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Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist)
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/26/2012 22:17:44 MDT Print View

Packs, tents, stoves, sleeping bags...none of that really turns me on.
But shoes...I like running shoes. I spend a lot of time in them, so it's a worthwhile fetish.

Last time I hiked with Nick Gatel I was struck by the fact he was wearing his shoes two sizes (or close to that?) too large. He had at least an inch of empty space up there. We're both fans of pretty minimal shoes, so I was interested in where he was coming from. If I remember right, he essentially said he buys them that big to avoid any toe bumping/rubbing in the toebox whatsoever and provide room for ample swelling. This makes sense, we all do it...But two sizes? I thought you'd slide forward too much on the downhills, but he said it was never an issue.

So I'm out looking for new shoes for my R2R2R run. My NB110 have 300+ miles on them and will be close to being pretty shot when I put another 100+ on them in the next 3 weeks before the Grand Canyon. Running sockless 90% of the time has trashed the insides pretty quickly. So it's decision time; either commit to running it in them, or get some new shoes right away to have time for some break-in before the run.

I picked up a pair of Brooks Pure Grits. Last time I bought shoes, it was a toss-up between them and the NB110s. I opted to try a little more cushion this time. And I was hooked by the obnoxious bright red/orange and fluorescent green. Science has proven obnoxious colored shoes make you faster.

The crux of the matter:
I'm always looking for a shoe with a roomy toebox and have trouble finding one. My actual foot measurement is a hair over 12 D (maybe 12.25), so I've always run in 13s. Some companies work, some are too pointy and narrow in the toe. My buddy Adan wears 14s and I tried some of his Brooks Pure Connects the other day...they felt promising. Wearing 14s never really occurred to me...that's nearly two sizes too big.

So I sized up to 14s on the new Grits I bought tonight. Relief! No matter what I could do in them in REI, doing leaps and contortions on their little fake rock in the running section, I couldn't get my toes to jam into the toebox.

I will be running about 25 miles of trail with ~9000 feet of gain tomorrow. I haven't run in them yet, but I think sizing up is what I've been looking for. They lace tight enough that I don't think they'll be sloppy on the downhill and will provide plenty of room for swelling.

Duh! Was it that simple?

Has the roomy, wide toebox of my dreams simply been a size 14 all along?

Are some of us roomy toebox seekers possibly just wearing the wrong size?

Nick Gatel, you're a gentleman and a scholar!

Edited by xnomanx on 03/26/2012 22:22:11 MDT.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist)" on 03/26/2012 22:28:52 MDT Print View

I have the exact same pair of obnoxious green/orange Grits, they drew me in like a deer to headlights.

My pair is well broken in and I'm only running in them on the weekends. Pair #1 is still going strong, 4 months strong, although the outsole is about done.

I prefer a wide toebox laterally, but not much extra room in front of my gnarly finger toes. However, if it works for Nick Gatel, then I might have to give it a shot. ;-)

Edited by Eugeneius on 03/26/2012 22:41:41 MDT.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/27/2012 07:33:46 MDT Print View

Does the volume (i.e. width) of the shoe also grow with the increased length? 2 sizes up seems like an awful lot. I feel like my heel would be pulling out and my foot would be floating a lot, particularly on side hills. I don't have a very wide foot though. Maybe you do?

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/27/2012 08:08:15 MDT Print View

I have worn trail runners that were too big for me, just because my size can be hard to find sometimes. For me it has not worked at all. The extra room and the sliding in them when going downhill have caused me blisters. Same with the right size shoe but not tightening them enough.
Maybe this only works with wide feet that somewhat stay in their place in longer shoes?
On the other hand, I have never had toe jamming problems. Some of that, I hear, has to do with leaving the nail too long.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/27/2012 08:25:28 MDT Print View

I think the key is pairing a snug heal with a big toe box. if the back half of the foot is nice and secure you won't rattle around in a big toe box.
The old Montrail Continental Divides (here is where Craig cringes they are so heavy) fit the bill perfectly. But eventually they were even a bit too heavy for me.

I was on the verge of pulling the trigger on a pair of Pure Grits (tried on 5 times in the stores, and love the fit) until last weekends 50 mile run on rocks. Now I'm rethinking my next pair of shoes. I'm also a dedicated rock kicker, and my current favorites (Salomon wings S-Lab) have a very soft toe cap. My toenail necklace is just about finished so I figure its time to change shoe models. While upsizing could help protect the toes, I'd still like a firmer toe cap.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/27/2012 09:55:32 MDT Print View

Nathan, I would think with increased length the width would also size up accordingly, maybe not with every inch of increased length.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/27/2012 11:27:20 MDT Print View

Lets think this out.

Traditional hiking boots are designed to:
- Provide support for loads
- Protect feet from obstacles
- Be able to bulge on the sides with increased loads
- Be water proof

When we talk about boots supporting loads, it is about wrapping the boot around the foot like athletic tape, while be able to flex some. It is often recommended that the "free" space in front of your toes be about one thumb nail width, which for me is about 5/8" of an inch. Also before lacing up the boot you need to be able to push your foot forward all the way to the front of the shoe and place a finger between you heel and the back of the boot. You should be able to wiggle your toes with the boot laced, and your toes should be compressed from the boot. So this fitting does not provide a whole lot of variance if your feet swell from long hard hiking.

Because boots are stiff and and not very flexible, most need a break in period. This allows the leather to stretch some, and for your feet to "toughen up."

Traditional running shoes are designed to provide support too, cushion the bottom of the feet from the pounding of feet during running (much more brutal on the feet than walking), and force the foot to an unnatural position to compensate for pronation. Trail running shoes add additional protection from rocks with a bottom rock plate and often "armor" on the sides and front against rocks and tree roots.

Minimalist shoes are only designed to protect the bottom of the foot from impact. Most have a rock plate. XC racing flats only have a minimal midsole cushion -- no rock plate.

I have found minimalist trail runners to have a much stiffer construction on the body of the shoe versus a XC flat. But they are pretty flexible. The flexibility allows you to tighten the shoe on downhills, without constricting the foot and cutting off blood supply. With XC flats, the shoe body is almost paper thin and you would be hard pressed to tighten the shoe too much. However for long runs or hiking in difficult terrain, XC flats increase your chances of impact injuries. There is a significant difference between something like a MT110 and a Wave 4 Universe in this regard.

Typically going up one size increases the length of the shoe 1/6" and proportionally very little in width. Two sizes increases the length 1/3 of an inch.

Longer minimalist shoes are pretty easy to keep the heel stable, even with a longer shoes, assuming the basic last is compatible with the structure of your foot. My feet are fairly narrow and I am thin, so "D" width fits me well around my arch area and heel, but is extremely roomy in the front.

So going up two sizes in a minimalist shoe is going to add very little extra width. Additionally, with any light shoe your feet are going to absorb more impact that with a boot since there is less structure and cushioning. However, when running your foot strike and mechanics are going to change some versus normal running shoes. Your legs are going to absorb more of the impact, and act more like a coiled spring. This is why people experience very sore muscles when switching to minimalist shoes the first time.

Since the front of a longer shoe is going to be a little more spacey, most people will have concerns with the foot moving around and causing blisters. I have found this is not the case for me. But the bottom of my feet are not soft since I am on the trail a lot and walk barefoot when around the house or going for walks.

So my running/hiking shoes are light, flexible and easy to adjust the tightness using laces so my feet are not constricted. The front of my feet have a minimum of 1" free space.

John Bragelman
shoe lengths on 03/27/2012 12:04:24 MDT Print View

Having spent over 10 years working at a specialty running store, I can say that shoe lengths vary quite widely, even within manufacturers. We would always recommend about a thumbs width of space, so usually around 3/4" between your toe and the end of the shoe, as your feet can swell a full size over extended periods of impact. So, whether it's a size smaller than you're used to or 1.5 sizes larger, the number itself isn't very important.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
sizing up, 2 times--any ill consequences? on 03/27/2012 12:26:54 MDT Print View

This is an interesting observation Craig and Nick, and provides a lot of food for thought. In the past, I've sized up 1 at max. I'm curious to know if sizing up 2 has the unintended consequence of the user's foot no longer matching the shape of the shoe's last. Specifically, I know shoes tend to narrow a bit where the arch of the foot is. Moreover, the arch support may be out of line with a shoe sized 2 sizes up. I guess this isn't really a problem with non-goretex minimalist shoes which use little to no arch support, and very flexible stretch materials. Still curious to know if anyone's observed ill side effects due to a mismatching profile between the shoe and the user's foot.

Edited by Konrad1013 on 03/27/2012 12:27:51 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Sizing up, 2 times--any ill consequences? on 03/27/2012 16:18:19 MDT Print View

I think you're right Konrad; sizing up might work in a minimal shoe, but likely not in one with arch support and other features designed to fit a certain foot size.


This was a short-lived experiment with these shoes. Had them out for a 22 mile run today, with just under 10,000 cumulative elevation change. The size was fine; no issues sliding around and my toes felt great. But I found I just don't like the shoe. Too soft for me, I guess I'm just going to stick with the MT110 at this point. I don't have to size up in those as the toebox seems to fit my foot shape well.

Fortunately, the REI salesman told me to bring them back if I didn't like them. I told him I was going to run 20+ miles in them...He said it didn't matter. He told me all REI employees have been reminded/re-instructed by management to take returns no questions asked, so don't worry about a used pair of shoes. They'd rather build life-long customers.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist)" on 03/27/2012 20:20:59 MDT Print View

Grits had to feel like pillowy moonboots coming off of months of running in the MT110s Craig. Those two only share a similar drop, other than that they're quite different beasts.

That initial footbed height and midsole cushion settles quite a bit after a few runs.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: "Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist)" on 03/27/2012 20:42:00 MDT Print View

They did feel really soft. At first, I was loving it. But over time, I don't know...
I've found that soft or thick shoes seem to cause foot/knee problems with me- cramping/tightness in my arches is usually the first symptom. Got a little bit of it today at about 12 miles in. The MT110s are certainly firmer, but they don't cause weird issues with me...just normal fatigue.

It seems to me that I pound harder when I run in soft shoes- because I can. My knees start feeling it pretty soon. I know it seems contrary to what most people would think, but thinner, firmer shoes seem to keep me running with a lighter footstrike. My feet seem to like it better too.

Many barefoot/minimal advocates cite that in studies: put a person in a thick, soft, supportive shoe and measure the impact force of their strikes. Compared to a minimal shoe or barefoot, the forces are much higher. You strike harder because some of your feedback is least that's the theory. It seems to be the case with me.

So as much as I imagine a soft shoe that will help relieve foot fatigue and speed recovery a bit (which is why I tried the Grits), I'm likely just trading one set of problems for another.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Brooks on 03/27/2012 21:01:09 MDT Print View

I mentioned to you about having to get used to the height and softness in mine as well. Not sure I like these for our mountains but for pavement they are superb and for long hard-pack trails like GC they should be awesome. Just a bit narrow, but they don't come In wide or sz 15 so I'm stuck there.

When I bought shoes at REI, I specifically asked them "what if there is nothing wrong with the shoe but I just don't like them?". Their response was "if you aren't happy with them, return them and maybe we can help you find something else". I shop there often because of that, all part of their evil plan.

Edited by Lopez on 03/27/2012 21:03:01 MDT.

Jon Leibowitz
(jleeb) - F - MLife

Locale: 4Corners
Cascadias on 03/27/2012 21:09:51 MDT Print View

I just picked up the new (and very ugly) Cascadia 7s. They are incredibly comfortable. I got them 1 size larger than normal. I have nothing to compare to though since they are my first trail runners. I got them big simply so I can wear thicker socks if need be. They are not minimalist and don't try to be, but they are incredibly comfortable. The thing I love about them is their breathability, traction, and just enough cushion. I've had them for a week and have put about 20 miles on them on the trail.

This is my first non hiking boot shoe and I think I'm in love.

Edited by jleeb on 03/27/2012 21:15:41 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Huaraches on 03/27/2012 21:14:25 MDT Print View

This is why I need to just bite the bullet, make a pair, and start running in them. I'm sure they have their downsides, but once used to them, at least they'll never change!

torrey saylor
(everyday) - F

Locale: south rim
Merrell on 03/31/2012 07:19:44 MDT Print View

I love my Merrell trail-gloves! The first day i ran my regular trail in them (august last year) I knocked 50 seconds off my best time for that run (3 mile, technical canyon trail) I LOVE them! they are my first "barefoot type"/zero drop shoe, and I feel like im flying in em. and my stride and form have been improved by running in em too, they keep me from over-extending. My other trail-runners are the old adidas tr3's. I use them in winter for snow n icy conditions to hold the microspikes and yaktrax on better, and so my toes dont freeze. I REALLY!!! want a pair of altra lone peaks for my 30mi+ grand canyon runs. Hopefilly ill get them in a month or two! I have a picture of em on my wall, lol
I Love shooz too :)

Tom Beno
(KillerB) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
RE: Lone Peaks on 03/31/2012 15:29:18 MDT Print View

Torrey, have you tried on the Altra Lone Peaks? I also thought they might be the perfect trail shoe. I own and really like a couple of their other, minimalist models. But I found that for me the Lone Peaks were disappointing once I tried them on. Not as wide in the forefoot as other Altras, heavy, inflexible. They almost feel like a "beta release" to me...not quite ready for prime time but some future version 2.0 may be superb.

I also love the Trail Glove but wanted just a little more underfoot protection. My best solution so far is the NB MT110, very similar fit to the Trail Glove, a bit more stiffness underfoot to deal with rocks and such.

I'm envious, if you found the fit of the Lone Peaks to your liking. But I'm still looking for that perfect trail shoe.

Edited by KillerB on 03/31/2012 15:30:37 MDT.

Jeremy Gus
(gustafsj) - MLife

Locale: Minneapolis
Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/31/2012 16:13:29 MDT Print View

yes, I also have a shoe fettish as well. It's funny how since I started "barefoot" running, I have tried and owned more shoes in the last 3 years than I have had my whole life! That includes running shoes, casual shoes, boots, and work shoes.

For trail running, I have used the Merrell Trail Glove, NB MT101, NB MT110, VivoBarefoot Evo II, Inov8 295, and Inov8 BareGrip 200. My favorite by far is the NB MT110, so much so that I am getting rid of all the other pairs of shoes. The trail gloves have too much toe spring for me and were giving me blisters on the bottom of my feet where the spring starts to pull up. The MT101's had too much heel-to-toe drop, the Evo II's outers were too stiff for me, and the Inov8's were too narrow.

I have a pair of Altra Samson's showing up on Monday for those trail runs that are a little less technical. I was going to get the NB MT00's, but when I read about the delamination issues, I decided to order the Samson's instead.

I used to wear size 12s all the time and now I'm up to a 13. I don't know if that is a result of using minimalist shoes for the last 3 years or what... I do like the extra room I have and the extra length doesn't seem to ever get in the way.

Jeremy Gus
(gustafsj) - MLife

Locale: Minneapolis
Re: Re: Shoe Epiphanie? (Musings of a shoe fetishist) on 03/31/2012 16:15:11 MDT Print View

The shoe fettish reminds me of this...

Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say:

torrey saylor
(everyday) - F

Locale: south rim
Re: RE: Lone Peaks on 03/31/2012 20:45:29 MDT Print View

Tom--No, i havent tried em on yet, The Lone Peaks I mean. If i dont care for em, ill just stick with the trail gloves i think :) Im pretty happy with em, even for over 30 GC miles, they were fine. I just though the lone peaks might be a slightly sturdier version of the merrells..