Sunday, November 23, 2008

SHOE REVIEW -- New Balance 1062s

We take another break from my race report of the NYC Marathon (oh, yes, there's more!) to do my first-ever shoe review! I have been a loyal Saucony wearer for years, but they dissed me MIGHTILY this year. I wrote them asking for sponsorship of my marathon effort, sent them pictures of Liam and of the Team and everything, and what did I get? Goose egg. No money, no shoes. Not even a "no thanks." So when I was contacted by New Balance Harrisburg and offered a pair of shoes in exchange for a review, needless to say I was very receptive.

New Balance was the first running shoe I bought when I realized I was actually going to be a runner. I didn't really understand the concept of discontinuing lines, so when they stopped manufacturing the one I liked, and the improvement didn't fit as well, I abandoned NBs for Adidas Supernovas (which felt like running on marshmallows) to Avias, then Reebok, then Saucony, where I've been for the past three years. So it was kind of nice to return home.

Since I'm unfamiliar with their current lines, I went to a NB store and tested a number of their shoes. I wear neutral-cushioned shoes, having been somehow cured of my pronation with my bunion surgery. One thing I will say about NB shoes in general, at least the ones I tested, was that they tend to run a little narrow. I am hyper-aware of my toes, and they will find a way to scrape against air molecules and blister. I prefer a shoe with a wider toe box, and the 1062s fit the bill. What was most exciting to me about the 1062 was the Abzorb cushioning. After my bursitis, I was looking for a shoe that would adequately cushion the ball of my foot and help prevent a recurrence.

I've been wearing the 1062s for about three weeks now, and ran one race in them. I have both good and not-so-good things to say about them, but I have good things to say about the not-so-good things. Huh? Read on.

They are extremely comfortable (they do run small, you must get at least 1/2 size up!) and fit snugly without being tight. They also have SureLace shoelaces, which are the most amazing laces I've ever had. They stay put without me having to double-knot them. My orthotics fit inside them with no trouble. The Abzorb cushion works really well. They're cushioned without being pillowy, my bursitis hasn't returned, and they feel extremely stable and sturdy, like they're going to last more towards the upper end of the mileage spectrum.

There are two things about the shoe that I found troublesome. The first is the sole is rather inflexible. Though my form is not the stuff of legend, one of the things I am normally proud of is my soft footfall. In the 1062s I can hear my footfall even while wearing an iPod. I notice that these shoes change my form a little. I'm a heel striker, and I roll my foot down from the heel to the ball and push off. In the 1062s I can't roll my foot. I strike, then my foot slaps down. Slap slap slap. A lot more flatfooted. It hasn't hurt me -- thanks to the Abzorb technology, I don't physically notice the pounding -- but I notice that they make my stride a little more inefficient (as if it could get more inefficient.)

The other thing about this shoe is that it's heavy. 10.2 ounces. That's heavy? you non-runners who read this ask. The other shoes I wear are 9.6 oz, and believe it or not, those 6 ounces make a difference. Just ask anyone who's been to Weight Watchers. I have, and they do. I'm not such an advanced runner that I race in lightweight racing shoes, but I don't think I will race in these shoes again. Between the slight extra weight and the inflexible sole, they make it hard to reach and maintain top speed, and they make my legs tired. Not hurt, tired.

Ultimately I think the weight and sturdiness of the 1062s are best suited for a heavier runner. That being said, I think the 1062s can be a really good winter running shoe for someone like me. Here in NYC, the roads get snowy and slushy, but nothing so bad that I'd need a trail shoe. I think the extra stability the shoe provides will give the 1062 an advantage over my other shoes. Also, even though the upper is mesh (the bane of wearing old running shoes in the winter -- the wind blows right through them) it feels slightly thicker than my other shoes and my feet do feel a little bit warmer in them. So I'm not getting rid of them just yet.

Come to think of it, they'd also be good shoes to train in before a race, much like the principle of taking practice swings with two bats before heading up to the plate with one. Wear the heavy shoes the day before, and lighter shoes on race day.

So, to sum up: a good, sturdy well-cushioned shoe with a roomy toebox. Best suited for heavier runners looking for a stable shoe that's not a stability shoe.

The 1062s no longer appear on the NB Harrisburg site -- another shoe site says these are on the endangered list -- but their predecessor, the 1061s are extremely similar (in fact, they appear be the exact same shoe, with some slight difference that I cannot see), or look at the 1062 itself on the NB website.

Two more things: first, my opinion of NB shoes has changed as a result of my shoe testing. They are definitely a better quality running shoe than I recall. I don't think I could wear the 1062s as my regular shoe, but I wouldn't be unopposed to finding an NB shoe that COULD replace my current shoe.

Also, my hats off to the folks at New Balance Harrisburg. Their customer service is phenomenal. I originally asked them for a odd-size shoe, which they had to special order for me, and they felt so bad about the "wait" for my shoes (three days) that they overnighted them. When they turned out to be the wrong size (I swear they fit perfectly in the store) the turnaround time to send me the correct size was less than a week. If you are a New Balance wearer, or want to be one, New Balance Harrisburg is the website for you. Click here or on the link to the right of the page.

Next time, for real, I wrap up my marathon experience, including my visit to MSKCC and my playdate with Prince Liam!

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