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.

So many running clothes, so little time

Wanna buy some used Karhus?

Today’s run (street): 4.7 miles

For the first time since fall, I’ve had two consecutive runs wearing short sleeves and shorts. Yesterday’s temperature was moderate, but the humidity was anything but. Happily, today was cooler and far less humid. In both cases I was comfortable, helped along by overcast skies. I’m not looking forward to running in the summer heat and I hope I’ll have the discipline to get out at dawn most of the time.

Today’s run or Rorschach test? 

Now that we are transitioning to warmer weather, I’ve started to pay attention to my lighter gear. Over the past eight years, I’ve collected a lot of running clothes that I keep in a wooden wardrobe in the guest room.  I have at least three pairs of running tights, three pairs of track pants and a sizable collection of quarter zips, rain jackets and long sleeve running shirts.

My collection of short sleeve running shirts includes the first one I ever bought and every one after that. I also have a bunch of shirts I got from racing. Storage has extended to a dresser in my bedroom. I also have six pairs of running shorts and dozens of socks. Don’t get me started on shoes. There are pairs I use and those I just can’t throw out.

I swear I’m not a hoarder, but I find it hard to throw out perfectly good running clothes. Perfectly good may mean different things to different people. I don’t think rips and tears necessitate disposal. As long as you can wear it, and it doesn’t expose areas that need to be covered in public, I think a shirt should be kept in inventory.

In truth, I tend to wear the same gear, cycling through four or five pairs of shorts, the same number of shirts and about half a dozen pairs of socks. That changes a little when the seasons change and I put wool socks to the back of the drawer until fall. I know I should go through all this stuff and keep only those clothes and shoes that I actually use. I really should donate the undamaged shirts and recycle the old trainers. I’ll make it a project for next weekend unless I can find anything else to do.

Successful (Brooks) Launch on the treadmill

Special Delivery

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Last Sunday’s run (street): 4.4 miles

There are few things as delightful to a runner as receiving a pair of running shoes in the mail. Better than that is getting them delivered without even knowing they’re coming. That’s what happened to me a couple of weeks ago, thanks to my daughter, who surprised me with a pair of Brooks Launch 3s for my birthday. I was very touched that she surprised me like that.

The Launch isn’t a shoe that I’d ever considered because it’s not as minimal as my Zantes and Kinvaras. My daughter did some research and decided that the Launches would work for me. They arrived close to my birthday, but were (unfortunately) a half size too small. Although the Launches felt good on my foot, I’ve learned that any snugness in the toe box will result in pain on the road.

We reordered them in my size (11) and they arrived last night. I was going to take them out on the road this morning, but conditions were rainy. There was no way I was going to subject brand new running shoes to rain and muck and decided to try them inside. I was also interested to see how they felt on the treadmill compared to my Kinvara 5s that have been my only indoor running shoes for the past two years.

The Launches fit me well but felt very different than the Kinvaras. They reminded me of the Brooks Adrenalines but were much lighter. The forefoot is also far more flexible. I like the relative stiffness of the Zantes on the road and I’m curious to see how the Launches will run on pavement. The 10 mm drop may also help my plantar fasciitis that has minimized, but has not disappeared.

My first steps on the treadmill felt a little awkward compared to the Kinvaras, probably due to the higher stack height. I got used to them after a while, but it was hard to perceive the responsiveness that is the hallmark of this model. I always try to run negative splits on the treadmill and push my speed on the last mile, mostly to get the run done faster. The Launches had good turnover but I think the Zantes might actually have more pep. Hopefully tomorrow’s weather will let me determine that.

I ended up having a better run than I’d expected. I got my speed out of my comfort range by the time I finished and decided that the Launches will have a regular place in my rotation. Tomorrow morning’s schedule will be very tight so I may not end up going out until late morning. If it’s supposed to get as hot on Saturday as it did today, I may end up trying for a 6:00 AM workout.

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.

Why we spend $100 for running shoes

Run away!

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles

My new reality is long busy work days. I’m not complaining (well maybe a little) but my work schedule did take a bite out of my running this week. I made it into the city on Thursday for an industry meeting and saw my buddy and fellow Runsketeer, KWL, who ran the NYC marathon last weekend. I probably covered 20K steps that day, so at least I burned some calories.

We had to go out east this morning, which required me to get out early for my first run of the week. Even though it’s early November, the temperature felt more like late September and the cloudy skies helped keep things cool. I had no particular route in mind when I took off and ended up circumnavigating the middle school before heading to the north end of my neighborhood. There was a little humidity, but otherwise conditions were fall-perfect.

We spent much of the day in eastern Long Island and we stopped at Target before we headed home. While my wife and kids looked for stuff on their lists, I ambled over to the men’s section that has the Champion C9 line of athletic clothes. They had some nice, lightweight vests that would be perfect with a long sleeve running shirt on a 30° morning, but the price was higher than I was prepared to pay.

Out of curiosity, I looked in the shoe section, where they sell C9 running shoes for $29.99. Most of the big running shoe brands have entry level models that Dick’s and Sports Authority sell for $50-$60. These shoes may not have the advanced technologies and features of their flagship models, but they generally provide a decent fit and feel. I decided to try on a pair of the C9 Drives to experience the difference between them and the ASICS Kayano 20s I was wearing.

Drive this off a cliff

The C9 shoes did not seem junky and I wondered what they’d feel like on my foot. After realizing they ran a half size bigger than most of the shoes in my collection, I found a smaller pair and tried them on. My first impression of the Drives was that they had almost no cushioning. That isn’t a show stopper for me, because I like a minimal shoe. But when I stood up and took a few steps, I realized why I typically spend $100 or more for Sauconys, ASICS or Brooks.

The lack of cushioning and a poorly constructed mid-sole resulted in a lumpy, uncomfortable foot bed. I suddenly understood the difference between quality brands and cheap $29.99 knockoffs. I’ve been fortunate to either receive shoes for testing from the manufacturers, or find great discounted running shoes at places like SA Elite or Famous Footwear. Believe me, paying $60 for a pair of $100 running shoes is a much better deal than paying $30 for “bargain” trainers.

Holiday run by any name

All clear on the local roads

Today’s run (street): 3.6 miles

Happy Columbus Day. Or as some people are calling it, “Indigenous People Day.” I know there’s controversy around that. What’s really important is that I had the day off. Between my working from home Friday, the weekend and then today’s run, I was able to string together four consecutive workouts for the first time in weeks.

The good thing about running a lot is that your body gets used to it and it’s easy to get into rhythm. I liked the experience of running on a weekday morning without squadrons of parents swarming the roads to drop off their kids at school. No buses either, and even the garbage trucks were silent. The time went by fairly quickly and I ended up covering more ground than I’d planned.

Later in the day we stopped into Trader Joe’s at the Gallery at Wesbury Plaza. While there, we walked over to SA Elite. This is basically a running discount store and a great place to find bargains if you time your visit right. Today I looked at ASICS running vests that were on sale for about $20. It was a really good price, but I didn’t like the way the collar fit, so I took a pass.

Purple-y purchase

My wife was luckier and found a pair of ASICS Kayano 20’s for a great price. Her GT-2160s have at least 700 miles on them and I’ve been after her to retire them. I have a pair of Kayano 20’s that I use for recovery runs and love them. I think she’ll appreciate this new pair just as much.

Supinating is how I roll

Virrata out-sole wear courtesy of supination

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 5.1 miles

Fall is almost here and I’m loving the cooler temperatures. Unfortunately, the humidity still thinks it’s summertime. That’s true, but running conditions have improved over August’s dog days. Stepping out to mid-60’s temperatures provided a welcomed boost this morning. I had two good runs this weekend, even though my positive performance from Friday wasn’t duplicated on either day.

Yesterday I broke out of the boundaries of my neighborhood, venturing into the nearby business park and the neighborhood that connects to it. I’d targeted 5 miles and ran easy. That turned out to be a good idea because the humidity was an oppressive 88%. This morning felt cooler and a moderate breeze from the north provided a nice offset to still-present humidity. I’d considered a trail run but didn’t want to deal with mountain bikers at Stillwell. I ended up staying local.

The best thing about today’s run was that my energy level was running a few notches above usual. Feeling stronger prompted me to step up my pace and open my stride. It was during my run on Saturday that I noticed how my form has changed since dealing with my herniated disc. I still have slight discomfort in my left thigh, especially when I push my speed.

After yesterday’s run, I looked up strides and landing styles and realized for the first time that I am actually not a pronator. That label was given to me seven years ago by the salesperson at Super Runner’s in Huntington after she watched me walk across the store. That resulted in my purchase of a pair of Brooks Adrenaline 9’s that I loved dearly and wore for 1,000 miles.

Although pronators are supposed to wear stability trainers, I’ve always felt comfortable running in neutral shoes, especially the minimal variety, That explains my love for the Kinvaras and my appreciation of the Saucony Virratas that I recently replaced with the Kinvara 5s. The article I read showed wear patterns and connected them to different types of strides: pronator, over-pronator, neutral and supinator.

According to the illustrations, I’m a supinator, someone whose foot rolls outward on landing. I looked at my Virratas, the shoes with the most outdoor mileage, and the wear pattern clearly shows that I do this. So now I’m confused. Stability shoes are built with a medial post or some type of multi-density material in the mid-sole to neutralize inward rolling. I get that. What I don’t get is when I look up “best shoes for supination” most results point to stability shoes. But since it’s the opposite problem, wouldn’t stability shoes amplify supination?

While the running world works to figure that out, I’ll stick with my minimal neutral models. The only downside to that is my preferred shoes use a fairly soft material on the out-sole that is apt to wear out from all my supinatin’. Still, I’d rather run in shoes that feel right, rather than ones that are made for people who supinate. So far, that seems to be the right approach.

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.

ShoeKicker finds finds running shoe bargains

http://shoekicker.com/

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

Back to the run today. I’ve been non-stop all week at work and getting home a little later than I’d like. Due to that, I wasn’t able to fit in a workout last night. This morning I kicked off my weekend of running with a few loops around the neighborhood. The humidity was down, my energy was up and I thought I was really hammering my last mile. No such luck, but it was my fastest of the day.

Our plans this weekend may interfere with both my running and blogging so I’m glad I got out today. If I have time, I’ll continue my search for my next pair of running shoes. The guy behind a new site and web app called ShoeKicker contacted me recently. That was timely, since I’m in the market for a new trainers.

ShoeKicker is a clever idea. Put in the shoe that you want to buy, plus your size and gender, and it quickly returns the best price on the web. There’s a button to take you directly to the lowest offer, along with alternative sites that sell the shoe. The feedback I gave him was to add more capabilities to the site to bring people back more frequently. I also think it would be good for the app to provide some contextual information to help educate the user or provide an opportunity to price alternative models.

I miss the (defunct) Runners World shoe app and ShoeKicker could be a good, modern alternative. It has a clean design, easy to use interface and tells you how much you save in fun non-monitory terms. Dave, the guy behind the site, seems very interested in providing the best possible experience to his users. Check it out. Once I decide on my next shoe, I’ll probably use the site to buy them.

Hills, heat, humidity and a failure to Triumph

The route

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 5 miles

Yesterday’s track workout inspired me to get out for another “destination” run this morning. By that I mean a run outside the confines of my general neighborhood. Since I pushed my efforts on Saturday, I figured today would be best spent running easy on the Bethpage trail.

ISOs: pretty, but not this editor’s choice

I decided to try the Saucony Triumph ISOs again to see how they perform now that my stride has begun to normalize. While I was recovering from the disc issue, my left foot would mash up toward the front of my running shoes and the ISOs seemed to do it the most of any of my running shoes. These highly cushioned trainers won the Runner’s World Editor’s Award and I had high hopes that they would become my primary shoes. I’m concluding that, for my arch type, lower is better. That’s why I’ve reverted back to using my Vitarras even though they have a sizable amount of wear on the out-soles.

The cyclists were out in force this morning with less runners than I usually see on the bike trail. My hope was that I’d feel energized from yesterday’s intervals. That wasn’t the case, but I said, “What the heck” since I planned for this to be a recovery effort. I cruised along the sparsely populated path and at one point I was passed by a fast moving runner with whom I tried to match strides. No such luck. She quickly disappeared into the distance.

There’s usually a lot of fauna on the trail, mostly birds and bunnies. Today I saw an actual jack rabbit crossing the path about 20 feet ahead of me. In silhouette it looked a lot like the eponymous character in the Jackrabbit Sports logo. Although the humidity was supposedly low, it didn’t feel that way to me. The temperature was 81° and the sun was baking down. The combination of weather and hills on the north end of the trail did me in and I was ready to throw in the towel once I reached 5 miles.

A towel would have been great to have when I finished. When I looked at the Garmin’s stats and saw it report 51% humidity I shook my head. The work week starts again tomorrow, and I hope to get in some type workout before next Friday. I was glad to get away for a couple of non-neighborhood runs this weekend and pleased that I finally worked in a speed workout. As for the Triumphs, I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with them. That’s unfortunate. I could always wear them as weekend casual shoes, but they are a bit too vivid to wear in public unless I’m running.