Some Heretical Thinking About Running Shoes

IMG_0214Running shoes we love them, hate them, swear at them, swear by them, consider them indispensable or dispensable.

We give them too much credit when we are running well and too much blame when we are injured.

Whatever our views on running shoes are, most runners still slip them on our feet before we go for a run.

Over the years, I have become a running shoe snob and have a running shoe addiction problem. I have “learned” (sarcasm intended) that in order to run well that I have to be wearing the newest and greatest running shoes that the brands are offering. If a pair of running shoes cost much less than $100 originally, I would consider it an inferior shoe and not even consider running in them.

My wife tells me that I have a real problem with running shoes and I have to agree with her. Especially, since I purchased over 20 pair of them during the last couple of years, many of which barely made it to the 100 mile, which is much less than the “experts” 300-mile mark, before I stopped using them.

She thinks I am a little extreme in my Don Quixote search, for the perfect running shoe. Unfortunately, I have to agree with many of her observations and pithy comments.

Which I usually justify by saying “I have to have good shoes with all the miles I am running now”.

What have I run in over the past couple of years?

  • Mizuno – Elixir 7 (free media sample), Ronin 4, Ekidon, Wave Rider 16
  • Altra – Instinct 1.0, Instinct 1.5 (free media sample), Superiors, Torin, 3-Sum (free media sample)
  • Brooks – PureFlow 1, PureFlow 2
  • Nike – Free 4.0 v2, Free 5.0, Free Run+3,
  • Saucony – Peregrine, Kinvara 2, Viratta
  • Adidas – Vigor, Adizero Sonic 3, Marathon Trainer II (replica)
  • Newton – Gravity
  • New Balance – MT20, MT110
  • Asics – Gel Blur
  • Skechers – Go Run2
  • Skora – Base (free media sample)

In addition I have tried on many other shoes at various shoe stores: New Balance, Reebok, Adidas, Brooks, Mizuno, Nike, Merrill, Asics, Scott, and Newton – that I did not buy because they did not fit right or another shoe met my needs better at the time.

Not Monogamous

Not exactly, what you could call a monogamous relationship with any particular running shoe brand and there are still a couple of brands that I have not tried yet that really intrigue me.

No, if anything I have been what my wife describes as a running shoe whore, always looking for my next “conquest” and all too willing to cast away the old ones.

Heretical Thoughts

Since was injured back in May, I have had time to think about my running shoe snobbery and addiction and come up with a few heretical thoughts that may guide my running shoe selection process in the future.

Heretical Thought #1

I can find a running shoe that I can run in quite nicely from just about any major brand.

Most brands have GREAT marketing departments and give runners all kinds of information on the different and great features that their shoes possess, along with many reasons why we should buy and stay loyal to their particular brand of shoe. They are damned good at their job and have influenced me several times – to lust after, until I try a brand’s latest and greatest running shoe offering.

I have found that it is not so much the brand of shoe, as much as the style of shoes that a brand sells. Personally, I prefer a lighter weight running shoe between 7 and 10 oz, with a drop between 4 and 8mm, a softer ride – more cushioning and a wide toe box or widths to accommodate my Tailor’s Bunionette. Almost all of the brands make a running shoe that meets these requirements.

While there are differences between running shoe brands and the style of shoes they sell, are the differences as great as the marketing departments make them out to be? I do not think so.

Heretical Thought #2

Do I really need to buy the latest – gee whiz running shoe?

Like most runners, I do not know or completely understand all the differences in technologies or designs between $80, $100, $120 or even $200 running shoes. I am not an engineer or a running shoe expert. I just run in them and expect them to work for me.

However, I have to decide whether the newest technology and designs make enough of a difference in how I run, to justify the significantly higher costs, often it does not seem to make all that much of a difference.

Which really makes me wonder if I need to continue to buy premium styles, especially when they first come out? After all, I am not attempting to be cool or stylish – I just want to run.

Heretical Thought #3

Minimalist running shoes are the answer to all of our running woes.

There is so much discussion, hype and marketing surrounding this type of running shoe. Listening to some of it – it would seem that minimalist style running shoes are the answer to all of our running injuries and woes.

However, my experience is different and to be perfectly honest I do not enjoy running in truly minimalist shoes, I find them uncomfortable to run in and have their own running related injury patterns for me.

Minimalist running shoes are not for everyone.

Heretical Thought #4

The runner makes the runner better, not the running shoes that you wear.

Many running shoe brands would have us believe that their running shoes will make you a better runner. While I believe that running shoes can help make a difference in how you run or how comfortably you run, the brand or style of running shoe do not make you a better runner.

You make yourself a better runner, by training correctly (mileage, pace, planning, research, strength work, etc.).

There is no magical running shoe that will suddenly allow you to run farther or faster. It takes time and hard work to accomplish those things. If there is I want it.

Heretical Thought #5

Just because a certain shoe works great for a friend, blogger or great runner does not mean that that same shoe is going to work great for me.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I think a certain amount of healthy skepticism is okay and necessary, when reading brand advertisements and product descriptions or blog and customer product reviews.

The reality is that

The running shoe snob part of me wants to believe the marketing hype and that premium running shoes are worth the high cost that brands charge us. Otherwise, why are we paying so much for our running shoes?

Unfortunately, that has not been my real-life experience with the more expensive, high-end running shoes. I do not run any better, still get injured and they do not seem to last any longer – than the supposedly second tier running shoes that I have run in.

Something has to give

I know that I cannot afford to keep paying $100 to $150 for running shoes on a limited budget, have them last only a month or two, before I have to buy another pair when I get back to my 50-mile weeks.

Something has to give.

Who knows maybe part of the answer is that I will have to turn-in my running shoe snob card and look a little more closely at some of those second tier running shoes or least keep an open mind about what I think of as a running shoe that I want to run in. Time will tell on this one, but I am going to be looking for running shoes that I like to be on sale, closeout or have steep discounts, before buying them.

How about you, do you have some heretical running shoe thoughts to add?