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 LaunchΒ 
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 (πŸƒ) 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. πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ

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.

First impression: running in the New Balance Zante v2

Better watch out Kinvara!

Today’s run (street): 4.9 miles

It’s so annoying when business gets in the way of running, but that happened this week. I missed my Friday morning run because I had to go into the office for a meeting. I did run on Monday because I was home for the Labor day holiday. I don’t know if that counts as part of last weekend’s activities or it it’s part of this week’s. I’ll have to look in the rulebook to get that answer.

One other thing I did on Labor day was order a pair of New Balance Zante v2s through the Shoekicker site. It was just about a year ago that I got my Kinvara 5s the same way. In both cases I got significant discounts. I have no affiliation with Shoekicker, but I recommend it if you are confident enough to buy a shoe without first trying it on.

I picked the cheapest shipping option and didn’t expect to get them for at least two weeks. Last night, in the middle of dinner, Mrs. Emerging Runner said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, your shoes came today.” Here’s the thing about me and running shoes. I like them a lot. Especially new ones. I couldn’t believe I’d just wasted the past hour having dinner when I could have been trying on my new Zantes. I hurried through the rest of my meal and then scoured the den in search of a box from Jackrabbit Sports.

I purchased the Zantes because my beloved Kinvaras were getting deeply worn on the medial side of the heel.This is the curse of the pronator and, due to the type of shoes I favor (blown rubber out-soles) I tend to wear them out after 500-600 miles. It was the exact reason why I’d replaced my Virratas with the Kinvara 5s last year. Years ago, I ran in less minimal shoes like the Brooks Adrenalins that had EVA and carbon rubber in high wear areas. They were heavier, but I could get over 900 miles out of them.

I’ve had shoes sent to me by manufacturers to review or mention in the blog. Due to a possible conflict of interest with my day job, I no longer do that. I wasn’t paying for those shoes, so I didn’t particularly care if they fit me well. When I’m paying, I’m very concerned. There’s a moment of truth when I first try them on because there’s something at stake and a decision to be made whether to keep them.

Once the Zantes were unboxed, I began to gather impressions. Lightweight, but not as light as the Kinvaras. Nice, breathable one piece upper. Slightly higher drop than the Kinvara, but similar stack height. I’ve always liked New Balance shoes, but did not like their Minimus models that I felt ran too narrow and had a pronounced bump toward the forefoot. The Zante v2 is very new school, similar to Saucony and Asic’s newer, less structured models.

I tried on the Zantes and my first impressions were mixed. The toe box is roomy. That’s something I like due to the shape of my foot. However, I was concerned that I ordered them in too large a size. I have to be careful about sizing. I normally wear size 11s and run mostly in Saucony models. The size 11 Zante felt a half a size larger than the Saucony size 11. Due to that, I was concerned the Zantes might run a little sloppy. When I cinched the laces, the upper wrapped securely and held my foot well. A few quick steps around the house and on the treadmill confirmed that they were keepers.

I went out early this morning because I needed to finish my run in time to make an appointment. I also wanted to beat the heat, but there was little chance of that. At least the sun was low and mostly hidden by cloud cover. It was humid but still runnable. I paid close attention to the feel of the Zantes as I took my first steps from my house. They felt stable with no issues with the fit. Toe-off was smooth and responsive. The forefoot was supportive but not overly firm. I felt a little more cushioning than I get from the Kinvara. To be fair, the Kinvara has 500 miles on it and the Zante is brand new.

Just shy of 5

I moved along well and my run felt faster than the numbers indicated. The Zante’s mid-sole promotes a rolling gait and the overall firmness gave it a fast feel. I wasn’t tracking my mileage but in the almost five miles I ran with them, I could tell that this would be a good distance shoe. I picked up the pace on my last mile and got some decent speed despite the increasingly oppressive humidity.

I’m looking forward to my next run in the Zantes. I decided to get them after reading a review in Runblogger that suggested the Zante as a strong competitor to the Kinvara 7. I wanted a change and I was curious to see what New Balance had to offer. So far, it’s an offer I can’t refuse.