Okay, but seriously...does anyone remember that YouTube video with the guy just singing about shoes? I cannot stop saying "shoes," in his voice. Oh my god, shoes. Linked for your nostalgia and viewing pleasure.
Anyway! Shoes. For the majority of my running journey, I wore one pair of shoes. And I probably put way too many miles on all of them. I didn't have a different pair of shoes for speed days or for race days and I usually just bought whatever was cheapest. Then I started realizing, hmmmm these shoes rule and these shoes suck. I started taking my running shoe purchasing a little more seriously and did my research. Now, I use one pair of shoes (Hoka Rincons) for my easy runs, easy long runs, progression runs, hill repeats, and steady state runs; one pair of shoes for speed days like intervals, fartleks, specific pacework, and long runs with pacework (Nike Tempos), and one pair for racing (Nike AlphaFly or VaporFly).
How many pairs of shoes do you really need?
Well...it depends. It is totally fine to wear the same pair of sneakers for all different types of workouts. If you find yourself getting to a point where you want to level up, it might be time to invest in a pair of speedier shoes for speed workouts and races. This can look differently for different people.
I find it more beneficial at first to purchase a pair of speedier shoes that are not super shoes (i.e. no carbon fiber plate), and use these for speed workouts (track days, fartleks, tempos, intervals). I like this step to come after having a solid pair of sneaks for your easy, every day miles for a couple reasons. When you get to practice running more regularly in a quicker, lighter shoe which might help build a little bit of confidence, help you understand what race paces will feel like, and by practicing in the speedier shoe you can get that edge and build more fitness. This is probably a bad example but I think about steroids. When somebody uses steroids, their training becomes incredible and the ability to compile difficult training is what makes them fast. If they used steroids and didn't train hard, they wouldn't become as fast as they could. And when they stop using steroids, they still have an advantage because they were able to train so hard and make such impressive (albeit illegal) gains. This is why I think Justin Gatlin was able to continue performing so well as an octogenarian in the 100 meters. But I digress.
I think that being able to improve your capacity for training is a bigger advantage and can help achieve more long term growth than just throwing on a pair of fancy shoes every once in a while in a race. That's why I think getting a pair of shoes for speed days first is a good next step, using those for race days as well, then buying a pair of fancy race shoes. Well, what about buying a pair of fancy carbon fiber plated shoes for races and using those for speed days? First of all, these shoes are very expensive and do not tolerate a lot of wear and tear. That means you will be replacing them more frequently than other types of shoes.
Second of all, while carbon fiber plated shoes make it easier to recover and thus tolerate higher training load in one facet, they also make it so that those tiny stability muscles are not utilized as much and thus don't strengthen and I believe this puts you at greater risk for injury. I personally do not recommend normal people wearing carbon fiber plated shoes all the time. My hypothesis is that with the energy return of these shoes, you are not strengthening the small stability muscles and your experience isn't increasing your ability to tolerate training load over time. You are also less likely to flex your toe in carbon fiber plated shoes, which further minimizes the engagement of muscles during ankle dorsiflexion. While it decreases a need for recovery time, it also decreases stimulation necessary to improve strength and conditioning. For those reasons, I think it is amazing to use for racing and once in a while in training for key workouts. Now, if you are a professional athlete and this is your entire life and you've already dedicated decades to fine tuning your body, totally different story. But for the majority of us who sit on our butts all day and run relatively low mileage, we do not need to be using carbon fiber plated shoes for every workout. I believe that greater benefit can come from doing workouts in a speedier shoe without a carbon fiber plate for us amateurs, and just racing in a super shoe. I have not been able to find any research on this topic but hopefully as more people are using super shoes, some studies will be done!
Shoes I like:
Every day shoes for easy miles:
Hoka Rincon -this shoe is so lightweight that you could totally use it for easy runs, long runs, and speed days (progressions, steady state runs, even tempo days), but it tends to wear down quickly and doesn't last so many miles. Mine typically last 250 miles
Nike Winflo -this shoe is pretty awesome and quite inexpensive as Nike goes. You could also use this shoe for most variations of runs, but I like it primarily for easy days or easy long runs. Though this opinion may be formed because I used it while also using the Pegasus for speed days. The Winflo is pretty high quality shoe and I find it to last closer to 350 miles.
Saucony Kinvara -this shoe is definitely the most durable of this bunch and is an amazing all around shoe. Great for easy days, and long runs alike. This shoe is built to last and I have found it to hold closer to 450-500 miles. I actually find most of my Saucony's last longer than other brands before degrading.
Reebok Harmony Road - I'm going to be real, I have never even once considered buying a pair of reeboks. BUT, I got them for free from being a Ragnar captain and let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, comfy as hell, supportive, but lightweight, and they can take a beating. The are on the same level as the Kinvara in terms of capacity for total mileage wear & tear. They were great on long runs and easy runs alike. Also, super cheap in the grand scheme of things.
*Shoes like the Nike Winflo or the Saucony Kinvara come out with new versions so frequently that the older versions often go on sale. I find this to be a great opportunity to stock up on these shoes, buy a few pairs at once while they're less expensive than the newest version but still very high quality shoes. Then, you can either keep them boxed away, or rotate them through your easy runs.
Speed Day Sneaks That Are Good Enough For Race Day
Nike Pegasus Turbo or Nike Pegasus -The Pegasus line is very reliable, though some versions of the Pegasus have been less stellar than others. I personally loved the 35s, and the 37s didn't wow me. But the Pegasus Turbo is FIRE. I LOVED that shoe so much, it is excellent for bombing around the track yet durable for a long run workout. Extremely responsive and gets you a nice snap while still being supportive and lightweight.
Nike Tempo -This is a fast shoe. The air pods made the difference in this shoe, really propelling you into your next stride. But I will say that they are not good on tight turns. Really, they're not good on any turns. It's hard to turn in them without seriously slowing down. Also, they're super expensive.
Asics Hyper Speed - This shoe is super lightweight and acts like a track spike in the way it kind of curves up at the toe. It is fairly firm but also well cushioned throughout the body of the shoe around the foot. This shoe is great for speed days if you're accustomed to wearing a lower drop (0mm-4mm).
Saucony Type A8 -This shoe is AMAZING for short fast races, especially the 5k or 10k. I do not think I would want to wear this for a half marathon or longer. It is very flat, unsupportive, and thus better for shorter races. I think it maxes out at the 10k. I would not do too much speed work in these shoes because they're built more like flats and I view them as competition only shoes.
Nike Vaporfly NEXT% - When it comes to the NEXT% or the AlphaFly, I really enjoy the feel of the NEXT% better than the AlphaFly, but I also believe the AlphaFly to be a faster shoe. It is just simply not very stable and therefore might feel uncomfortable for many runners. I don't even have to say much about these shoes, we all know they're awesome.
Asics Metaspeed Sky - This is the only shoe I haven't tried, but my husband has and I trust his review. This shoe is freaking fast but also significantly more stable than the Nike Vaporfly/Alphafly. I'm dying to try this shoe out!!!! Some studies analyzing super shoes see this shoe as a close 3rd behind the Alphafly and the Vaporfly.
Some other quick tips:
-Head into your local running store for a fitting. You'd be surprised how many of us are wearing the wrong size shoe. For me personally, over time my feet have changed sizes. When I first started running, I was buying a size 5, the same as my non-running shoes. Over time, my feet got bigger. This actually can happen from running a lot, spending a lot of time barefoot as well. I started buying a 5.5, and currently wear a size 6. For a period of time while I was pregnant, I even wore a 6.5.
-Read the reviews on runrepeat before you buy a new pair. I religiously read about every new pair of shoes I buy, even the new versions of each shoes. I used to run in Brooks PureCadence, but they changed the model so much and so drastically that I didn't like them anymore. Before I buy a new model of a shoe, I like to make sure the changes are things that I appreciate.
-Try different things! You never know what you might like and how your body changes throughout your training over periods of years and decades. I know they say if it ain't broke, don't fix it...but sometimes broadening your horizons can lead to improvement!