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.

Kinvara 5s with a side of sausage

Thinking out of the box

Today’s run (street): 3.8 miles

We had early plans this morning so I had to get out early to meet our schedule. Like yesterday, I was tight on time and that caused me to cut my targeted distance short. I didn’t cover five miles as planned, but I ran an interesting route. The run seemed to go by fast. After checking the data, I saw that I’d averaged 20 seconds a mile slower than yesterday.

Today’s route

When we got home I saw that my new Kinvaras had arrived. Over the years I’ve received shoes from manufacturers for review (most recently the Saucony Triumph ISOs) and that’s always fun. However, test models are not necessarily the shoes that I’d buy for myself. The Kinvara 5 definitely seems to meet my needs. In fact, it’s the third version of the Kinvara that I’ve owned, and I was happy to pay for them.

My Kinvara collection

I immediately replaced the K5’s original laces with a pair of “sausage” style. These laces never untie and I use them with most of my running shoes. The Kinvara 5s have a feature called “Pro-Lock” that provides a more secure mid-foot fit and I wondered how that would work with new laces. After trying them on and taking some steps around the living room, I determined that the combination worked.

I plan to use them for the first time tomorrow. I have no expectation that these new shoes will give me more speed or provide a noticeably better running experience than the Triumphs. But from the first time I put put on a Kinvara in 2010, I knew it was the shoe for me. I hope it still is.

Sidewalk running on a busy Friday morning

Hurry home K5s

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles
Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

It’s Labor Day weekend and the end of the first week of school. Despite the heat wave we’ve had over the past few days, I know that fall weather will soon be here. I’m pretty excited about that. This morning’s temperature was closer to 70 than 90, but it was still extremely humid when I stepped outside. I patiently waited for a phalanx of buses to go by and then I was off.

I knew it would be humid, so I kept a low effort for the first ten minutes. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Kinvara 5s, but I had to go with the Triumph ISOs today. That turned out to be a good choice because the high volume of traffic forced me onto concrete slab sidewalks a few times. The Triumphs provided a nice cushion from the extra hard surface, but I was still concerned about the possibility of tripping on the uneven sections. Halfway through the run, it seemed like all the school drop-off traffic was finished and it felt a little safer to be on the street.

Along the way, I ran by one of my wife’s friends who was chatting with a neighbor in front of her house. We exchanged quick hellos, but I didn’t have time to stop because I was on a split second schedule. I needed to be showered and dressed in time for a video call that was happening in 30 minutes. I got ready with only seconds to spare and did the call wearing gym shorts. Since my colleagues could only see my top half, that will remain a secret unless they read this post.

I did pretty well today despite the humidity and the fact that I haven’t taken to the Triumphs. My new Kinvaras are due to arrive by 8 PM tomorrow, so I may not get to run in them until Sunday. I think it will be a little cooler on Saturday and plan to cover a little more distance.

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.

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.

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.

So-so on the ISO

 

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

I went out for a run this morning with the hope that I’d be back to pre-injury form. The temperature was in the high 40’s when I first went out. It felt chilly, but once I got out of the shade I was glad I’d worn shorts. I decided to give my Saucony Triumph ISOs another try despite the difficulties I had last time with my feet getting crammed at the front. I did fine with the Virratas last weekend and I’d go back to them as my primary shoe if they weren’t so badly worn.

While there was no real pain during the run, I did feel that now-familiar discomfort in my hamstring throughout the first mile. My gait felt restricted, but that dissipated over time. Even though I didn’t burn up the road today, it ended up feeling like a pre-injury workout. I’m going to do some dynamic stretching before I go out tomorrow. That warm-up may help me get comfortable a lot sooner.

I paid attention to the Triumphs because I agreed to evaluate them for Saucony. They were the Spring 2015 Editor’s Pick in Runners World based on their construction and cushioning. I realized, after spending time with both the Kayanos and these Triumphs, that I prefer a more minimal trainer. I know that I’m striding differently these days due to the disk issue and that could be influencing my experience.

As I continue to recover, I’ll be curious to see if my opinion of the Triumphs will change as my stride starts feeling more natural. I had three great “running inspired” workouts this week, bookended by some good actual runs. I’m hoping the good running experience continues throughout the weekend.

Passing the pavement test

Following the flattest route possible

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

If my orthopedist correctly diagnosed me as having a herniated disc, I must be having a remarkable recovery. Based on what he told me, I should be having a lot more pain when running. That’s not the case and I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. I’m still waiting to meet with this guy to go over the results of my MRI. It’s taking a lot longer than promised, because he’s canceled my last two appointments. This is the place that canceled my original appointment but didn’t let me know until I showed up for it. I’ve just about had it with this office.

I’ve been using our elliptical machine at home and have also been testing hybrid running units at a different location. These no-impact workouts have helped me maintain some fitness without aggravating my disc problem. I’d felt incremental improvement in terms of pain prior to my run last Saturday, only to have it return in a big way during that run. Yesterday’s one mile treadmill session was a test to see whether the pain was still present while running. I ran slowly and my gait felt awkward, but the stabbing pain from last week was gone.

There’s a big difference between running on a level treadmill and hard pavement. I had hopes for a painless outdoor run, but feared it was too soon to expect much improvement. The temperature was only in the high 30’s when I headed outside. I dressed accordingly and felt comfortable with the gear I’d chosen. Once my Garmin showed ready, I was off.

I wore the Kayanos rather than the Saucony Triumph ISOs this morning. The Triumphs made my feet feel squished at the front during last Saturday’s run. The Kayanos did the same thing today. It’s clearly related to my current stride and foot strike. Although I’ve continued to work out despite these running problems, ellipticals don’t provide the same level of intensity as a treadmill. Due to that, I’m feeling some conditioning gaps when I run.

I started today’s run along my usual route. The first left off my street goes about a quarter mile up a 2% grade. It’s enough to notice, but usually not an issue for me. Today it felt like I was running up James Street during the Great Cow Harbor 10K. If you’re not familiar with Widow Hill, it’s the stuff of nightmares. For me anyway.

There was no real pain during the run, but my stride didn’t feel very natural. I ran slowly to avoid triggering a problem. My plan was to do my distance and then evaluate both my fitness and my readiness for increasing mileage and pace. For a three mile run, it felt like a lot of work, but I’m very pleased that the soreness hasn’t returned.

I’m going to add 10% more distance tomorrow and I’m thinking about going to the track to take advantage of that soft, flat surface. Someday, I’d like to go there to run intervals. Tomorrow my hope is to do a little more and hurt a little less.

First run: Freemotion 850 & Saucony Triumph ISOs

The new new things

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles? I forgot to check!

I listened to the weather on my way home from the office last night and was disheartened to hear that we’ll be facing below-zero temperatures and more snow this weekend. But then I remembered that we have a new treadmill and suddenly all was right in the world. I was very happy after that, and even happier when my wife reminded be to swing by Panda to pick up our Chinese New Year dinner.

With all the snow and ice we’ve had this year, options for running have been limited. This was made worse with the failure of our treadmill. The only choice I’ve had this month has been the elliptical machine. While I’ve come to really appreciate the workout, I’ve missed running a lot. I work from home on Fridays and that gave me my first opportunity since January 25th to actually run. Not only would I be using this treadmill for the first time (the minute I spent on it the day it was delivered doesn’t count), but I’d also have my first run in the Saucony Triumph ISOs.

I was curious to see how I’d do after three-plus weeks away from running. Did the elliptical sessions preserve my fitness, or would I find myself overtaxed? I plugged my phone into the sound jack and started up a podcast. The very large built-in speaker amplified the voices well enough to clearly hear over the motor. This is so much better than earbuds, which I despise. I stepped up on the new machine and immediately appreciated the quiet, shriek-free experience.

The Sauconys felt good underfoot. They are well cushioned but don’t feel heavy. The Freemotion’s deck suspension feels more responsive than the Sole’s. I took it fairly easy to avoid aggravating muscles that are not used to running. Running felt surprisingly good and the first mile went by quickly. I thought the Triumphs felt more comfortable and ran a lot better than the Kayanos.

It’s really great to be able to run again after almost a month and I was pleased that I got through today’s workout without feeling like I’ve lost fitness. I may find it a bit tougher when I finally return to the road. Overall, I should do fine. I know I’ll eventually disparage the idea of treadmill running, but for now, it’s great to have that option again.