Loyalty can offer rewards, or at least satisfaction. Gwen Stewart has been nothing if not loyal to the Asics GT-2000 line of shoes, wearing them to run for the past two decades.
The Cambridge resident will lace them up again on Patriots Day, as she runs for Boston Medical Center. The reason Stewart has been so loyal: her “funny feet,” as she puts it.
“I have heels that are prone to bone spurs,” says Stewart, who is about to start a new job as coalition director for Tobacco Free Mass. “That limits the types of shoes. If it rubs, I’m in agony.”
So Stewart has stuck with the Asics GT-2000 shoes, even when the flashy colors were not to her liking.
“I’m a victim of whatever colors they choose for that season,” she says. “I’ve worn shoes I probably wouldn’t have picked out for fashion, but then again, it’s running, and it’s usually dark out when I’m running.”
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Julie Otero knew something was amiss when she was headed home after a run through Wompatuck State Park. Her legs were sore. Her feet and knees hurt. So she stopped off at the Marathon Sports in Norwell and asked for help.
That was three years ago, and she’s still wearing the model of shoes she bought that day, the Adidas Boost. The extra cushion made all the difference in her running, completely changing her experience. She rotates between two pairs, usually bringing out one on rainy and snowy days, and the other on dry days.
The training consultant at marathon sponsor John Hancock will wear them on Boston Marathon day, as she raises money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and the Ron Burton Training Village. She doesn’t really wear any other shoe to run. And she’s wearing the worn-down pairs even when she’s not running.
”They end up being my hang-around town shoes for a while,” she says, “and they finally end up being my mow-the-lawn shoes.”
Anthony Crudale thought he might have broken his foot. His pain was that bad. He felt a ripping pain as he finished a run in February.
Turns out, he just needed to switch shoes. His doctor, he says, believes Crudale had a muscle strain, possibly brought on by shoelaces that were too tight.
He’s has now taken two long runs in the Adidas Adizero Adios 3, including one 22-mile jaunt along the Boston course in late March. They have a lighter feel than the Adidas Energy Boost shoes he wears on training runs. The Amica Mutual employee from West Warwick, R.I., returned to running 60 to 90 miles a week after his injury. But now, like most runners, he’s tapering for the marathon, and he’s hopeful that the new shoes will propel him to his fastest time at Boston. And he believes he’s got a racing shoe he will stick with.
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Like most runners who need to find a new shoe, Manny Gonzalez labored over the choice. He decided he needed shoes with a little more support, so he scrolled through online reviews and prodded his friends about their best picks.
It wasn’t until one of his best buddies broke 2:30 for the marathon last fall that Gonzalez found his answer: the Nike Zoom Streak 6. The shoe proved itself, its cushion apparently not interfering with its speed.
“Once I talked to him, I went and bought them a day or two later,” the health care policy analyst says. “They kind of push you up on your toes a little bit, which I thought was really good, especially late in the marathon when you need that extra push.”
Now, the Cambridge resident has his own plans to break 2:30. He ran a 2:32 in Boston two years ago, but with the Nike Streaks on his feet, he’s hoping to top that – if not on Patriots’ Day, then in another race later this year.
Unlike most runners who race in Boston for a charity, Rachel Frenkil can meet the qualifying requirement to run in a seeded wave. The 26-year-old has been running since the seventh grade, and clocked a 3:31 last year.
But Frenkil’s younger brother was treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Spanish teacher thought raising money for the hospital was a good way of saying “thank you.”
She’s not looking to run as quickly this year, as she hasn’t been able to do as much training. But the Allston resident has a new shoe for her races that she thinks should help her move at a faster clip: the relatively light Adidas Adios Boost. She just bought them in February so she hasn’t had a chance to race a marathon in them yet. “They’re so lightweight,” Frenkil says. “I feel pretty badass in them.”
Meb Keflezighi is fast enough to get shoes named after him, and to be involved in their creation. But even Keflezighi, a Skechers Performance-sponsored athlete, knows his limitations.
As he heads into his last year as a professional marathoner, the 2014 Boston Marathon champ will be opting for a little more cushioning. He used to run in various iterations of the Skechers GOMeb Speed (1, 2 and 3). But he says he’ll run Boston this year in a cushier GOMeb Razor prototype, which is actually slightly lighter than the Speeds.
Keflezighi, who turns 42 on May 5, has been working since 2011 with Kurt Stockbridge, a shoe developer at Skechers, to help design racing shoes. Stockbridge says in this case, they took the GOmeb Razor that's on the market now as a starting point, but then developed a version that would be both lighter and have more cushioning than the Speed flats for Keflezighi's new "game day shoe."
The San Diego resident still enjoys the GOMeb Speed, but realizes a little more support could help him thrive on a downhill-intensive course such as Boston. He’s already run one race in the new prototype shoes - the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon - and liked how they felt.
“Sometimes you just know when you put it on,” Keflezighi says. “There’s something about it that feels comfortable.”
It didn’t take long after Becca Pizzi crossed the finish line when she got the call from the CEO of Newton Running.
Of course, this wasn’t just your typical race. The Belmont runner had just finished her seventh marathon on seven continents in seven days, crossing the line as the first American female finisher of the World Marathon Challenge.
Newton’s Joe O’Neil prompted Pizzi to start wearing Newtons in her races exclusively, offering her a two-year sponsorship contract. Before that point, she alternated between Newtons and Brooks Adrenalines.
Pizzi says she’s fallen in love with her Newton Kismets, and would be wearing them even without that contract. They’re soft, light, and comfortable. Like other Newtons, they have distinctive lugs on the bottom of the soles, designed to prompt runners to use a more natural form with less heel strike.
Runners have “love them” or “hate them” responses to this unusual feature. Pizzi, of course, falls into the former camp. She’s already run Boston 16 times, in almost as many different shoes. But this time, she’ll be lacing up the Newtons, whose unique undersides draw an almost cult-like following.
“I’ll be on the river and I’ll pass a guy with them, and he’ll say ‘Newtons!,’” says Pizzi, who hopes to run 10 marathons this year, just not back-to-back. “You don’t get that with other kinds of shoes.”
She likes them so much, she wears them to the daycare center she owns and the ice cream shop she manages, both in Belmont. She also wears them when she gives motivational speeches, even when she’s wearing a dress.
“I have no interest in walking around in high heels,” Pizzi says.
The Hoka ad definitely hooked Drew Hartman. He was thinking about switching up his shoes, after getting frustrated by the long recovery time following his previous marathons. He saw an ad for the Hoka One One, a shoe line known for its pillow-like cushioning, last year and headed to a running store to try them on. The Hoka’s higher-than-average price tag didn’t scare him away.
In fact, he was smitten, almost instantly.
“I took one short run and I was sold,” says Hartman, who will run Boston in the pair of Hoka One One Claytons that he bought that day.
But the third-year law school student isn’t ready for a long-term relationship, at least not with his shoes. He’ll wear these for another six months or so, but he’s open to trying other kinds.
“I like these but I always want to find the best shoe,” says Hartman, who lives in the North End. “I don’t want to get too attached to a brand or anything. It’s all about what gets you across the line.”
Sometimes it takes a bad relationship with a shoe to lead you to the right relationship. Just ask Liz Ryan. She had been racing in the popular Saucony Kinvaras until early last year, when the shoes began giving her discomfort. “I had this weird callous-blister thing going on,” she says.
Her fiance, Ryan Place, suggested the Adidas Adizero Adios Boost. The new shoes are a little lighter than the Kinvaras, but Ryan suspects the cushioning in her old shoes was causing some of the problems.
Still, the former Cambridge resident (she moved to San Diego last fall) needs cushion when she trains, so she’s only breaking out the Adidas Adizeros for harder workouts or races.
She’s not sure if the lighter shoes will allow her to run more quickly, although she’s aiming to set a personal record for Boston by running a 2:43. “But just the fact that I’m not feeling like I’m breaking my feet is nice,” she says.
Triathletes seem to be more willing to indulge in garish colors than their sole-sport counterparts. So it’s not surprising that Stephen Chaput of Lexington has embraced the neon in the Asics Gel-Noosa tri shoes.
He started running in them three years ago, with a version 9, and has kept up with the latest iterations. However, he noticed blisters after racing in an 11, so he’ll drop back to one of his old 9s for Boston. There’s only so long those old shoes will last, so he’s a little worried about being able to find newer versions that don’t rub his feet the wrong way.
One thing he’s not worried about: colors so bright, they almost glow in the dark.
“I just like a little pizzazz,” says Chaput, who works in the software industry. “All my running clothes have a lot of color in them.”