This winter, in a quest to find a good backup shoe to my Kinvaras, I bought enough pairs to shod the Roman army and ended up returning most of them.
1. New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo
Type: Cushioned stability
Rating:NO, NO, NO, NO, NO
Well, this is NOT THE SHOE FOR ME.
In my endless search for shoes that fit well, I'd hit on the Fresh Foam Zante, which felt great on but didn't provide quite enough support. The Vongo was surely a similar fit, being in the same line, and the next-level of support up, so I bought it. Less than half a mile into my run, my calves were so painful I had to walk home. The shoe has too little flexibility for me. They went back.
2. New Balance Vazee Rush
Type: I could never figure out what NB was marketing this now-discontinued shoe as.
Rating: NO, NO, NO
There is no cushion in this shoe at all. None. It's kind of stiff and cardboard-like, and flat as a pancake. Back they went.
3. Nike LunarGlide
Type: Cushioned, light stability
Rating: I'll never know
I tried to order these from Jack Rabbit. Remind me: never again. They never sent the shoe, although they charged me; I had to contact them ten days after my order and they were like, "Oh, yeah. I guess we ran out of that shoe. We'll reverse the charge." I had to email again to have them actually reverse it, though!
4. Altra Instinct 3.5
Type: Moderate cushioning
I got these at the expo for the RnR marathon. It was a risky purchase: they were out-of-the-box and non-returnable, but at $59, a bargain. But far be it from me to take just "a bargain". I wanted a BARGAIN, capital letters, almost free, so I talked them down to $49 (no one wants to leave an expo with unsold merchandise. If I buy at expos, I buy on the last day, and I always bargain). I don't hate the shoe. It's a heavier shoe than I like, but for easy runs, that's ok. There are two problems with the Instinct: one, I developed top-of-foot-pain while wearing them. Perhaps they weren't the cause - I had other potential causes that week - but that makes me nervous. Two, I just don't love the shoe. I find myself skipping over them and grabbing other shoes. I'm not sure of their fate just yet. I may keep them specifically for rainy and muddy runs, because they're really good for slippery surfaces. Or I may sell them on Ebay, since I only got a few miles on them.
5. Nike Free RN Distance
Type: Cushioned - soft, flexible
Rating LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE
So, who am I? I, who swore off Nike shoes after a pricey pair didn't last at all? In love with a Nike shoe? I just can't help myself! The squishy luxury is just too wonderful to resist! Now, I think a lot of runners would dislike the thick, soft soles on these shoes, but I love cushion. The first time I wore these I slept through my morning run and decided to do a quick 3-miler in the afternoon. But the shoes felt so good that I ran almost nine. That never happens to me. I can't remember ever extending my run because I felt great!
My go-to shoe is still the Saucony Kinvara, and probably always will be, but I think having a solid back-up shoe is important. It extends the life of both pairs of shoes, since the foam has time to bounce back before the next use, and allows you to use different muscles a little bit. Despite some fit issues with the Nike Free RN Distance (I went up half a size for greater width, but they're still a little narrow and yes, a little long now), I am very happy with my new shoes, and hope they become a standby!
What's your primary, everyday shoe? Do you wear a backup pair? Are you loyal to one brand, or do you shop around?