trail shoe dilemmas

I have decided that buying new running shoes is actually kind of traumatic. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being the proud new owner of shiny, clean running shoes (and love even more the first chance to get them dirty!) – I just don’t like the act of buying them. This has been made blatantly obvious to me this week as I went in search of my first pair of trail shoes.

My first mistake was letting my enthusiasm take over from my common sense. I’d headed over to Melbourne to pick up my bib for ‘Run Melbourne’ and browsed the running shoes at the time. I’d been curious about Hokas for a while and tried some on then listened to the sales assistant go on about how amazing they were. They felt a bit odd – cushioned, definitely but odd. I asked to try on another pair of a different brand but he assured me there were none in my size so I made my second mistake – I made a rash, on the spot decision and just bought them.


I got them home and, unfortunately, gave in to the cold that had been brewing for a few days so ended up in bed and unable to test them out until later in the week. When I finally took them for a spin on the treadmill, I knew they just weren’t right. I’m all for cushioned shoes, believe me. I absolutely adore my Brooks Transcend which feel like I’m running on clouds. But these felt like I was running with mattresses strapped to my feet and my calves, which have to work hard enough anyway, were not happy. They also felt weird at the back, as if my feet were slipping out of them. Maybe I would have got used to them. Maybe running on the treadmill didn’t give me the best experience. Maybe I’d already talked myself into not liking them. But they had to go back.

The impact of my first mistake became more obvious when I went to return them. Obviously, the shop were unwilling to refund me for changing my mind (fair enough) but gave me a store credit. Great. Except they really didn’t have many trail shoes to choose from and, finally having done my homework, they didn’t have the ones I actually wanted. The store credit was also only valid in their actual store, not their online one which further limited my selection (and meant I couldn’t browse and spend online, instead having to drive an hour again to spend it). And, having already got my money, it felt like they weren’t really interested in helping me find more suitable shoes. I probably should have just walked away with my store credit, spent it later and got my shoes elsewhere but I was conscious that I have a trail event in 2 weeks and need time to try out the shoes so I made another snap decision – buy the Brooks.


I’ve now got some sturdy but pretty looking Brooks Cascadias waiting for me to take them out and get them dirty. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually run in them and am a little nervous as they weren’t the ones I wanted but I’m a lot happier with them than I was with the previous pair.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Stick to running shops where I actually feel comfortable and valued. I’m not saying that to bag the shop I went to – they did nothing ‘wrong’, it’s just there are varying degrees of ‘right’ when it comes to customer service and I’ve definitely experienced better elsewhere.
  2. Don’t make rash decisions, buoyed by pre-race enthusiasm.
  3. Listen to my instinct – if it doesn’t feel right, walk away and give it time.
  4. Just buy the Brooks. Have adored every pair of shoes of theirs I’ve ever worn and I have my fingers crossed that the Cascadias will follow that pattern. Stay tuned…

6 thoughts on “trail shoe dilemmas

  1. Yep, yep, yep. This was exactly my experience with trying on Hokas. But I thought it was just because they were a size too big. Maybe I should stick with my gut, though. The back kept slipping and they felt massively huge. Enormous. My shoes now are hardly cushioned at all so it was a bit of a shock. But like you — everyone loves them! So I had to try. Maybe I won’t try them on again. 🙂 I’m glad someone else had a similar experience.

    And also, sorry to hear about the running store snafu. It’s always such a downer when you have a bad experience in a specialty shop.


    • Phew Rachel – I’m so pleased to hear someone else that couldn’t get the hang of Hokas! I so wanted to love them but I just couldn’t get over how weird they felt. Definitely not for me.


  2. I LOVE my Hokas, but they feel like a lead weight on my feet. I was fitted for my Hokas @The Running Club in Geelong. The guy took hours with us all. He had us on the treadmill, watched as we walked up and down and then brought me out 3 pairs. I tried them on, one by one, and we took ages going through the motions of running and walking. We discounted one of the pairs straight away, then put one shoe of each pair, on my feet. Again I popped on the tready and tried them out… Final choice was a beautiful pair of ONE ONE Bondi. I wear them in the rain & had used them on my longer distances…(10k)
    Then I tried the Zero drop Altra brand, loved the cheapness of them…(lol) If I didn’t like them, then I didn’t waste any money… I have since went out and bought at least 8 pairs..(whoopsies).. I have trail shoes, minimalist, cushioned and everything else in between. The Altra has a really wide toe box, which, so far, has been fantastic on my feet & I haven’t found a pair that I dislike.


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