Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NYC Marathon Part III~ Why I Love My HOKAs

When a conversation about running shoes begins with the statement: "They aren't very good looking shoes!", you have to wonder...

Lucky for me I don't buy, and have never bought a pair of shoes, because of "what they look like". For me, performance and comfort above style, color and look. Mostly comfort.

Quiet possibly there's no other piece of equipment more important to an athlete than the shoes are to the runner. And there's quiet possibly no piece of equipment more important to a runner with bad feet than the right shoes.

And what does a post specific to running shoes have to do in the middle of my NYC Marathon recap?

Let's see...

It could be argued, and it has been, that anyone can run without shoes.  Yes, this is true. I see at each race plenty of folks running barefoot. However, to someone who has the issues I've had with my feet, this is not an option. If you care to know more about these issues, next time we see each other, ask me to show you my feet, in particular my left foot.

I have tried just about every brand of running shoe available to me in Middle Tennessee.  I have had "professional" shoe fitters fit me, I have fitted some myself.  Some have worked for a bit, others longer and a few have just bombed.

The issue I have boils down to support and comfort, which leads to improved performance. My left ankle is good for about a half marathon. After that distance it begins to ache and the longer the run, the stronger the pain. I've had ankle surgery, two tumors have been removed and after this surgery, the ankle was never the same.

I heard about this new shoe called HOKA. I was told that it was an "ugly" shoe.  Not sure why it mattered what it looked like but when I first saw one, I understood what they meant. It is in fact, an interesting looking shoe.

When I brought the HOKAs home and my daughters saw them, only thing they had to say was... "Seriously Dad? Seriously?"

I was told that running with this shoe on was like running with pillow tops on your feet. "This may just be what I've been looking for", I remember thinking.

After researching more about this shoe, I decided to give them a try. So I bought me a pair.

At first sight, you might think that this shoe is a heavy sort of shoe, that its weight would be an issue.  Let  me show you...

A total weight of 12.7 oz!  That's it!

I laced them up and took them for a run. On your feet, they do feel like pillow tops. A few steps with them and you can't believe how they feel.

First couple of steps were a bit odd but felt good. But within a few yards I could feel a potential problem:  I was striking heavily on my heel.  I did not feel the impact on my ankles and knees because of the padding of the shoe, but I could tell I was doing this. This would be a problem. Perhaps this is a problem I've been having all along, and this shoe just magnified the issue.

It made me concentrate hard on my striking. It was a struggle to focus on this again, but soon enough I had the issue under control.  At the start of every run, I have to fix this and every so often I catch myself going back to the heel strike. I'm not sure why I've noticed this more with this shoe than with any other shoe, but I have.

The first real test came during a 20 mile long run. I cannot tell you the ankles did not hurt, for they still did, but the pain I could feel was cut probably in half.  In shorter runs, anything over 8 miles and including the Middle Half Marathon, the ankles were not an issue.

In the ING New York  City Marathon, these shoes were a Godsend.  During the last marathon I ran, the ankles were literally on fire. In NYC, although they hurt, the pain was manageable.

Someone asked me if the shoes made me faster during my Half Marathon PR run. That, my friend, I do not know.  I'd like to think that the shoes allowed me to run the race I had trained to run.

So, do I wear these shoes during all my training?

No, I don't. I only wear these shoes for any distance longer than 8 miles, give or take.

For short, tempo runs I wear ONs.

And for speed work, I wear Brooks.

Notice that there's only .7 oz difference between the HOKAs and the ONs and 1.7 oz difference between the HOKAs and the Brooks.

So, if weight is not an issue and looks really don't matter, then it must be all about the comfort and improved performance.  That's why I love my HOKAs.

Added bonus... wearing the HOKAs in the NYC Marathon made me a popular kinda guy while patiently waiting in the "Staging Area" before the race started.  One runner asked me how I liked my shoes. I told him. Before I knew it, there had been at least 15 people around me wanting to know all about the HOKAs.

Okay, I must confess.  I don't think they would have valued my opinion quiet as much had it not been for the bib number "542" pinned to my shirt. I could just hear everyone thinking... "this guy is fast, so we really need to know what his opinion is". More about this in upcoming posts.

This is Part III of a IV part recap of my NYC Marathon Experience and Journey. Part IV ~ Race Day coming tomorrow.

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process, can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half, can be found here.