Should You Experiment With Running Shoe Sizes? Well, Yeah. And a Podcast Recommendation

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Brooks Ghost 6

I have worn the same size running shoes forever, since as long as I’ve bought grownup running shoes, despite the make or model of the shoe, or what kind of event I was wearing them for. Well no more. Tomorrow morning I am going out the door in a new pair of Brooks Ghost 6 neutral, cushioned shoes, for the first time ever, one half size up. Here’s why.

First, I’ve been wrestling on and off with Morton’s Neuroma and a bit of metatarsalgia¬†since just before the Boston Marathon back in April. It came (I think, in part anyway) as the result of changing from my beloved Mizuno Wave Riders to the Wave Precisions, which felt to me like they have a narrower toe box. That and at the same time, I was running a lot of miles, about 60 a week, and my feet are maybe just getting bigger and flatter and uglier as I get older. Who knows? Point is, these metatarsal ball-of-foot injuries, once activated, hung around (though a cortisone shot really helped put the Morton’s in its place) even after I switched back to the Wave Riders, alternating them with an older pair of sadly-high-mileage Brooks Ghost 4s. But as much as I like both these shoes – neutral, well cushioned (slightly less cushioned but faster feeling in the Mizunos), my feet felt cramped and the metatarsalgia kept flaring up.

And I kept reading reviews, and going and bugging my friends at Runner’s Alley, and thinking oh, if only I could get a neutral shoe with a 10-12 mm heel drop, a slightly bigger toe box, and some nice forefoot cushioning. You know, just like my Ghosts or Wave Riders, but bigger.

Then miracle of miracles, I heard something on a podcast while on my dawn run this morning that cut through the “duh” of lifelong programmatic thinking about shoe size. I’d been trying to find a shoe make that someone addressed the problem that my running shoes felt about a half size too small. So… get some bigger running shoes.

The¬†podcast was the witty crew at Trail Runner Nation – and their guest was Dr. Ryan Green, The Shoe Doctor. They had a fun, funny, wide ranging chat about shoes that will provide valuable info for trail and road runners alike. And part of that chat had to do with trying shoes half and even whole size or more up from what you wear for street shoes. Holy smokes! Like scales falling from my eyes. After all these years, why had this never occurred to me? (Maybe because I’ve never struggled with my feet the way I have this year, the kinder side of my self critic points out, and therefore never needed to. Nevertheless.)

I’ve been running my current Wave Riders (6th pair so far) to max mileage at this point, they needed replacing, and so I popped over to the Runner’s Alley in Nashua at lunchtime and grabbed a pair of the Ghost 6s. With these back-to-back long runs on the weekend, I wanted the extra cushion.

Will it fix what ailed me? I’ll let you know after a few runs in them. I have a bit of a concern that the Ghost’s are aimed at a heel-to-toe transition but that I’m more of a forefoot striker than I was in years past. But the cushioning feels soooo good! And either way, it just makes sense; try different sizes. The pros at RA checked my toes in the new shoes and they were a perfect fit. Which means the old ones would have been too small, simple as that.

And this little science experiment called running goes on.