That sound you just heard...

...was my sigh of relief. Yesterday 3...THREE pairs of shoes arrived for me to try on via UPS. 2 pair had to go back to RRS, but one will be returning in a half size larger. One pair that arrived is a keeper as is (this pair had also been ordered a half size larger from the ones I originally tried on).

When my first pair of New Balance 749s arrived they were too small--in length and width. I didn't really hold out much hope of them fitting even in a half size larger. But the 8D pair arrived and they really fit quite well...especially for an $80 pair of entry-level shoes. The things they lack that their higher-priced counterparts possess are those bumpy NB laces, reflective trim, and a seamless "Phantom" liner. But none of the seams feel like they will be problematic and I don't run at night, so the lack reflective trim bits are no biggie. I also always double-knot my shoes, so the bumpy laces are really of no big benefit to me (and I have an extra pair somewhere, should I decide I miss them).

Today I did my first run in them...almost 5.5 miles. Felt really good. Perfect stability, good cushion (a bit firmer than my 902s, but this is not a bad thing, per se), excellent forefoot flex, decent fit, light weight (the only lighter-weight NB stability shoes are the 90X series, which are classified as performance trainers--this shoe is considered an everyday stability trainer). The heel height is a tad taller than I like, but not bad. I could probably happily do at least a 10 miler in these things. The heels started to slip just a tiny bit toward the end of my run, but this was almost certainly due to the shoe stretching a bit as it breaks-in. Next time I can comfortably tie them a hair tighter and the heel fit should be better.

I like the color, too (it also comes in 2 more sedate versions). Kind of makes me want to dress all in black and run in stealth mode.

Verdict: $80 shoe that feels like a $90 shoe.

One of the other shoes that arrived was the Nike Zoom Structure Triax+ 12 (or something to that effect...people criticize NB for their seemingly cryptic number names, but brevity is kind of nice. Heck, my car is a Mazda 3s. All those long names are marketing mumbo jumbo in my mind). Seems like a nice, cushy shoe with a flexible forefoot, minimal difference in heel/forefoot height ratio, and a VERY generous toebox (perhaps moreso than any of the SL-1 lasted NBs ever were in the same size), but my heels were kind of swimming. NB seems to be the only manufacturer that has figured out that wide forefoot ≠ wide heels. So the Nikes were one of the pairs I returned.

But what made me the happiest girl yesterday was trying on the New Balance 904 (latest update of my favorite shoe ever--the 902). They were a tad too snug and a tad too short, but nothing a half size larger won't help on both accounts. Heel fit was fabu! They definitely seem to be a bit narrower than my 902s, but it doesn't appear like the difference will be so great that it will be troublesome--especially with the lightweight socks I wear except in the Winter. The 903 was actually too wide and had weird overlays...this shoe actually seems closer to the shoe I love. I am as giddy as a school girl!

Bonus: Since RRS doesn't do "returns" -- it's either exchanges or store credits, I am opting to take store credit from the returned Nikes to spend on the 904 trail shoe, which has a release date of TOMORROW, IIRC. This will be my shoe for the North Country Trail Relay in June and for all of my trail runs until cold weather. My current trail shoes are nice, but heavy and Gore-Tex...not so comfortable in the heat of Summer and overkill on dry trails.

In other shoe whoring news...I just found out from another NB fan that NB already has the replacement for the 904 (the 905, duh) scheduled for sale in Oct. Mind you, the 904 only came out this past Jan. or Feb. NB really can't leave well enough alone (which is the at the root of all of my recent shoe-related stress). From the video I saw on RunningWarehouse.com it appears that the changes are only to the upper.

I'm not sure that I like the new appearance, though. The 90X series has always been trademarked by garish colors...the women's color will be baby blue. Huh. Better than white, but baby blue with lots of orange like on the 904 trail shoe would be cooler. Since this series began the women's shoe has gone from chartreuse to cyan to persimmon to white/orange...to baby blue. Eh, as long as it fits and functions well I can't complain. I am just uber relieved to know that come marathon day (7.5 weeks away) I won't be left shoeless. I'm not really keen on trying this whole "barefoot running" thing.

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