Experimenting with Running Shoes

Two weeks ago, a good friend from high school asked me what running shoes I wear. This is a question I’m asked often, and I never know how to respond. Despite running for all these years, I don’t know much about running shoes. I’ve never worked in a running store, I’ve never studied the structure of the shoes, I really only know what has and hasn’t worked for me. So, I always respond the same way – this is what I’m wearing now, this is what has and hasn’t worked for me.

running shoes

Current lineup of shoes I’m cycling through.

My friend’s question got me thinking how much more adventurous I have been in the past year with my running shoes. My early running career had me riddled with injuries. I don’t really remember what brand of shoes I wore in middle and high school, but I know I wore Nike shoes all through college and was injured almost every season. When my collegiate career was over, I started wearing Asics shoes and I was injury free for the longest period ever. I don’t know what Asics shoe I was wearing in the beginning, but I know I was eventually in the Gel Cumulus and I remained injury free so I stuck with those.

asics gel cumulus

Brand new Asics Gel Cumulus. Gonna start running in these any day now!

After I had my daughter, I got serious about training again, and started (a month after her birth) in the Asics Gel Cumulus. I added Saucony Guide into the mix and ended up with bad plantar fasciitis in both feet and pain under my right ankle. The pain was so intense I took 3 weeks off before my peak marathon (still ran the race and had a big PR). There’s no way I can say it was the shoe and not my intense training for the first 6 months after my daughter was born. But… once I got better I was very worried about shoe choice again.

I went back to the Cumulus and had no injury problems that disrupted my training. I decided I was going to be an Asics girl for life. Despite every running magazine, runner friend, and running blog telling me I should be alternating shoes daily, I wore one pair of shoes until it was dead then bought another pair and it was always the Asics Gel Cumulus.

Then, a friend who was a New Balance Tech Rep sent me the NB 890s and I had success in them. No injuries. The 890 is a lightweight shoe that is cushiony enough for everyday training. So, I added that shoe into the mix, mostly on faster running days, and still wore the Asics on my easy runs.

new balance 890s

New Balance 890s, in desperate need of replacement!

Next, I started winning shoes in races. The first time I won shoes this year, the gift certificate said I could get any shoe in the store. The race was in Seattle and I was only there for a few more days so I had to take whatever they had in stock. They didn’t have my size in the Asics so I ended up with what the employee said was a similar Saucony shoe, the Ride 5. I did pretty well in it. So at that point I was alternating a pair of Asics, New Balance, and Sauconys in the training mix.

women's saucony ride 5

A few months later, I was online shoe shopping and saw Nike Pegasus for really cheap. Since they are a neutral shoe (what I usually go for) I decided to try them. I wasn’t a big fan, but they were ok. They irritated my heels and hips, but nothing a good dynamic stretching session couldn’t eliminate.

nike pegasus

Not my favorite shoe, but hasn’t injured me yet…

Then I won the Saucony Kinvaras in December and while I’m not a huge fan, they work. For some reason, they make me feel slow and make my legs feel flat, but they don’t give me any aches or pains and they were free so I can’t complain! I wear these for faster stuff. My younger brother races marathons in them!

women's saucony kinvara

A few weeks later my brother gave me some Saucony Peregrine trail shoes and they have been amazing on snow. They feel great on my feet and are my favorite Saucony shoes I’ve tried. Success!

saucony peregrine

I’m a big fan of the Saucony Peregrine on snow! They are a little narrow for my wide foot, but I love everything else!

Finally, I’ve been curious about Newtons for a long time. I’m a natural midfoot striker, and have been told by many people I should be running in them. So, I got the Gravity a few weeks ago. I’ve done a few miles in them and so far they are great. VERY different in a way I can’t quite explain in so few miles. I just feel like my entire body, from neck to ankles, changes when I’m running in them.

newton gravity

Newton Gravity – so far, so good!

I started this post right after my friend asked me for shoe advice, but was hesitant to make it public because every time I talk about not being injured, I get an injury! But, after reading Kristy’s post, I decided being a little adventurous in my shoe selection *might* be a good thing.

Maybe after all this, I will end up back in my good old Asics. Maybe I’ll become 100% devoted to another brand. Or maybe I’ll be able to choose from multiple brands, depending what’s on sale. Time will tell! 

So tell me, do you run one shoe into the ground before switching? Do you rotate multiple pairs? Do you stick with the same brand? Do you wear the same exact shoes but rotate different pairs?

24 thoughts on “Experimenting with Running Shoes

  1. I really want to try the newtons. SO expensive! I tried them on at an expo, and they felt VERY different just standing there.
    I used to run in the kinvaras, and when I found the Brooks pure flows I stopped. You said exactly how I felt in the kinvaras – flat. They were my first experience with a more minimal type shoe, low heel drop, so they were great. But after the pure flows, they don’t compare. I try to run in the same brand. So I wear the pure flows for training and the pure connects for speed and racing. I feel like if I switched a ton, I would get injured. I am a neutral runner, too, at least I think I am and I like running in a more minimal sneaker. Loved reading about all of your sneakers!

    • I used to hate Brooks shoes (like 5 years ago) but friends have been telling me they are completely redesigned and are so much better now! I just have a mental block against them because of how they were in the past. I should really try them again! Everyone seems to love the Pure Flows! Yes, the Newtons are expensive but my brother said they last more miles. I got mine about $75 off so that’s what made me finally try them. They were still $100, but better than $175! I might hate them eventually, but right now they intrigue me!

      • I got the Launch a couple years back and hated them.. tempted to try the PureFlow, but can’t quite bring myself to do it. Everyone else loves the Launch – and they’re horrible for me… As some one who is prejudiced against Brooks, curious what you think of the PureFlow when you get around to them.

  2. Saucony fastwitch are my favorite. I would run in them all the time but I don’t want wear them out.
    I’ll be interested in hearing about your newtons after some miles.

  3. I switch between the Asics GT 21xx series (I’ve been wearing these ever since I started running!) and Brooks Adrenalines. They are both stability shoes and I haven’t come across any significant differences between them (except that brooks come in better colors!) I bought a pair of Kinvara 2s maybe 6 months ago and would do one short, easy run in them each week. I’ve also raced in them (10k and shorter) because they are so light. When I hurt my foot in September, though, my doctor told me to maybe drop the lightweight shoes for awhile. I haven’t ever gone near Nike, Adidas, etc. and have no plans to unless some injury happens – I love the shoes I’m in now!

    • Haha, gotta go with the colors! Actually, in the beginning when I first started wearing the New Balance shoes I totally bought a second pair because I loved the colors. :) I’m hoping you stay injury free this year! Time off running due to injury is so incredibly depressing…

  4. Shoes are so tricky for me. I uses to just wear Nike Vomeros for hundreds of miles (literally, a year or two). Then I started getting plantar pain/inflammation in July, so I have tried a bunch of shoes. Right now I am wearing the Brooks Pure Flows, but I often wonder if they are the right choice. So far, so good though!

    • My husband wears the same exact pair of shoes for over a year before buying new. He wears the Nike Structure and he doesn’t start to really feel in a groove with them until about 6 months, then he spends another 6-8 months in them. And he runs at least 6 miles every single day! Crazy how different we all are! I’ve heard AWESOME things about the Brooks Pure Flows! Glad they are working for you!

  5. I’m in the middle of choosing a new pair (My Nikes were discontinued!)…and the Saucony Kinvaras 3 are my #1 so far! GAH! So nerve wracking! They were a bit stiff but your thought that “They didn’t hurt anything” is my thought too…I want a sub 2 and these seem like they’d do the job!

  6. Interesting. What is the rationale behind rotating shoes every day? I usually wear Asics GT 21XX and Brooks Cascadia for trail. I might venture outside of the GT the next time I purchase shoes bc they have changed it so I can feel the difference. My husband Lucas, is a natural mid foot striker and did not like the Newtons as they put a lot of stress on his already tight calves and achilles.

    • Hi Lisa! A few of the reasons people say to alternate shoes are 1) it supposedly takes 24-48 hours for a pair of shoes to recover to their original shape after a run and if the shoe recovers, they may last longer before breaking down (true? or does it really matter? who knows?!) 2) lighter weight shoes for workout days (totally preference in my opinion) or just shoes for different terrain such as trail shoes vs road shoes 3) in the case of wet shoes that don’t dry the next day 4) never stressing the same parts of the feet with different brands/models. Those are a few of the reasons I’ve heard.
      To be honest, I would never have branched out if I didn’t start winning shoes/getting them as gifts! I was really worried about the Newtons because my dad has been injured for almost a year now since wearing the Newtons on a longer run. :( I’m being extremely cautious with them! I’ve been using this past year to experiment with all sorts of aspects of my running (nutrition, sleep, training cycles, shoes) until I find what’s going to make me the fastest and healthiest runner I can be.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • Interesting! Thank you for the information. I also have a pair of Asics DS trainers that I LOVE. I should put them back into the rotation!

  7. I am in the process of deciding on what I am going to add to my Mizuno Precision that I love. I feel like you would like that shoe too btw. I wore Newton’s LY – went though 3 pair. I liked them but I wore down the outer lugs so much that the shoe became slanted and I would have to rotate after like 200 miles in them. Then I realized the the shoe prob wasn’t good for me bc of that — the slanted wearing so quickly as it would make me roll out even more!! Just a heads up bc I think you may wear like I do and roll ankles like I do too….

    I also hated Kinvara’s!!! I got a rec to try the Brooks Launch and Mizuno Wave Rider so those are the top of my list right now….

    Great post though, love hearing about this kind of stuff!!!

    • Thanks Kristy! I will check out the Mizuno Precision! We definitely wear out shoes the same way so those might work well for me!

  8. Hey, Jen!

    This is a great opportunity for me to vent about my shoe! Before running for Nike, I was an Asics girl myself, and I alternated the Nimbus and the Cumulus. I think alternating definitely helps shoes last longer. I never thought I would like Nikes, but so far they have been great! Unfortunately, I’ve stopped rotating and have run my LunarGlides into the ground. Things started feeling funny after only 300 mi (which is pretty unusual, I can usually get 400-500), but I kept running in them. I got to 450 miles and decided I couldn’t run another day in them. I’ve got two nagging injuries now! Moral of the story: When you start getting a little tweak here, and a little tweak there, don’t be afraid to retire your shoes!

    Great post, and I hope your training is going well. :) Take care!

    -Suzanne

    • Thanks for the words of warning Suzanne! I have many times thought of overwearing my shoes. Well, I’ve done more than think, I’ve actually worn them too long many times and just like you, little problems started popping up! It’s always a good reminder!

  9. We are the same person! 1) I’m from Rochester. 2) Asics Cumulus were my all time favorite shoes for years. Last June I bought the 14’s though and got a bad case of plantar fascitis that I still(!) have. I read they got stiffer, and definitely feel the difference between the old models and my new ones. I’ve gone to Fleet Feet once a month, probably, exchanging shoes, testing out new ones. I wore the Kinvaras for awhile, which didn’t help my PF at all but didn’t give me any more injuries. Tried the Brooks Pure Cadence, which I liked, at the same time that I tried the Brooks Ghost, which I’m pretty sure gave me shin splints in the same leg that has PF. Returned the Ghosts and got the Saucony Rides which I wear to work but can’t run in yet without aggravating my shin (maybe it’s the drop?).

    All I know is I miss the old Cumulus!

    • Brittany! I’m so glad you said something about the Cumulus changing. I completely forgot about that. It’s another reason I started venturing out! How could I forget? I even asked every shoe expert I could find about what shoe would compare, and never found another shoe I loved. I got achy feet from the 14 too. Geesh. Wish they’d stop changing the shoes we love! Seems to happen to runners all the time. Thanks for your comment!

      • Just seeing the pic of your old, beat up Cumulus’s made my heart hurt, haha. I had them in that red color too. I’m wondering if I should try to find them online because the search for something comparable has got me nowhere:( If you ever find something you like just as much let me know! (Or mention it in a post:) )

        BTW- do you have any recommendations for PTs/sports doctors/chiros in the area? I really need someone who is familiar with runners and understands that just because I’m not 60 something, doesn’t mean I’m not still in need of good treatment! I haven’t run pain-free since July:(

  10. I’m definitely a wear-one-pair-till-they-die person but I also don’t run very high mileage and I think that’s probably a factor in the why-you-should-rotate theory. With the other factor being rotate to change up which muscles are being activated, even just a little bit, can probably help reduce injury. But, as I always say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So until they change the Mizuno Wave Rider’s in a way that I don’t like, I’ll be in those :) Although I also tried to NB 890’s and was also a fan of them, not a bad shoe!

    • Yes! It’s so wonderful to find a pair that you love! I completely forgot that I was extremely happy with the Cumulus until they changed the newer version. Someone reminded me about it in the comment section here. I hope the Mizuno Wave Riders keep working for you. :)

  11. I have been wearing Asics Cumulus for years. It’s my go-to shoe. But at a running store today I tried on the Saucony Rider and liked them, too. I’m so torn! Buy what I know and love (pain-free!), or try something new that could be even better?

    What are you thinking now that you have had the Riders for awhile? How do they compare to the Cumulus?

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