The Hersey Difference
Currently many top race walkers wear shoes custom made by Bart Hersey. Michelle Rohl, Curt Clausen, and Amber Antonia all use free shoes supplied by Hersey Custom Shoes. The two models available are an interesting alternative to products from the mass-produced brands. The first model, a racing shoe, was worn by Rohl and Clausen in the 2000 Olympics. Unbelievably lightweight at 6 ounces, this shoe is a little too flexible. Keep in mind, this racer is intended to provide just minimal protection for serious competitors who would just as soon race barefoot.
A better alternative is the Hersey training shoe. Also extremely lightweight—9 ounces—it features a minimum heel lift and a super flexible forefoot: the standard training shoe matching most of the criteria I laid out for a good race walking shoe.
Importantly, Hersey varies mid-sole materials and all aspects of shoe construction according to each walker’s body weight and customer preference. When placing an order, you specify exactly how you want the shoe constructed. For example, Curt Clausen has had knee problems in the past because of over pronation. Therefore, he requests very straight-lasted shoes. Although the pros do not, request an arch that does not collapse. Protect those hamstrings: order yours with support. Also, consider a denser section under the toe to assist with good push-off.
As you would expect, Hersey’s shoes are not cheap, at least initially. He currently charges a one-time fee of $150 to mold the last and pattern. A training shoe costs $155, while racing shoes go for $140. This might seem too expensive, and for some it is; however, Hersey charges only $30 to resole the shoe the first time, and $50 to resole it after that. (He attributes the added cost of subsequent rebuilds to the difficulty in rebuilding older shoes.) The good news is a properly maintained shoe can be rebuilt four to five times. So don’t leave them in a car in Southern California when the temperature soars to 100 degrees.
When we look at the math, the price of Hersey’s shoes compares well in the long run. When resoling a shoe five times, we pay a total cost of $530, so the amortized cost is $90 per pair. Not a bad bargain, but it gets better. Factor in that, according to elite walkers, resoled Hersey shoes tend to last longer than typical mass-produced shoes. Amber Antonia says that her Hersey shoes lasted three times longer than her previous race walking shoes. After they wore down, she just sent them in and got back a pair that felt like new. She says her feet used to hurt a lot, but not now that she wears a pair of Bart’s shoes.
If you decide to try a Hersey, plan ahead. You face a 12-week backlog for initial orders. Resoling, however, takes only one week. You probably need more than one pair of shoes; however, as Hersey says, “If you pay $300 to have a pair of shoes made and you don’t want a second pair, we have done something wrong.”
For more information check out www.herseycustomshoe.com .