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Most Disappointing Running Shoes of 2014

Posted on December 17 2014

As a shoe reviewer, I try to be as objective as possible when I write my reviews. If a shoe is great, I say so. If there are problems, I point them out. If a shoe is a total bust, I won’t hold back.

As I work through the list of shoes I’ve run in this year in preparation for writing my Best of 2014 post, I thought it might be interesting as a counterpoint to put together a short list of shoes that disappointed me this year. The shoes included here are all shoes that I have run in, or at least purchased and returned after trying them on and finding them unacceptable (and I have written about all of them).

I realize people sometimes get sensitive when a favorite shoe is criticized, so please view this as my experience with the shoes given my anatomy and running style. You might love some of them, you might hate some shoes that I really like. That’s what makes this fun – we all have different experiences when it comes to shoes. Being passionate is OK!

Here goes:

1. Nike Free 5.0 2014


I’m a big fan of the Nike Free line, and a member of this collection will be on my Best of 2014 list, but the Free 5.0 2015 was a total no-go for me. I tried them on in-store and noticed a tightness over the base of the lace-row (area circled in red above). There was a band of material digging into my foot and it had no give. I wanted to try them so much that I bought a pair in a half size larger than usual, but after wearing them at home for a bit I realized there was no way they were going to work and running in them meant I couldn’t return them. They went back to the store. Several commenters on my post about the shoe mentioned having the same problem, and it seems the shoe would simply not accommodate my higher volume foot. It probably worked fine for those with lower volume feet, but it was a bust for me.

2. Saucony Mirage 4

The Saucony Mirage 4 was a huge disappointment for me because it was one of the best looking, yet worst riding shoes I tried this year (my review here). Quite honestly, the sole felt like a brick strapped to the bottom of my foot. Extremely firm with little give-back, the ride was jarring, stiff, and uncomfortable. Those who like a firm shoe probably loved it, but it didn’t work at all for me. The shoe also suffered cosmetic damage to the beautiful upper due to rapid fraying of some of the stringy elements in the mesh. Pair this upper (minus the fraying issue) with the sole of the Saucony Kinvara and I’d be more than pleased!

3. New Balance Fresh Foam 980

This shoe was more perplexing than disappointing (my review here). The Fresh Foam 980 was marketed using the tagline “Experience the Science of Soft,” yet the shoe was anything but soft. I was expecting a squishy ride, but wound up with a shoe that was firm, responsive, and smooth. I actually quite enjoyed the ride, but was shocked at how poorly they had been marketed. The biggest problem I had with the 980 was that the toe box was too pointy and mashed my toes together (I even went a half size up, did not help) – this gave me blisters between the toes after one long run and pretty much relegated them to the shoe rack after I wrote my review. Fortunately New Balance seems to have recognized the toe box issue, and the recently released Fresh Foam Zante offers a much better fit with a similarly smooth ride. Hopefully the update to the 980 will follow suit.

Honorable Mention: The Merrell AllOut Rush was a bust for me as a running shoe – too firm and poorly balanced with a very heavy sole. I would have included it in the list but I like them a lot as a casual shoe and for light hiking.

I’d love to hear your most disappointing shoes of the year – leave a comment. I suspect I know a few that will show up that I did not get to try myself!

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