Every Step of the Way: My Journey to Finding the Perfect Shoe

Running is one of the most basic sports when it comes to training gear. I mean all we really need are clothes and the perfect shoe. Of course, that is where the complications begin. This simple necessity, a running shoe, takes up entire stores – filling the wall with hundreds of styles. Minimalist, tried it. Stabilization, been there. Extra cushion, done that.Then every year our beloved Runner’s World Magazine features the Shoe Guide… adding MORE shoes to the equation (what the heck is On Cloud?!). I’ve tried to keep up -from Saucony to Asics, New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Hoka, and Skechers – I’ve tried them all- not because of the fad, but because I’ve yet to find the shoe that works for me. Crazy, right? I’ve been running since 1998 and even with 19 years of experience (I mean 11 years of being serious) I’ve yet to find the shoe that fits.

I started with Saucony (where my OG runners at!?), where I was told it was the perfect shoe because they primarily focus on running. I was a heel striker who pronated so they reccommended a shoe with stabilization, basically the big mid foot block with black freckles. I guess that shoe worked for me, I’ll never really know because then I was turned to Asics and thought I found my match. I absolutely LOVED the Gel-Kayano, it hit the stabilization needs I was told would keep me healthy, and it was about $160 – the bigger the price the better the shoe right?! Wrong! I ended up with my first stress fracture. No hard feelings towards the shoe, I’m still in love with it, and actually won a pair running the “Marathon Challenge” at the LA Marathon, but we just weren’t helping each other strive. I went on to try the Nimbus and Cumulus but just couldn’t get rid of the pain. I was then given New Balance by my coach, partly because I was broke and we couldn’t afford running shoes, but also because his team was sponsored by them. They were good, but they weren’t making the problem go away.

You see, the shoes aren’t fully the problem. It was also me. We thought getting custom orthotics and finding shoes that bandage my mechanical issues would be the quick fix and that was far from it. My junior year of college my physical therapist taught me to run on my toes. The idea was it would shorten my stride and keep me from heel striking, which was causing the chronic shin injuries. Our hopes were I would get lazy and mid foot strike – once again, we were wrong. My perfectionism (even subconsiously) would not allow me to get lazy and I became a tip-toe runner – which apparently is quite rare since even non-runners would comment on my strange running form. This worked for me (for the most part) as my shin pain went away, but I would get terrible strains on the top of my foot every track season. I was able to ignore it for the most part because I was now running in Hokas, but they weren’t doing much to strengthen my feet or calves as a whole.

So now that brings me to today. I upset my foot/ankle from tip-toe running on hills daily and decided I was sick of paying for my own shoes. I mean let’s be real, I like many unsigned runners are expected to try and train at the elite level, work part-time to somewhat survive, and then buy our own shoes. I felt as though I wasn’t getting anywhere and wanted to feel some sort of success. I was running about 70 miles a week meaning I was expected to get a new pair every month (which wasn’t happening). As a mini experiment I decided to abandon my orthotics, practice mid-foot running, and transition into new shoes that promote foot and calf use. My team is sponsored by Skechers (I myself am not affiliated with Skechers apart from my affiliation with Cal Coast Track Club), but me being stubborn has held off in hopes of dropping my time and landing a contract on my own or something with more monetary value than 3 shoes a year. That’s great if you have the tools to keep you healthy, but many of us do not. Since my mileage was low enough I decided to give Skechers a try sans orthotics. I started off with the MebGO Razors, which are what you would either consider a minimalist shoe or speed trainer. I felt my weakend foot muscles instantly. I became sore from my toes to my hips, but the ankle and foot pain seemed to respond quite well. I then was offered to try the GORun Ultra R 2 – which is similar to Hoka One One with the extra cushioning. Aside from rolling my ankle the first half mile (yay for instability) I loved them!

I’ve always been told to rotate shoes, but up until now, it has never been something I committed to. Personally, I’ve liked the results thus far, but I’ve also been limited to 30-36 miles a week. I found this as an opportunity for change; focus on perfecting my form and strengthening my feet while my mileage is low. For me, this is not the mileage that would reveal the shoes true value, I would need to double that mileage in order to make a concrete decision. However, I will admit my reluctancy to try Skechers running shoes was beat down after my first run in each shoe. I feel this is a misconception many of us “serious” runners have. We can’t believe Skechers is breaking into our market (how dare they!) – but if we take the time to strengthen our weaknesses maybe we will find it’s not fully the shoes to blame. It makes me wonder if it’s really the shoe that makes the runner or the runner that makes the shoe. Only time and mileage will tell.

P.S. Keep checking back, I will be announcing an upcoming raffle soon!

Just Keep Running. XOXO

Ashlee Powers


This is a personal blog. All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.