Dr. J on Running

If the Shoe Fits

24 December 2009

The Creator endowed me with six toes per foot that resulted in wide feet. My first running shoe was a Saucony size 12 2E. Over the years, I alternated between New Balance 12 2E and Saucony 12 2E. I preferred the Saucony triangular lug outsoles for snow and trail running, and sported the New Balance for track and road running. I bought the occasional Adidas 12 2E, but I did not find comfortable shoes from any other shoemaker.

When I embarked on my Born to Run experiment-of-one last summer, I identified a sequence of running shoes with decreasing weights to get me close to barefoot running. New Balance offered many of those shoes on clearance sale on their web site. I bought NB 903, 901, 829, 505 and 605, all in 12 2E. Their weights ranged from 352 grams (12.5 oz) for the 901 to 204 grams (7.2 oz) for the 605. Yet something did not feel quite right.

While my feet felt comfortable and snug in all these shoes, my soles felt unhappy in the smaller shoes. A 5K race in 505s left me with blisters at the bottom of both feet. It felt as if my feet spilled over the outsoles of my shoes. This called for a scientific experiment. Armed with calipers, I set out to measure the size of the outsole. The results shocked me.

The table below shows the length and width in millimeters of each of the shoes:


The NB 903 in 12 2E measures 18 mm wider and 25 mm longer than the NB 605 in 12 2E. That translates into -in wider and 1 in longer same manufacturer, same last, same size. So, racing flats in 12 2E are a lot narrower and shorter than running shoes of the same size. I can solve the length discrepancy by buying size 13, but the width discrepancy proves problematic. New Balance does not make racing flats in 4E widths. A thorough search of all major athletic shoe makers reveals that none of them makes wide racing flats. Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike, Puma and Saucony appear to make shoes that fit the average runner, and ignored the outlier.

This discovery of shoe-width discrepancy and the lack of wide racing flats may bring a premature conclusion to my experiment-of-one. In the meantime, I enjoy the feeling of freedom when I lace up my 320-gram NB 903 12 2E, 100 grams lighter than the 874s of five months ago.

Dr Kamal Jabbour hides well his sixth tow, a feature that appealed to his wife who collects seven-toed cats. Dr. J receives email at kamal@jabbour.org. His RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever the endorphines move him to write.

© 2009 Dr Kamal Jabbour