The shoes I run in, ran in and revere

All hail the OG Kinvara!

Unless you are a runner who follows in the barefoot steps of Abebe Bikila, chances are that you’ve put some time into selecting, using and eventually discarding your running shoes. In the ten years since running became an important part of my lifestyle, I’ve probably owned over 30 pairs of trainers. I still have a lot of them, but quite a few have been donated or trashed due to their condition. I have one pair that I no longer use, but will never give up. Yes, I’m talking to you, original Kinvara.

Now that I no longer spend 2-3 hours a day commuting, I have more time to focus on the details of life. Upping my running from three to six days a week has caused me to pay more attention to my gear. More running means more running clothes and I’m planning to go through my sizable collection of running shirts to see what to keep or donate. Today I took on the easier task of addressing the assemblage of running shoes in my gear cabinet and you can see the results further below.

Over the years I’ve owned just about every major brand of running shoe: ASICS, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Brooks, along with some less well known brands such as Karhu, Helly Hansen, Spira and Sketchers. Many of these shoes were sent to me by manufacturers when I was maintaining Emerging Runner’s sister site, Runner’s Tech Review. Some shoes were worn over 1,000 miles, but a couple of pairs were donated after only a few runs.

Right now, I have three categories of running shoes in my house: 1) regular rotation, 2) special conditions and 3) decommissioned. Category three is where I’ll be getting rid of some pairs. Going through my shoe collection has caused me to reflect on all my shoes and I thought I’d share those thoughts here.

REGULAR ROTATION

I try to run in a different pair every day because I read that shoes need recovery time too. Happily, I have a lot to choose from.

New Balance Zante 2
Responsive and comfortable

If I ever race again, I’ll wear this pair. Low and energetic. They remind me of the Kinvara 5, but feel a little faster.

Brooks Launch 
Smooth and stable

This shoe was a surprise gift from my daughter. They would be a great everyday trainer, similar to the Adrenaline, but lighter.

Saucony Triumph ISO
If the Toyota Avalon was a shoe

When my feet are sore and I have to run, this is my go-to pair.

Saucony Kinvara 5
Light and energetic

I stopped running in these for a couple of years because of heel wear, but now they’re back in the rotation. Not quite as peppy as the Zantes, but they are running royalty nonetheless.

SPECIAL CONDITIONS

These are the shoes I wear for trails, bad weather or indoor running. I keep two of these pairs in a separate storage area and was too lazy to go get them when I was photographing my upstairs collection.

Spira Stinger XLT
Subtle as a chainsaw

This was a Runner’s Tech Review special. Turns out they are pretty decent shoes, but the gimmick (springs in the mid sole) is ineffective. I use them when I run on pavement in the rain. Good traction.

Helly Hansen Trail Lizard
Not a good choice for technical running

Super lightweight and great for racing on hard packed dirt trails. No rock plate so they can be punishing on sharp stones and roots.

Brooks Cascadia 8
Unstoppable

Handles mud, rocks, scree and steep inclines like a Range Rover. Surprisingly runnable on pavement.

Saucony Kinvara 3
700+ miles on the treadmill

This was originally my primary 10K and half marathon shoe. I switched them to treadmill duty when I got the 5s. They still look brand new.

Karhu Fast 2
Alternative treadmill runners

These shoes were incredibly awkward on the road and only slightly better for track intervals. Stiffness lessened with use and they are now a decent treadmill and elliptical shoe.

DECOMMISSIONED

An interesting assortment of the good, the weird and the ugly. Sadly, the shoes with this little guy at the end of the description (🏃) will be recycled because they are no longer runnable.

Saucony Virrata
Minimal and cushy

I really liked these shoes because they were super light and near zero drop from heel to toe. I wore them out quickly because the out sole is primarily blown EVA. Tried them on to see if they were still runnable, but alas, they are done. 🏃

Brooks Pure Drift
Commonly asked at races: WTF are those?

Brooks sent me these as part of a wear testing program. Liked them a lot but wished I’d asked for a half size larger shoe. I thought they were as minimal as a shoe could get and then Saucony sent me the Hattoris. 🏃

Saucony Hattori
Weird but awesome

This is basically a pool shoe with better materials. No cushioning at all, no laces either. Ran a few PRs with them and used them as my daily trainers until I completely wore them out. 🏃

Saucony Kinvara
Perfect

I have never loved a running shoe as much as these original Kinvaras. I wore them out to the point where I risked knee issues running in them for more than four miles. Tried them on yesterday for the first time in seven years and they still feel perfect on my foot. No more running in them but they’re staying in my collection.

Giving some credit to my NB Zante V2s

These are a few of my favorite things

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.2 miles

I didn’t really think much about running this week but it didn’t stop me from having two good runs since last Sunday. Friday was a work from home day and I ran early so I’d have time to shower. I needed to be presentable in video meetings. Although they can’t tell I’m wearing sweats, they can still see my face.

It was 48 degrees but the air felt chilly when I got outside. I probably overdressed but the weather didn’t make me regret the light short sleeve shirt that I wore under my top layer. The cool weather prompted me to start fast. Looking at my splits, I saw why that pace wasn’t sustainable. All the same, I missed averaging in the nine minute range by only a few seconds.

As I ran along, I thought about my New Balance Zante 2s that I bought to replace my venerable Kinvaras. I think the Zantes may be my favorite running shoe of all time. Like the Kinvaras, they are light, low and surprisingly well cushioned. Unlike the Kinvara, they are slightly less flexible and that’s why they’re working me for right now. The energy return is good and they respond very well on grass.

Since switching to the Zantes, my cadence has increased 1.2% and my average stride length has increased 5%. Some of that increase is due to my focus on heart rate, but I do credit these shoes for helping me move along.

This morning was ten degrees cooler than Friday, but I dressed about the same. That worked out, although, in the 40 or so minutes that I ran, the temperature rose almost five degrees. I tried to push as hard as I did on Friday, but I wasn’t quite able get to match yesterday’s speed. I see that my pace has increased in recent weeks relative to HR, which I see as evidence of improved fitness. I’m almost 30 seconds per mile faster at 80% HR max than I was a month ago.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow but I’m thinking about running in the woods at Stillwell or Bethpage. I’m curious to see if my newfound speed will carry over to more technical terrain. I’d also like to do some speed drills to help further increase my cadence. If I can get myself out early enough, I may go to the track instead so I can run before the crowds show up.

Another Kinvara for the ER

This color was $52, the rest were more expensive

This weekend’s runs (street): 8 miles total

This is the last weekend of summer before the kids return to school so we took off for some R&R. Due to that, I was limited in terms of running options. But between today and yesterday, I was able to cover a total of eight miles. The not so good news is that the upper thigh discomfort that I experienced as part of my ruptured disc has come back. It’s not actually painful, but I feel it in every step and it’s affecting my stride.

I’m doing some massage exercise to help deal with it. Fortunately, this discomfort only happens while I’m running. I ran with my Saucony Triumph ISOs today and it was a little better than with my Virratas that have pronounced heel wear on the lateral sides of both shoes. I’ve been researching shoes to replace the Virratas (my main shoe right now) and decided to go with the Kinvara 5.

Thanks to ShoeKicker, I was able to find a pair online for $52 with free shipping. I should see them sometime next week. I adored my original Kinvaras and the K3s have served me well for far longer than I’d deserved. I made the mistake of reading lots of user reviews that planted some doubt about the K5s.

The concern was mostly due to the Pro-Lock feature that the Triumphs also have. The K6 Pro-Lock is supposed to be worse, which is why I elected to get the 5s. I figure that everyone’s foot is different and some people will always be disappointed. Despite some negative posts, most reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I’m hoping mine will be too.

Born that Way (running shoe version)

Mister minimal at Bethpage this morning

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 5.2 miles
Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

We are who we are, no matter what we’re told to be. After the minimalist running shoe movement started by the book, “Born to Run”, I broke from the traditional style of running shoe (Nike Turbulence, Brooks Adrenaline, ASICS 1130, Saucony Grid Tangent, Adidas Response) and took delivery of a pair of Saucony Kinvaras. It was love at first run.

I put 500 miles on that pair of Kinvaras before retiring them. It was a new design and Saucony hadn’t yet figured out how to make the soles more durable. My last run in them was a nine miler at Belmont Lake the weekend before the 2011 LI Half Marathon. I finished that run with a sore knee that plagued me throughout the race and for a couple of months after that. Despite a bad end to a great experience with the Kinvaras, I was eager to explore more minimalist shoes.

The original Kinvara

I am not what most people would describe as an efficient runner but I do really well with lower, less cushioned shoes. Following the Kinvara, I ran almost 400 miles in the zero-drop Hattoris, followed by another 500 miles in a pre-production pair of Brooks Pure Drifts. I liked the connection to the road that I got with those shoes and followed the Pure Drifts with a pair of Kinvara 3s. I used the K3s on the road for over 700 miles before making them my treadmill shoes. They probably have 1,000 miles on them by now.

Last year I managed to snag a pair of ASICS Kayano 20s for the astonishingly low price of $64. I know people who swear by the Kayanos, calling them the Lexus of running shoes, for their highly cushioned but stable ride. My speed was suffering and I thought I’d change it up with a return to an old-school shoe design. My initial experience with the Kayanos was disappointing, but I like them better now, mostly as a casual weekend shoe.

Saucony provided me an opportunity to test the new Triumph ISO, a shoe similar to the Kayano but modernized and lightened. All the same, it’s a lot of shoe and it’s neither low nor minimal. With both the Triumphs and Kayanos in my stable, I should be happy, but I’ve find myself going with my semi-minimal Saucony Virratas that have close to 700 miles on them. The Virrata’s out-soles are very worn at this point and I don’t want to invite injury.

(I’ll) take Five

Yesterday I looked at shoes at one of the big box sporting goods stores and didn’t see much that excited me. They didn’t have Virratas or Kinvaras and I didn’t like the current models from Brooks, ASICS or New Balance. I may order the Kinvara 5s online (the 6s got some bad reviews because of a new lacing feature). I’m not sure they even make the Virratas anymore. Too bad, I thought it was a great shoe.

I ended up wearing my Kayanos on today’s run. The original plan was for the Runsketeers to get together at Bethpage but my buddies weren’t able to make it this morning. I parked on Colonial and ran south for about 2.5 miles before turning around for the balance of the run. Conditions were good, with no direct sun but the humidity was 83%. I brought my water bottle and that worked fine. The only problem was that 21 ounces of water is heavy to carry. I was wishing for a smaller bottle by the second mile.

Tomorrow I return to work after what felt like a very long vacation. I was happy with my running and the distance I covered. I also got in a couple of good elliptical sessions because I have some slight sciatica and the no-impact workout seems to help that. I may visit a couple of running stores next weekend in search of my next minimal running shoe. What can I say? I was born to run minimally.

The highs and lows of running shoes

Kayano & ISO (L), Virrata & Kinvara (R)

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

I’ve fallen down on my plan to continue my weekday workouts. Three weeks of testing alternative running machines made it easy to stay on schedule. I did those sessions at the end of my work days and left the office immediately afterwards. I did surprisingly well with those afternoon workouts and they really energized me for my long drive home.

I’d done no workouts since Sunday’s Runsketeer run at Bethpage so I went out this morning for a loop around the neighborhood. The weather was surprisingly cool – not even 60° – so I put on a fluorescent orange long sleeve running shirt and shorts. I wore my Saucony Triumphs to compare my last experience with the Kayanos.

I like both pairs, but I’m still preferring the lower, more minimal design of the Kinvaras and Virratas. SIOR, who is switching to ultra cushioned Hokas, pointed out that my flat arches better match low drop running shoes while higher arched runners like her prefer a wider variance between forefoot and heel heights. I feel it’s wasteful to invest in new Kinvaras while I have two pair of almost-new high end trainers, but I’m going to run in my well-used Virratas this weekend to see if I do better in them.

My disc issue is almost completely gone, although I still have a slight flexibility issue in my left hamstring. That’s causing me to land off-center on that side, resulting in slight mashing of my foot near the front. I’ll be curious to see if that condition appears with the low platform Virratas.

My run this morning went fine, although I did feel some aerobic challenge throughout the run. It’s hard to believe it was just a year ago that I managed through the Brooklyn Half. I have a long way to go to get to my 10K base.

It’s a three day weekend and that will provide time to string together three more runs. I really need to get out of the 3-4 mile rut and start edging closer to five or more. My orthopedist discouraged trail running while recovering from my disc injury, but I may be ready for a return to Stillwell at this point. I’ll be happy if this cool weather continues on Saturday. I want to enjoy the spring as long as I can.

What’s your running shoe’s medical history?

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

When you go to a medical office for the first time, they usually present you with a clipboard loaded with forms that you have to fill out before you can see the doctor. Among those forms is a checklist for your family medical history. It makes sense since the best way to predict future health problems is to know your areas of risk. I’m applying the same concept in assessing the useful life of my main pair of running shoes.

I’ve always been skeptical about the commonly-held view that trainers should be replaced between 300 and 500 miles. Just as people may carry greater risk for certain illnesses, some shoes and brands seem predisposed to wear out sooner than others. My first pair of running shoes were some Nike Foot Locker specials that only lasted about 400 miles. But I ran in a pair of Brooks Adrenalines for 700 miles before I retired them.

People tell me that they notice when their mid-soles have worn out after a few months. I think it’s all in their head. Unless you are a large person, it’s unlikely that you would significantly compress EVA enough to matter. I’ve come to believe that it’s the out-sole that determines the life of a shoe. When I’ve needed to replace a pair, it’s usually because the wear pattern on the bottom has caused a change in my foot strike.

Of all the running shoes I’ve owned, the pair I’ve liked the most were the original Saucony Kinvaras. Unfortunately I loved them past the point where their out-sole could provide me a stable platform and I ended up with a knee problem. After 466 miles, I took them out of the rotation. I’m currently running in the Kinvara 3’s, a great shoe as well, but I’ve reached 436 miles with them. That’s only 30 miles less than what I got out of the first Kinvaras.

Saucony’s new Virrata looks interesting

So far, I’ve experienced no knee issues when running in the 3’s, but the wear patterns are starting to show. Should I be proactive and replace the 3’s in case they go from good to bad in the next 30 miles? Or should I put faith in the idea that Saucony may have engineered a more robust out-sole in the two generations since the first Kinvara? I’m on the fence about it, but it doesn’t take much to get me back into shoe-buying mode.

Running shoes: your mileage may vary

Adrenaline and Kinvara are best in the long run

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I like running shoes for the same reason I like sports cars. They are the only layer between you and the road and they’re engineered to enable performance. If you use your imagination, sports cars and running shoes even look similar, sharing the same aerodynamic profile. The biggest difference between the two is that while anyone can go fast in a Porsche, the best thing a running shoe can do is optimize a runner’s potential.

In the 4+ years that I’ve been running, I’ve acquired a number of shoes. Some of them were great and some are best forgotten. I started logging my workouts on Daily Mile in April of 2010 and that service provides me with a tool to track the mileage of my running shoes. With the exception of the first few pairs I bought back in 2008, I have a complete history of my time spent with every shoe that I’ve owned since late 2009.

Saucony Kinvara (original)
Brooks GTS 10

I recently exported my shoe mileage data and graphed it to visualize the range (above). When people tell me that they notice their running shoes breaking down after five months, I’m usually skeptical because my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9’s held up for more than 700 miles. My all-time favorite running shoe, the original Saucony Kinvara, performed well for almost 500 miles before giving out. I ran a little too long in those and suffered a bad knee problem due to it. Despite that, I still can’t bring myself to throw them out.

My current shoes of choice are the Kinvara 3’s for the road and, for the treadmill, the Pure Drift prototypes that I tested for Brooks. Had I requested size 11’s instead of 10.5’s for the Pure Drifts, I’d probably be wearing them more often. The fit in the toe box is just a little too narrow for my foot, so I don’t use them for long runs on pavement.

The good thing about running shoes (vs. sports cars) is that you buy new ones often without breaking the bank. I suspect, based on history, that the Kinvara 3’s will need replacement in the next few months. I’m tempted to replace them with the production version of the Pure Drift, but there are a couple of New Balance models that interest me. Plus, a whole new crop of 2013 models will soon arrive from the other brands.

While I’m thinking about it, it might be time to add a new trail shoe to my collection. Why not? It would certainly be cheaper than getting a Land Rover.

I run in the 2nd best shoe (umm, make that sneaker)

Best sneaker ever? Highly debatable

Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles

Prior to this week, I had never heard of The Sneaker Report. But after a few mentions by people I follow on Twitter, I checked out the site. The reason why people have been tweeting about Sneaker Report is because of a post called The 100 Best Running Sneakers of All Time. Any list that ranks people or things will be debated, and I’m sure that’s the case here. Their choice for number one is a Nike model from 1995 (Nike Air Max 95) that looks like a cross between a Skechers Resistance Runner and the shoes the Apollo 11 astronauts wore when they walked on the moon.

The original Kinvara, better than the 3

Redemption came with the choice for number two: the Saucony Kinvara 3, that happens to be my preferred running shoe right now. But as much as I like the Kinvara 3, I like the original Kinvara more, because it was groundbreaking and (in my opinion) a little more responsive. The other choices seemed odd to me and many appeared to be selected for the way they look. I shouldn’t be surprised since the site refers to running shoes as “sneakers.”

After battling pounding headaches and exhaustion earlier in the week, I’m almost back to my old self. I took it easy on the treadmill yesterday in terms of speed but I set the incline at 2% to get my heart rate up a bit. Today I planned an outside run and though the temperature on the local news station showed 41°, I bundled up with extra layers. That turned out to be a good decision because it felt far colder than low 40’s, especially when the wind was blowing. My Kinvara 3’s did little to insulate from the cold and I’m wondering if I need a winter shoe.

Since I’m not fully back to strength, I decided to keep my distance in the 3 to 4 mile range. I felt fine as I ran but, after a mile, I noticed that my legs were feeling heavy. I was running a high 9:00 pace and my heart rate was low, so I just kept moving. I can’t say I enjoyed the workout, but it wasn’t like I was suffering. Once I reached three miles I started to follow roads that headed back toward my house.

This has been a week of moderately easy running and I’m fine with that. I’ll probably target 5 or more miles tomorrow. I’m certainly not in speed or performance mode these days. After reading the WSJ.com article last Tuesday, I’m not so concerned about performance. At least I’m not this week.

Of all my running shoes, these were the best

GTS-10: like chicken soup for the sole

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

My feet have been bothering me lately and I’m not sure what to do about it. My wife suggested that my tendency to switch shoes, rather than sticking to one pair, may be causing the issues. She may be right. The question is which pair to use? I’ve struggled to find my perfect running shoe and I haven’t been too successful. But is the act of trying different models undermining the process?

I’ve tried a lot of shoes in the three-plus years since I’ve been running. Most were fine, some awful and a few great. But the great shoes also had their flaws. My two pair of Brooks Adrenaline’s have never disappointed (I retired the GTS-9’s after 700 miles, still using the GTS-10’s), but they are old school in design, with a high platform and ramp angle. I run with the GTS-10’s for recovery or if I detect a knee problem. A few runs in them seems to correct any issue.

The original Kinvaras were my second great model. They felt like the perfect shoe from the first time I tried them on and maintained that feel, almost to the end. But something happened and my last few runs resulted in knee pain that coincided with last year’s Half Marathon. I’m hoping the new Kinvara 3’s are sufficiently improved to ward that off after I’ve covered a few hundred miles in them.

Surprisingly, the best shoes, day in and day out, have been my Saucony Hattori’s, a shoe so minimal it lacks a mid sole. But they are incredibly runnable, comfortable and responsive. The downside is that the uppers are ripping after 300 miles. I can still wear them, but time is running out. My second pair of Hattori’s, that should feel and perform identically, don’t fit correctly on my left foot and I’ve given up on them after 67 miles. It makes me wary of getting a replacement pair for my good Hattori’s.

Right now I’m really pleased with the Spira Stingers, but I am experiencing this foot pain. I really don’t think it’s coming from these shoes and I’ll run with them exclusively until Sunday. If my foot problems improve, I’ll credit the Spiras. If they don’t, I’ll do a few runs in the GTS-10’s and hope for a quick recovery.

Looking for my winter running shoe

Perhaps I need some (new) balance in my running
After trying on the Kinvara 2’s only to realize it wasn’t the shoe for me, I’m back to rethinking my winter footwear. I really loved my original Kinvaras. In fact, I’d still be running in them except that I wore out the Kinvara’s mid-sole to the point where I began experiencing knee pain. That breakdown coincided with the timing of my half marathon that I ran while injured.
Green Silence – an opportunity lost
A couple of years ago I anticipated Brook’s launch of the Green Silence, their first “minimal” shoe not made specifically for racing. I couldn’t wait for them to go on sale. I ended up being dissuaded by the salesperson at Jackrabbit who steered me toward the Brooks GTS 10’s, a great shoe but it rides too high. I ended up switching to the Saucony Kinvaras midway through 2010.





The Hattori – great except on really cold days



The Mirage – a really good shoe but the fit is narrow



Earlier this year I tested the Saucony Mirage, a Kinvara-like shoe with some stability features. It’s a great shoe and I’ve put in a few hundred miles in them, but the toe width is a bit narrow. I was hoping that Brook’s new Pure Project line would provide a shoe that met my needs. I tried on the Pure Connect and really disliked the fit that was narrow and very tight in the arch. The other models weren’t much better so I decided to look elsewhere.
After looking at many reviews, I am thinking that the New Balance Minimus MR00 may be a “good fit” for me. My hope was to find a minimal, zero-drop, road shoe that will give me a little more insulation that the Hattori’s for winter running. Given that the MR00’s aren’t due in stores until March, I may need to get through most of winter in the Mirages on cold days and the Hattori’s on more moderate days and races.