I want to show you the sizable collection of shoes I own and use.
I used to be a guy who’d buy one pair of shoes, and then wear them everyday until holes in the seams forced me to buy a new pair. It turns out you’re not supposed to wear shoes that often, but I had no idea.
My running shoes were an old pair of Avias that I kept for about a decade and had definitely long passed their expiration date once I got seriously into running. Parts of the sole had actually detached and fallen off, but I kept running in them whenever I needed running or athletic shoes.
After buying my first serious pair of running shoes (Saucony Ride 9’s), and learning a little bit about different types of training, I decided to buy a small variety of shoes to better suit that training: Some speed shoes, some trail shoes, some regular running shoes and a pair of racing flats.
I used them all liberally, and as they piled up miles and I increased my training volume I went looking for more upgrades, as well as needed different shoes for a wider variety of purposes. Over time I’ve assembled a sizable collection of running shoes. I became a veritable Imelda Marcos when it comes to running shoes.
Let me show them all to you, in the order that I acquired them:
When I first got serious running shoes, I got them in size 10.5, 2E width. For reasons I’ll explain later that changed, but for now….
Saucony Ride 9
- Weight: 9.3 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm
- Current Mileage: 301.0 miles
- Acquired: October 2016
My first serious pair of shoes. I wore them on every training run before buying my full set of various trainers.
They’re a heavier, more cushioned pair of shoes than the shoes I wear now, though at the time they felt perfectly normal because regular cushioned 10-13 oz shoes were all I knew.
I first wore these with custom insoles, and I’m glad I kept the original insoles because there came a point where the custom insoles began to interfere with my (improving) stride rather than helping it, so I swapped them for good.
At one point they had far and away more mileage than my other shoes, so they were backburnered. But at this point they actually have comparably fewer miles than others. Still, because they’re heavier than other models I tend not to use them for longer workouts.
Use: Off-work. Occasional short runs around neighborhood.
New Balance 1400v1 boots
- Weight: 15.2 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: Not specified, but it’s a boot, so I imagine it’s a lot.
- Current Mileage: 79.0 miles
- Acquired: December 2016
I got these because you could run in them even though they’re basically boots. I knew I would need winter running gear with snow forthcoming, and the Sauconys simply didn’t have any sort of insulation.
While these are technically intended for hiking, I actually DID run in them during winter 16-17. They certianly aren’t easy to run in at more than a slow trot, but you definitely can. Following the ’16-17 winter, I got more knowledge and experience and learned I could run in most freezing conditions with regular running shoes provided I layered my feet well.
These boots fit in well at work during winter and wetter weather, when everyone else has their boots on. I pretty much wear them any day I plan to stomp through snowfall.
Use: Still go-to footwear for days of heavy snow and rainfall, where slush and puddles are expected along way. Rarely do I run in them; usually these runs are incidental.
New Balance Vazee Coast v2
- Weight: 8.0 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm
- Current Mileage: 415.0 miles
- Acquired: January 2017
This was part of the first set of trainers I ordered from New Balance in early 2017. I had initially bought some other Sauconys from Road Runner, but they didn’t fit well when they arrived so I had to send them back. Needing 2E-wide shoes, New Balance had plenty of models available, so I re-ordered different shoes through them.
This is my favorite pair of shoes, and my original pair of speed workout shoes. The Vazee Coasts are very light and easy to run fast in. I only phased them out of speed workouts after new speed shoes were acquired, as the Coasts were starting to pile up miles.
These are easily the most work-friendly pair of running shoes I own, as the style blends well with my work clothes in business casual environments.
I have semi-de-commissioned these shoes for running due to their advanced lifetime mileage. I don’t typically plan to run when I wear these shoes because of their mileage. I still do sometimes, however, and they still feel comfortable to run in as speed flats.
It’s a shame this particular version was discontinued: If I could get a new pair of this exact model I would. Unfortunately, later versions of the Coast haven’t been as good (they’ve been absorbed under NB’s FuelCore line, and frankly the current models look terrible). And unfortunately no one seems to be sitting on an archive of available pairs of this model in my size. Once I dump mine, it’s gone.
Use: All purpose casual footwear, work footwear if I don’t plan to run after work, and I’ll do the occasional run in them as the situation calls for it.
New Balance 510v3 Trail
- Weight: 12.3 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 12mm
- Current Mileage: 166.3 miles
- Acquired: January 2017
This was part of my January NB set order, and my first pair of trail-specific shoes. I’d wear these for Lincoln Park basic runs, any regular runs where I knew I’d spend most of the run on the dirt trails, or any runs in rainy conditions.
They are heavy and clunky, and running in them never felt comfortable. They do tread as well as advertised and can handle the trail conditions better than other models, but I do notice the extra weight these days.
They also didn’t insulate as well against water as I would have liked: It was fine in some wet conditions, but if it rained any substantial amount they were as useless as any other running shoe.
Once I was able to upgrade to other trail and rain-insulated models, this basically got shelved with plenty of life to spare.
Use: Not much. I haven’t retired them, but I rarely use them these days since other shoes I have since acquired serve the trail-running purpose and feel better to run in.
New Balance 1500v2 racing flats
- Weight: 7.9 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm
- Current Mileage: 148.2 miles
- Acquired: January 2017
Part of that first NB set, and my first ever race-specific shoes. Only the most serious runners reserve a pair of shoes just for running in races, and that’s exactly what I did with these.
After breaking them in during a couple of brief runs, I ONLY used these shoes to run races, from the 2017 Mardi Gras Chaser 10K on.
They are lightweight and provide very little cushion. Like any racing flat their role is to be light and allow you to move your feet as quickly and easily during a race as possible. I ran many a PR in several races wearing these shoes.
I discontinued them for a while after the 2017 Great Race 10K in Pittsburgh: After the race (itself eventful for reasons I’ll get into someday), I felt something like a rock sticking the bottom of my foot after the race, and even after shaking the shoe out it didn’t feel like I had gotten it out. I finally checked my bare foot and saw a rubbed-out spot resembling the early stages of a blister.
Thinking at the time my foot had changed its fit in the shoe or worse yet that the shoe was beginning to wear out early, I stopped wearing it in races for a while. Go figure my performance in those subsequent races wasn’t as great. I recently started wearing them again for long runs in preparation for the Chicago Marathon, and go figure they feel fine.
Thanks to shelving them for a while, their mileage isn’t as advanced as my other pairs of speed shoes. These shoes may have a lot more races in them before all is said and done.
Use: Off-work. Races and my longest long runs during marathon training, as the shoes will be used in marathons.
New Balance Vazee Summit
- Weight: 9.3 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 10mm
- Current Mileage: 269.0 miles
- Acquired: May 2017
After acquiring my training set, this was the first shoe I bought following that.
I was actually led to these shoes shortly before track runs, as I realized my shoes were great for roads and trails but I didn’t have any shoes with tread. While you can run on tracks without any tread, your grip is not as steady as it is on the road. You need some sort of tread to work effectively with the surface.
I didn’t want to get spikes, as I wanted tread-shoes that could also be used on roads and trails, and the Summits had sufficient tread for the task. They run great on the track and they’re the shoes I go to for those workouts.
Despite similar weight to the Sauconys they actually feel a bit light, probably because of their form-fitting build. They do fit a bit tight compared to other models, and definitely let in just about any liquid or gravel I step on.
Use: Off-work, speed workouts on the track, and faster trail runs.
New Balance Vazee Prism v2
- Weight: 10.5 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm
- Current Mileage: 251.0 miles
- Acquired: July 2017
I landed on good reviews of the Prism, which was built more like a training shoe but allegedly could pass as a racing or speedwork shoe, and had use for a new pair of trainers anyway. I got a good deal on them through Running Warehouse.
I found the Prisms to be more of a long run friendly shoe, as despite being slightly heavier than my other shoes its subtle cushion provided just enough cushion to salve the work on those longer runs.
It tends to be a bit too heavy for races and speedwork, and it’s a bit too bulky and bright for as a work shoe or casual shoe (plus, though not visible in the photo, I had a mud mishap early in their use that resulted in a permanent mud stain on the front of one shoe).
Use: Off-work. They end up being the best fit on long runs, so I now use them for most of those. They’ll make an appearance on some medium length and brief weekend runs.
After having some toenail problems throughout 2017, I discovered that you’re actually supposed to get running shoes a half size higher than your usual shoe size. That would explain the source of that problem! Every running shoe I’ve bought since has been a size 11.0 instead of a 10.5.
New Balance FuelCore Sonic
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm
- Current Mileage: 363.0 miles
- Acquired: August 2017
The first size-11 running shoe I bought, I was drawn to the FuelCore Sonic’s speed-friendly features, including the futuristic twist-lock boa lacing.
Sure enough, they were light for a cushioned shoe, and very speedwork-friendly. They also didn’t look terribly out of place at work, so they ended up becoming part of my workday rotation. They took the Coasts’ place as the regular work-run shoe of choice, and quickly piled up miles.
The Sonics are now in that 300+ mile “they’re not done but maybe don’t run in them as much” territory. But they’re still good for 5 miles every few days, and feel as good as they did when I first got them. Because of their sturdier construction than the Coasts, I feel more comfortable continuing to add miles to them at 350+ than I do the Coasts.
Use: Work-friendly. Many medium length runs and some speedwork. Avoid using them on consecutive days or more than 2-3 days a week.
New Balance Vazee 2090
- Weight: 9.6 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 6mm
- Current Mileage: 56.5 miles
- Acquired: September 2017
These were listed on a steep discount, and still seeking an all-suitable replacement for my Coasts I decided to give them a shot.
They run like a regular running shoe, except these were unusually tight on the sides. I actually had to straight bar lace them so they fit passably (straight lacing takes pressure off the top and sides of a shoe). Still, because the fit is less than ideal, they got backburnered.
While it’s nice to have a shoe with less than 60 miles on hand in case I wear out all the others, I’m not really interested in using them much at all. It’s possible that could change in time, so I’m keeping them around in case they need to pop into use.
Use: Work-friendly, semi-retired. Usable on regular and work runs. Suspect for anything more arduous than that.
Topo Athletic Hydroventure
- Weight: 9.7 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 3mm
- Current Mileage: 295.0 miles
- Acquired: December 2017
My first foray into the highly recommended world of Topo Athletic. I got these needing a waterproof shoe to wear on work-run days (especially for winter), when I didn’t want to surrender to my 1400 boots.
These do insulate better than most of my shoes against the rain. However, against a suitably substantial rainfall or bigger puddles they are just as useless. Still, in anything less than heavy rain they do keep the rain off my feet.
That said, they are heavier than Topo Athletic’s other typically-lightweight models, while also retaining Topo’s notorious low-drop. Because of this they make my feet feel unusually weighed down when I run in them. At first it actually tired me out to do slow runs in them, though I’ve since adjusted to their use.
Since Chicago sees a good share of rainy days, these have actually gotten quite a bit of use. They’re not approaching retirement age: Topos are notoriously durable. But a new pair may be necessary within the next year, simply because I will run in them a lot between now and then.
Use: Work-friendly. Any day, any workout, where it’s raining or rain is forecast.
Topo Athletic ST-2
- Weight: 6.9 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 0mm. Zero drop!
- Current Mileage: 204.4 miles
- Acquired: April 2018
After good results with the first pair of Topos, I went for their more traditional speedwork model, the ST-2. I’m pretty thrilled with them, and going forward I may lean towards buying just Topo Athletic shoes for now.
These zero-drop shoes are very lightweight (6.9 oz, #nice), and if you get comfortable with the zero-drop they are even suitable for races. I ran and PR’d the 2018 Lakefront 10 Miler in these, and attempted the 2018 Vancouver Marathon in them.
Now that my 1500’s feel right again the ST-2’s have been supplanted as the racing flat of choice. But I still like the ST-2 for speed workouts.
Use: Work-friendly. Speed workouts. I’m not opposed to running a race in them either, so if the 1500’s fall out of favor again I’ll turn to these for races.
New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz Decon
- Weight: 8.6 oz
- Heel to Toe Drop: 8mm.
- Current Mileage: 39.2 miles
- Acquired: April 2018
Looking for more stylish work-friendly shoes, I found this inexpensive and mostly comfy model right around the same time I got my ST-2’s.
But I ran into the same problem with this Fresh Foam model as I did with a pair of Fresh Foam Zantes I got long ago and then quickly retired: They exaggerate any pronation your foot tends to do, and the sides can warp so much in that direction that they become dangerous to wear.
My ankles tend to roll inward more in these shoes, and so I avoid wearing these as well, though given their look I still may have a use for them now and then.
Use: Work-friendly. Occasional workday use, when suitable.
Adidas X PLR
- Weight: ~11.0 oz (no one has info on shoe weight)
- Heel to Toe Drop: ~11mm (no one has info on drop)
- Current Mileage: 59.0 miles
- Acquired: July 2018
My mother got me these as a gift while I was in Vegas this summer, and they look super stylish while feeling great and solid on road runs. I have since learned Adidas designed this model as more of a casual shoe, though people do run in them and I’ve been able to run in them just fine.
Like the 2090’s they are a bit tight on the sides, but much less so. Because they’re heavier you can’t really run fast in them, and being so solid underneath they’re not great on dirt or gravel. But they’re perfect for typical road runs, and the look makes them perfectly suitable for work.
Use: Work-friendly. Regular runs and post-work runs.
Any new shoes on the horizon?
Probably not right now. I’m still basically between careers and want to sort out my long term income situation before I resume finding excuses to buy $100-150 pairs of shoes.
While my collection is on average pretty advanced in lifetime mileage, I think they can handle at least 1-2 more training cycles as-is.
If I do need a new pair of shoes, I’ll probably get another pair of Topos. Along with my satisfaction with them, they have a long life.
Are these the BEST running shoes?
I would say these turned out to be the best running shoes for me. I do a lot of training, a variety of training, and so it helped me to carry this particular wide variety of shoes. You’ll notice I’ve bought a few shoes that ended up not working out for me, or shoes that were bought for one purpose but ended up better serving a different purpose.
I definitely would recommend a lot of these shoes for the purposes I described, even at the risk of your running style being different enough to negate their value. But I’ll note that several of these models have been discontinued, including my favorites the New Balance Vazee Coast v2, and remaining available models aren’t available in my size or many others’. And the updated versions of many of these models (including the Coasts) seem to have lost various features I liked, plus many come with less-than-ideal reviews.
So, while this may be an endorsement of some of these shoes, I recognize they may not be available or suitable for others. Not to mention: These are men’s shoes, and thus I realize any recommendations are of minimal use to women or kids.
Why don’t you wear Nike/Brooks/Hokas/etc?
I don’t have any philosophical opposition to other shoe brands. Other people love these brands like I swear by NB/Topos, for their own reasons. To that I say, cool. Let’s all run in the shoes that feel best for us.
The biggest issue over time that kept me away from other brands is that I wear 2E-wide shoes, and most brands only sell a standard width for most of their models. New Balance, however, sells a wide variety of their shoes in 2E-width, which made me an easy sell. That they ended up suiting me very well made me an easier sell.
Topo Athletic gets away with standard-only width because their shoes have a naturally wide toe-box, eliminating the biggest problem I have with standard D-width shoes. They fit perfectly and I love them.
While other brands sell some select varieties with a 2E width, the limited selection hasn’t provided enough compelling evidence for me to use them.
Plus, I’ll admit New Balances also tend to cost less. Most models retail at $120-150+, while most of my NB’s cost around $90-110 at full price. The Topos retail at closer to $110-130, though they provide a ton of other value that sold me.
How do you shop for shoes?
While I like and generally support local shoe stores as much as I otherwise can, I admittedly shop for all my shoes online. This allows me to find the model I want, in the size I need, without any delay or hassle.
There is one New Balance storefront in Lincoln Park, though again their selection is limited, and I know I can get the model and size I want for any of their shoes online.
Also, Topo Athletic’s closest local distributor is way out in the suburbs, so mail order is easily the way to go for them as well.
Typically, I research reviews and other product info online on shoes, not to mention how they look. Others’ opinions will give me a lot of info on potential problems with shoes, how they fit, how they feel, if advertised features like waterproofing actually do manifest, etc. It saves time and ends up being easier and more effective than window shopping.
However, I buy all my other run-related gear in person. Runner-wear can get real expensive in a running store, though I have bought items like gloves and shorts at Fleet Feet Chicago. And when it comes to run-specific nutrition like electrolyte-tabs and chews, I always go to Fleet Feet: Their selection is vast and while the staff is helpful they don’t harass you to upsell like other stores.
How would you recommend a newbie shop for shoes?
Ironically (given I mail order online), I would recommend a new runner go to a shoe store and let the staff select and fit them in shoes.
You likely won’t have enough experience to know which shoes will feel best in training let alone help you run your best. So the best answer is to get a base-grade model that’s been fitted for your stride and physical makeup by a shoe seller experienced in doing so. Most stores can evaluate your stride and frame, and find models that suit these out of the gate.
Over time, as you put in miles, you’ll gradually figure out what you value in a shoe. Once you have that stronger idea of what you want, it may benefit you more to shop online if desired.
And of course, over time maybe you’ll find it’s best for you to shop conventionally at a store. Many runners do! I just happen to shop online because I have a specific idea of what shoes I want, I know how to find what I want and where to get it. Others get more value out of shopping at the store and taking recommendations there. Maybe you’ll find the research wastes your time or otherwise doesn’t do much more than a shoe seller’s recommendation would. You may get to know a seller you really trust. And of course people prefer to window shop, which you can do in a live store.
If you get your best results shopping at a store and/or taking the seller’s recommendations, then by all means stick with it.
So there you have it, my entire (suddenly sizable) shoe collection. Almost every shoe has some sort of a role. There are some that get worn a lot. There are some that have been sitting collecting dust. And many in-between.
Being between careers right now, I’m not looking to go shopping for new shoes anytime soon, but given I have a lot of still-useful shoes right now I don’t think I’ll need to anytime soon.