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My Ideal Running Shoe Rotation

Posted on December 07 2013

Running Shoe RackI’m part of a pretty active group on Facebook that is aptly titled “Running Shoe Geeks.” The group is diverse in that we have minimalist aficionados, folks who prefer more traditional shoes, industry insiders, regular runners, and a smattering of scientists and therapists. Last night I posted a link to an article I wrote yesterday on a study that supports the use of a multi-shoe rotation to reduce injury risk, and as an offshoot one of the forum members posed the following question:

“Hypothetical situation: you’ve just been burglarized, ALL of your running shoes have been stolen, never to be recovered. Exactly 1 month later, how many running shoes would you own?”

After contemplating the state of shock and utter despair that I’d naturally be in, I thought a bit about this question and decided to write a post with my answer.

For the sake of this post I’m going to pretend that I don’t review shoes or have any connection with shoe companies. So basically, if I had to start from zero with a limited budget, what would my bare minimum shoe rotation look like?

I tend to think that I could make do with a 3-5 shoe rotation, with most of my miles being run in 3 of the shoes. Here’s what it would look like:

1. Cushioned distance shoe. Under 10 oz, 4-8mm drop. This would be a shoe that I could use for easy miles and long runs, which would be most of my miles. It would also be the shoe I’d use for marathon-length road races. My definition of “cushioned” trends more toward the minimal side of things since that suits my style and tastes. Shoes that I like that would fit this bill for me: Saucony Kinvara, Newton Energy, New Balance 1400v2, adidas Adios Boost (review hopefully coming next week), asics Gel Lyte33 v2.

2. Racing flat. This would be a shoe with a firmer, thinner sole than those above, probably around 4mm drop. I’d want the sole to have some longitudinal stiffness. It would be used for speedwork and races up to the half marathon. Examples that have worked well for me would be the Saucony Grid Type A5 and the adidas Hagio.

3. Trail shoe. I don’t run huge miles on trails, but I have a loop from my house that I do often enough, and a shoe with some traction and protection is really helpful for running in winter on crusty, ice covered sidewalks and roads. I’d probably go for something about 4mm drop with decent traction (don’t need a mud shoe), some cushion, and a rock plate – Merrell Mix Master 2 is a good example that I like.

4. Ultraminimal shoe. This would be something with minimal to no cushion that I could use when I want maximum ground feel or to use for form work. I’d probably pick one of the Merrell Barefoot shoes here, or maybe the Mizuno Universe 5 which has a bit of cushion but is ultralight and has great ground feel.

5. Silent, ultraflexible shoe with minimal rubber outsole. Something like the Nike Free 3.0 or Skechers GoRun, just because it’s fun to run and not hear your footfalls.

That would about do it for me, I could live with just 5 shoes and be happy. Not necessarily fulfilled, but happy

How about you, what would your bare minimum rotation look like?

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