It’s about ten years now when I planned to run regularly and bought my first pair of running shoes. I had no idea about running shoes back then and so I went to a nearby running store and got my feet and stride analyzed and bought the shoes they recommended. Over the years I started to read and to learn about running shoes and running in general. I tried and tested several different shoes from minimal to cushioned and the ones below are those I used for a few months straight. Also I did each race in one of these shoes.
So here I’d like to describe them and what made me use these product and why I chose to test new ones.
I have no idea what running shoe they sold me in that shop ten years ago. I just remember that it was a pair of Nike shoes with a strong support and heavy cushioning. These shoes lasted for about a year and I trained with them for my first 10k race and the first two half marathons. The shoe felt really comfortable in general and I liked it overall. However I didn’t think much about shoes, what kind of shoes there are or what might suit me best. I just trusted the running store guy.
After my first shoe was worn out I decided to stick with a shoe from the same brand and bought the Nike Lunarglide 5. When I went into the store I didn’t ask anyone to consult me I just tried several shoes. The Lunarglide seemed to be the one that was the most comfortable and so I bought it. This new shoe felt a bit heavier and I started to think about comparing the weight when I looked out for my next pair of shoes. Although this Nike shoes were again very comfy mostly due to the heavy cushioning. But I started to feel like running on “heels” because of the rather big heel drop and the 2 inches of cushioning.
About the time I was running with the Nike Lunarglide I read Born To Run the bestseller running book by Christopher McDougall. The main part of the book is about a race with members of a hidden tribe of super runners in the Mexican Copper Canyons. These native Mexicans are able to run for hours and hundreds of kilometers on dangerous trails and all that in homemade sandals. The book discusses if running in minimal footwear is healthier than the cushioned running shoes that were the standard, also for me. After reading the book and performing some more research of Prof. Lieberman’s work I decided to try running in minimal shoes.
I then bought Vibram’s FiveFinger KSO Trek a barefoot shoe that offered just minimal protection but was made for trails. It was not so easy to get FiveFingers back then in Switzerland. I bought them in an online shop that was operating in Italy. I started out slowly in my new barefoot shoes with just a couple of miles. My first impression was great the lightweight shoe and contact to the surface I was running on felt very natural. I slowly increased the distances I ran in the FiveFingers and never had any injuries or issues with minimal running.
I decided to buy another pair of FiveFingers. This new pair was the “Speed” that featured shoe strings and was optimized for road running. I used both FiveFingers and the Lunarglide in turns to get my feet some change. A setup that worked for me quite well. I also ran a half marathon race in my FiveFingers Speed.
I really liked training in my FiveFingers however they had one problem. As the sole was very thin you can feel every little stone and some of them are quite spiky. So I was looking for something in between a very lightweight minimal running shoe that has a slightly thicker sole to absorb the stones. I found it in the Nike Free 3.0. The Nike Free is the perfect example of a shoe that protects your feet from stones, roots or shards but doesn’t pack your feet in like a plaster with a 2 inch air cushion beneath it. I liked the Free right away but it had also one downside: Since the sole of the shoe was quite special and consisted of dozens of “mini soles” packed together, sometimes stones got stuck in between them. I felt these stones when running and needed to get rid of them all the time.
With the newer version the Nike Free 5.0 and later with the ultra lightweight Nike Free Flyknit they made some improvements on the sole that made this issue better. I still have some stones sticking in the sole from time to time. But especially for road running the Nike Free series are a great choice. I ran a couple of marathons in them and still use them today.
As I started to run on trails more and more I was looking for a trail running shoe that was also lightweight but had a better profile to have more grip on muddy and technical trails. Influenced by the Kilian’s Quest movies on Youtube I bought a pair of Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra. Most running shoes I used the years before cost around $100. This one was around twice that price but I still bought it. And it was worth it! I use the Salomon Sense now for a couple of years and ran all my trail races in them. Till this day I consider these my favorite pair of running shoes. They are light but safe, have a good grip and the QuickLace system is awesome. I also appreciate that Salomon made a lot of different versions of the Sense like the Sense Mantra so there seems to be a pair for everyone out there.
I’ll keep running in Nike Free and Salomon running shoes but will test other brands and shoes. Come back here regularly and check out what experiences I made and for my reviews of the tested shoes.
So what are your favorite running shoes? Did you stick with a brand or do you switch your running shoe model all the time?