It’s Gotta be the Shoes: Building a Running Shoe Rotation

Forrest Gump’s Momma once said that, “There’s an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they’re going. Where they’ve been.” As runners, if our running shoes could talk, I could only imagine the stories that they could tell. As a self-proclaimed running shoe geek, I have had my share of running shoes and developed a real fascination with how the right running shoe can just melt away on your feet and, hopefully, help you along in your training. When I trained for my first races, including my first marathon, I ran in the same shoe day after day – speed day, long day, easy day, it didn’t matter. But after a while, I began to explore using different shoes for different runs and after lots of learning, discovered that a good running shoe rotation can be great for training (and your feet and muscles). 

Disclaimer: All opinions stated are my own and I am by no means a medical professional. I am simply sharing my own experiences with shoes that I have tried and what has worked for me.

For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to keep it simple and use three categories to classify the types of running shoes: the daily trainer, the speed shoe, and the race day shoe. Luckily, there are many shoes that can fit into multiple categories and therefore be used for several different types of runs – I will do my best to highlight these shoes as (what one of my favourite shoe reviewers calls) tweener shoes.

The Daily Trainer

This is your workhorse shoe. The one that can gobble up the bulk of the miles in your training cycle. In a daily trainer, I generally look for enough cushion to support my feet and legs during easy days, but also not too much bulk or weight that I start to feel bogged down. Depending on your running mechanics and preferences, you could also get away with using a lightweight shoe as a daily trainer. This can also be a do-it-all shoe if you are looking for just one shoe to handle all your runs – cushioned enough to handle easy days and perhaps recovery days, but also light enough to handle the long run days and even the odd speed workout here or there. 

Examples: Nike Pegasus 37, Saucony Ride 13 and 14, New Balance 880v10, Brooks Ghost 13, and for a lighter weight option (also a tweener shoe) as a daily trainer, the Saucony Kinvara 11 (I have the Kinvara 12 on the way and I have read that it is slightly firmer than the 11th version).

The Speed Shoe

When you want to go fast and are training to run faster, the speed shoe is the one you reach for. This shoe is great for anything from quick strides to mile repeats and also longer tempo efforts. For my speed shoe, I try to choose one that is first and foremost lightweight. The buzz word that has been used to describe the newer shoes (especially speedier shoes) recently has been responsive. A responsive shoe will provide a sense of bounce back and energy return, so that when you execute your down step, your foot almost springs off the ground. And I like to describe my ideal speed day shoe as something that has a blend of lightness, responsiveness, and one that makes me feel fast. What works for me as a speedier shoe may not work for others, but ultimately that concept of feeling fast is a great mental motivator, especially on hard workout days. 

Examples: Saucony Endorphin Speed, Adidas Adios 5, Adidas Boston 9 (some use the Boston as a daily trainer – it is another tweener shoe in my eyes – and it can certainly complete this job too, but I found it more firm so enjoyed using it as a speedier option), Saucony Kinvara 11 / 12 (once again, a tweener shoe that can accomplish more than one task due to its lightweight build). 

*Special note about plates in shoes – I have found that rotating a shoe that is non-plated with plated options during a week of training, allows my feet and legs to utilize different muscles and (I hope) help to avoid overuse and perhaps injury (again, I am not a medical professional so this opinion is simply from my own experience). Plated shoes may also feel unstable, so rotating in a firmer, more stable option may be worth exploring as well if you ever feel wobbly when using these types of shoes. 

The Race Day Shoe

Remember races??? When we do have the chance to race again or perhaps even complete a Time Trial, this is the type of shoe you might be hoping to put on when it’s game time. This could be a “special” shoe that many people reserve only for races (oftentimes due to the high cost of these shoes and not wanting to use them on many training runs). It seems that almost all race day shoes lately feature a carbon plate, or some variation of a plate, and these have seemed to dominate the elite running world recently. When choosing a race day shoe, I try to use a shoe that is lightweight, is very responsive, and one that inspires confidence. I try to take this shoe out on a training run once or twice before the race so that I get the feeling of the shoe once more. Use the other shoes that you have in your rotation for your training runs and then let your racing shoes fly on race day. 

Examples: Nike Vaporfly Next%, Saucony Endorphin Pro, Saucony Kinvara (tweener shoe that is much lower in cost compared to the other options and does not have a plate – which may be more desirable to runners not looking for a plated shoe). 

With so many different options of shoes out there, I hope that this post has been helpful and I highly recommend that you check out and consult your local running store for advice to get fitted properly. Ultimately though, while I do love my running shoes, it is important to remember that even though we might think, it’s gotta be the shoes!, there are really no magic formulas or shortcuts in running. It’s you, the runner, that does the work. The shoes are just a part of the ride. 

One of my favourite running shoe reviewers with a great video about different shoes for different runs