store, I make sure to buy the first pair from that store, but extras or replacements I always get from runningwarehouse.
Company: Altra seems like a stand up company. They reply to tweets and just feel like an innovative company.
In case you couldn’t tell by the context clues above, I give these a big thumbs up. The only downside is that the sizing is a little short, but I’ve read that the new Torin 1.5’s fit a little truer to size (although I haven’t tried them yet). Read about Altra here, go to a shoe store and try on a pair, transition into them gradually if you’re used to a higher drop and let me know what you think! I can’t see myself going back to a standard shoe after feeling the comfort of the Torins.
What are your favorite shoes? Have you ever tried a zero drop shoe or a foot shaped toe box?