We have ALL read the advice in the popular running blogs and magazines — don’t run in new shoes, don’t try out any hydration or energy gels, do a trial run of all your gear before the race, etc., etc. I have scoffed at this advice and committed the ultimate running sin… twice now. I HAVE RUN IN SHOES I BOUGHT AT THE EXPO! I have also done the other stuff too, but shoes seem to be the biggest no no, so I am sharing my experience.
The first time I did this dastardly deed, it was at the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon in San Jose in 2013. I had run this race several times before so the course was known to me. Another fact, is that I had not trained. I was burnt out and kept thinking that if I signed up for a race, it would FORCE me to train and run. Side note, it did force me to run because races are expensive, but I paid for it in post-race recovery. I’ll cover how to get your mojo back in a future post.
The third and final reason for attempting this was because the running shoes with which I had been training were giving me trouble. I had run out of time to go shopping and break in a new pair. I threw caution to the wind and bought a pair from a vendor at the Expo whom I had previously never heard of, Newton. I wore them to Great America amusement park where I took my kids the rest of the day. Between no training and no hope for a decent finishing time and that the other shoes that were annoying me, I had little to lose.
On race day, I was somewhat concerned, but then I noticed how many runners were also wearing Newtons. I figured the brand was not so unknown after all…either that or that Expo salesperson was awesome at their job. Overall, the race (or more like run, walk, run, walk) in the new shoes went fine. The biggest problem I faced was that I couldn’t get my laces configured correctly and had to stop and re-tie my shoes at every water stop. Lesson learned… or not.
This year, I ran the San Jose Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon again. And again, I did the unspeakable and bought running shoes at the expo. Not just any shoes… brand new, just released the day before, cutting edge technology, super hyped, Brooks Levitate shoes. Brooks was the Rock n Roll sponsor. I had been stalking them online trying to figure out if they would have this model at the expo, and if they would have my size to try on. I had been training in a similar pair of Brooks and wanted to try this pair as an alternate trainer.
I had no intention of wearing these during the race. This year, I HAD been properly training, and I secretly had a goal. I did not want to take a chance and not meet it. However, when I put these on and wore them on the walk to dinner (about a mile away), they were like butter on the top and clouds on the bottom. These were some of the most comfortable running shoes I had ever worn. I decided that night I was going to do it! What could go wrong?
The next morning, I put the timing chip on the shoes (I was waiting until I was sure this was the pair I would wear), laced up the unicorns, and walked with confidence that wearing new shoes would be just fine, fine. And guess what? Lucky for me, it was. No blisters, no laces problems, they performed just like the Brooks in which I had been training! I could tell that they were not broken-in as they were not quite molded to my feet, but that was a mild distraction. It did not impact my performance. I achieved my goal.
So, now that I have done this twice, would I recommend it to others and would I do it again? The answer is, yes. I would do it again and probably will. I do not think it is THAT big of a deal. But. You have to know yourself, your goals, your feet and what works for you. Are you a nervous runner that needs everything just perfect? Are you prone to blisters? Do you have special needs in your running shoes, for example stability or orthotics? Are you going for a PR or aggressive time goal? If any of those are yes, than you may want to stick with your tried and true.