For regular readers, you might remember that I was frustrated when Brooks discontinued the ASR trail shoe. Since then, I’ve been using the Brooks Cascadia out on the trails. It’s a good shoe, but not available (at least in the UK) in a wide fitting, and gets a bit tight around the toes on longer runs. I’ve been on the hunt for an alternative for some time.
Word of mouth
At the recent XNRG Devil’s Challenge, I got talking to Colin and Tess Geddes at a checkpoint. They’re the organisers of the epic Grand 2 Grand multi-day ultra in Arizona – something that’s been on my bucket list ever since XNRG director Neil Thubron came home raving about its superb location and fantastic organisation after this year’s event.
Colin and Tess were both competing in the Devil’s and I commented on how nice and wide the toe-box looked on their shoes. Colin told me they were made by Altra, who specialise in wider-fitting shoes, allowing the toes ample width to fan out, while keeping the big toe straight for a clean push-off. The shoes are also zero-drop – something I’ve thought about trying in the past but thought might cause me issues as I overpronate.
A quick review
Fast-forward to preparing for running Centurion’s South Downs Way 100 this month. I went online and checked out the full Altra range. Fortunately, they have a stability trail shoe specifically for pronating feet: the Provision 3.5.
I bought a pair for £120 direct from their website, which arrived just in time to put them to the test on a 22-mile part-road, part-trail long Sunday run. They performed brilliantly. I finished the route with no undue aches and pains, and felt absolutely fine the day after.
A small criticism is that the outside of each heel is already showing some wear, so I suspect durability might be an issue. Having said that, I’m not a light guy and the blurb that came with the shoes did explain that transitioning to zero-drop shoes means shortening strides to ensure the foot hits the ground inside the line of your knee to reduce heel strike. I think I might need more work to get used to this!
So far, I’m so impressed with the overall comfort, support and protection afforded by these shoes that I broke my own rule (not to use untried kit in an event) and used the Provisions at the SDW100. It just felt like the right thing to do!
How they performed
The Provision 3.5s performed brilliantly during the SDW100 (albeit only on my 50 miles before DNFing). I really felt the benefit of the additional width across the front of the foot which allowed my toes to spread out and feel relaxed. My feet and lower legs felt fine the following day, except for a slightly tight left achilles, which I think was down to moving to zero drop shoes in the space of two weeks. No harm done, though. I got back on my step-board and within a couple of days the achilles was absolutely fine. So a full five stars from me!
Shoes are the most important piece of kit a runner owns. I’d love to know if you’ve tried the Provision 3.5s, or if you have any other favourites – let me know what you think in the comments or email email@example.com.