2021 marked two major changes for me.
- I started running again. Still hovering at 10 miles a week for now, but hoping to ramp it up. Tried ramping up too fast earlier and got some bad tendonitis.
- I threw away my slide sandals and don’t plan on going back to them anytime soon, if ever.
#2 might be the bigger news. I’ve been wearing slide sandals every day long before Mark Zuckerberg turned them into the symbol of slouchy techies too lazy to dress themselves. I was a slouchy middleschooler too lazy to dress himself. I wore slide sandals with socks in the New Jersey winter down to sub-freezing temperatures. I wore them without socks in 100F temps around the track during our annual “chocolate milk mile.” One semester in college my only pair wore through, so I borrowed my roommate’s slides and it became such a frequent habit that he just let me have them. I eventually wore a hole in those too, right at the ball of my left foot.
A major downside of wearing slides all the time is that your heels begin to resemble dinosaur skin; slide sandals put a lot of pressure on your heels. Also I’m a little suspicious that wearing slides all the time encouraged bad habits in my gait (I shuffle a lot) that ultimately might have caused some of my numerous running injuries over the years.
So yeah I chucked them. And then I started looking at running shoe technology advancements over the years and it’s pretty sick. I tried the Nike Vaporfly Next% and it is seriously magical. Carbon fiber plates are the future. I’m also a fan of medium-low heel-toe drops for myself since my ankles and knees are shit so it’s up to you, calves. I’ve also been on the Newton train for a decade now but wow other shoe companies have caught up (Hokas look pretty cool).
I think I have my shoe rotation for the next half all planned out but shoe shopping made me nostalgic! I realized that only I know what shoes meant a lot to me over the years, so here is a log recording shoes that stood out to me over the years.
Shoes I love (2005-2009)
Asics Speedstar (2005)
Bright yellow colorway. Very light and fast for the time. I never owned these specific shoes (I did later get the Speedstar 2) but one of the fastest kids on the team wore them: Terry Wu. Terry seemed like a superhero during the summer training months running insane mileage in these; watching him be a try hard made me want to be fast. Unfortunately he eventually got a stress fracture and I got bad shin splints after that summer, so in the Fall of 2005 we spent a lot of time in the weight room riding stationary bikes together.
Since 2006 many running shoes have evolved in the spirit of the Speedstar, benefitting from better materials and a change in popular philosophy from “give heels tons of cushion” to “promote the right kind of movement and energy return.” Lighter weight, lower heel-toe drop, more responsive, pure speed. This shoe seemed early in its category and was really really cool.
Asics Gel-1100 (2005)
This was my first pair of “proper” running shoes, so it makes the list. It’s not even the right type for my biomechanics but prior to these I think my most expensive pair of shoes was like $25. I remember going to Foot-locker with my dad; we paid MSRP for these like schmucks. And then I kept wearing them way longer than I probably should have, since $75 felt like an insane amount of money to me at the time.
Mizuno Wave Rider 9 (2006)
These might have been the first shoes that actually meshed with my biomechanics. On top of being good neutral trainers, they had a wide toebox that fit my kind-of-weird feet very well. The memory I have of wearing these shoes is being a gym class hero during indoor soccer. I can’t even remember if we won, but I did that thing where you stub your toe, the nail turns black, and it falls off. Gross. Coach still made me run at practice. I ended up wearing the Wave Rider 10, 11, and 12 as well.
Asics Gel-Cumulus VII (2007)
I seriously loved these shoes and could never find them after they were discontinued; later iterations weren’t the same. Ran one of my best seasons in these. Look a lot like the 1100s but just better. Also more suitable for neutral runners. Very pillowy though, and definitely promoted heel striking. This was the first pair of shoes I purchased with Google Adsense money from an online game I hosted. Every pair of shoes after these through 2009 were purchased with Adsense money. Thanks google for funding my lifestyle from 2006 to today, lol.
Mizuno Wave Precision 7 (2007)
My first go-fast shoes. Did a decent spring track season in these; extremely light but if I recall correctly they were done after ~200 miles. I loved running fast in these.
Saucony Grid Triumph (2008)
I had a lot of good runs in these shoes. They were my first loud colorway shoes (gold). I still love loud shoes, and I still lack harmonic fashion sense, so these remind me of who I am a little. I also suffered a season-ending IT band injury in these, and although I don’t think it was the shoes’ fault, it made me superstitious and I never wore anything from Saucony after this. I would go on to buy many loud shoes from other manufacturers.
Brooks Ghost (2008)
An attempt to find plusher go-fast shoes. This line of shoes from brooks went on to be one of their best sellers, and for good reason. Like the Mizuno Precisions and the Asics Speedstars these were geared toward running fast on a more minimal platform. However unlike those shoes, thanks to new material developments they managed it without sacrificing too much cushion. I really enjoyed these shoes.
I got the Ghost 2s later on and they weren’t as good for me, but glad to see that the line lives on to this day.
Shoes I love (2010-2020)
After high school I realized I had compartment syndrome, got surgery on both legs, and had to ease back into running. During this time I explored a lot of different shoes but the ones that worked best for me were the Newton POP3 shoes (Newton Energy NR/NR II/Aha/Aha II). At some point I was averaging 40mi+ / week in 2013, but I fell off the wagon and gained 30lbs in the years after that (170lbs -> 200lbs). As of 2021 I’m still at 200lbs but hoping to drop down to 190 by year end, and have been running very consistently for the first two months of the year!
Newton Energy NR (2013)
These shoes have the soul of the Asics Speedstars. Bright yellow, low toe heel drop, designed for speed (lightweight, forefoot lugs make it really responsive), but plenty of cushion for my crappy joints. I bought 5 pairs of these shoes and was sad when they were discontinued. I had tried the Newton Gravity shoes years prior to the release of the Energy, but the lack of cushioning was tough for my needs (especially weighing a bit more) and they didn’t make my list of favorite shoes.
Newton Aha II (Kona Edition) (2017)
Then I bought 3 pairs of these and wore two of them out. I wear the last pair only on special occasions because they look sick and I love them. After these, Newton stopped making all of their “POP3” shoes, which are more cushioned and less aggressive with the forefoot roll than their other offerings. I was sad but had to find a new shoe to wear.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% (Hakone Colorway) (2020)
Hearing that Nike’s carbon fiber plate technology had improved the world marathon record and caused controversy made me get these – I’m a sucker for new technology. Also they look sick. And now as I begin my fourth decade of life, style has become (slightly) more important to me. They are pretty nice on runs but my bad achilles and IT band can get bothered by how plush and unsupportive these are.
I ran maybe 50 miles in these and now they are mostly going to be for looking cool. These are the most expensive shoes I’ve ever purchased ($250!!!) but what’s even crazier is that this colorway in my size is now going for upwards of $500 on secondary markets. I’ve never been about that exclusive shoe game but maybe I should have purchased a couple more pairs for resale. I was feeling guilty buying even one though.
Also wow @ Nike’s marketing: I can never remember the name of these shoes because they have so many similarly named models. Also I’m kind of annoyed at how exclusive they are, since for me if I end up loving a shoe I’d like to purchase a whole bunch of them. Gotta respect how well-oiled their hype machine is, I guess.
Today’s lineup (2021)
Newton Fate 6
I went back to Newton, this time on their POP2 platform. These are my primary trainers now: they are definitely workable, but my legs are definitely having to adjust to the reduced amount of cushioning. I think I might adjust to these better than I did the Newton Gravity (POP1). Time will tell if I love these. I have a feeling they may be relegated to go-fast days.
Asics Metaracer Tokyo
Haven’t broken them in yet but I decided to try another pair of carbon-plate technology shoes and I’m hoping they become my go-to trainers. Maybe this was what got me writing this all down: I kind of had to buy these because they remind me of the summer in 2005 when I learned that running 3 miles isn’t an impossible task. They remind me of the Asics Speedstars with a bright mono colorway and lightweight, go-fast vibes. I’m still painfully slow and 30lbs heavier than I should be today, and these still might become just a pretty pair of walking shoes. But damn, they make me so itchy to run!
: My high-school brain decided that wet socks are inevitable on snow days. Why not make it easier to take those wet socks off once inside the nice warm school?