There are many factors in running shoes, and it seems like they are constantly changing and difficult to keep up with.
One such factor is cushion. Put simply (because I’m sure it can be made more complicated by considering the materials used), cushion is what it sounds like – how much cushion you have under your foot. Cushion helps with shock absorption, and may make the shoe more supportive.
Some shoes have a different shoe height in the toe vs. the heel (referred to as drop), which may have different cushion levels in different areas. However, as I just experienced, even a zero drop (same height in heel and toe) can have varying levels of cushion.
I think pretty much everything related to triathlon is about personal preference, but as far as I have read, even other experts appear to view cushion levels largely as just a matter of preference. (I am sure someone will take issue with that, and I could probably go out and find amazing athletes on either side of the spectrum).
I hadn’t given it much thought. I have had ultra supportive running shoes in the past (with a large food drop) that I really didn’t like. Lately I have been loving Altra running shoes with zero drop. However, I bought a pair on sale in the spring and they haven’t been feeling great to run in. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew they didn’t feel right.
I recently visited a running store and tried on a different pair of Altra’s. They were the only pair in the store, and interestingly smaller than I would usually wear. The store didn’t have a larger size to compare, but somehow the sales woman convinced me it was a good fit. They certainly felt great in the store. After a couple of weeks of running in them, I am loving them.
The difference? Besides the size, these are more cushioned than the ones I didn’t like. They are not Altra’s most cushioned, but have significant cushion. So, lesson learned, at this point I like a mid to high level of cushion.
What do you run best in?