What running shoes are in your closet? I wanted to share my favorite training shoes. This is not another running shoe review – there are lots of professional reviews – this is what works for me and why. Spikes and racing flats coming later.
Who Decides What We Wear
Running since middle school, and in the late 1970’s training with the Nike Waffle Trainer, I have put thousands and thousands of miles on training shoes from Nike, Adidas, Brooks, Asics, Saucony, and New Balance. Some have worked well, and some have not.
Shoe technologies continue to evolve. There is a lot at stake in the $100 billion athletic footwear market. The manufacturers’ research, product development, and marketing departments are driving the changes, and ultimately influence what the consumer buys. It’s one of the few products where I believe the seller, not the buyer, largely determines what is manufactured and sold. With the release of the Nike Vaporfly 4% and the Vaporfly Next %, we may be witnessing game-changing technologies.
However, putting aside Nike’s latest “controversial” Vaporfly shoes, shoe brands have launched often contradictory products. Do you remember “pronation control” was all the rage to prevent over-pronation? Well, now over-pronation is out and “neutral” is in, because we evolved from hunters and gatherers after all, and therefore we are not designed to run with pronation control! Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” had everyone run to their local running shop to buy barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Yes, shoe manufacturers had us believe, we heel strikers could all become forefoot runners overnight. Now, these same companies are selling us cushioned shoes (here’s looking at you, Hoka and On Cloud) rather than minimalist shoes to reduce overuse injuries. All very confusing.
What Running Shoe is Right for Me
Over the course of my running life (post-high school and college), I probably run 20-60 miles per week (depends on goals and health). For the past 10 years, about 80% of my mileage has been on non-technical trails (local parks), 10% on roads, and 10% on the track. I’m a 5′ 7″ male, and weigh about 135 lbs. Other than the occasional over-use injury, I am generally healthy and consider myself a neutral runner with a mid-foot strike.
Here’s what I look for in a distance training shoe:
- Range of workouts: My daily trainer should be capable of track workouts, tempo runs and long runs. I would rather have two pairs of trainers that I can rotate, than different types of shoes for different types of workouts.
- Minimalist design and construction: The shoe should enhance my natural running motion, and not change it. In addition, it should protect without adding bulk and weight. I look for a neutral shoe with a heel/toe drop of 4-8 mm, a low to medium stack height, and weighing between 7 and 9 oz. An offset of 10 mm or more puts too much forward pressure on my shins, and may exacerbate heel striking. Both conditions may lead to injuries. In addition, the outersole should have sufficient profile and grip for safe trail running (I run on non-technical trails, so don’t need trail shoes), but also work on roads and the track.
- Comfort and protection: I wear a men’s size 8.5 D shoe. However, manufacturers design their shoes with different specs and different lasts. I prefer a supportive heel counter to support and protect the Achilles. I want a wider, more voluminous toebox to allow my forefoot to expand upon impact. And although I like the bootie construction of some shoes, I’ve had to go up 1/2 size and get used to putting these shoes on my feet.
- Quality and price: These are not necessarily correlated. I’ve had expensive Nike shoes and less expensive New Balance shoes that didn’t last 200 miles (midsole separated from upper, heel counter and upper materials ripped, etc.). I expect a daily trainer to last about 300 miles (I’ve worn some shoes up to 500-700 miles) without falling apart. Shoes in the $100 to $150 retail price range usually meet my quality and price expectations. Online stores such as http://runningwarehouse.com, http://roadrunnersports.com and http://joesnewbalanceoutlet.com will sell shoes 30% to 50% off retail before the shoe manufacturers launch their next year’s model.
- Aesthetic: I wear my daily trainers for running, and not to make a fashion statement. Although nice and clean lines, premium materials, and cool colorways are important, aesthetics are at the bottom of my list. I’ve sometimes grabbed a shoe on sale for $50 (instead of $120) even though the colorway wasn’t my first choice.
- Brand Values: I do think it’s important that a shoe company’s values are generally aligned with mine. Companies are increasingly embracing sustainable business models, supply chain traceability, and improving their end-to-end customer experience.
Drum Roll, Please!!! My Daily Training Shoes…
From the beginning of this journey that started on June 9, 2018, I’m training in New Balance FuelCell Impulse shoes. When New Balance recently launched the New Balance 890 v7, I added a pair for my faster tempo runs and track workouts. I was a huge fan of the 890 many years ago, and sad when New Balance (temporarily) discontinued the 890 after the 890 v5. Similarly, I was excited when New Balance decided to re-launch the 890 with the 890 v6, and had to buy the v7 when New Balance re-engineered the shoe to make it a lighter, faster shoe.
Both training shoes work well for my training, based on the type of training I do, and the type of runner I am. The FuelCell Impulse feels like a more cushioned shoe (despite the lower stack height), and more supportive and stable than the 890 v7. The 890 v7 is a stiffer (heel to toe), harder (in the forefoot), snappier (on push off) shoe. Hence the FuelCell works well for longer runs, and the 890 v7 for shorter, faster runs. Having said that, I’ve completed awesome tempo runs and track workouts in the FuelCell before I added the 890 to my shoe collection.
New Balance FuelCell Impulse vs. 890 v7
|Criteria||NB FuelCell Impulse||NB 890 v7|
|Weight||232 grams (8.2 oz)||196 grams (6.9 oz)|
|Drop||6 mm||6 mm|
|Stack Height||Low: 23 mm (heel), 17 mm (forefoot)||Low: 27 mm (heel), 21 mm (forefoot)|
|Outsole||REVlite with blown rubber||REVlite with blown rubber|
|Upper||Engineered mesh; Bootie construction||Engineered knit; Gusseted tongue||MSRP||$120||$120|