I think it’s time for us to look closely at the kinds of running shoes that are available on the market. These days, the big buzz is around, shoes with a carbon plate. But what you need to decide is the kind of shoes that would bring you the best results in the pursuit of your personal best.
But let’s begin by going back to a time when running shoes were simple, sleek and, despite all the science, remained firmly in the background. This meant that every every running achievement was about the person, and not the tech in his shoes! Earlier, the only factors that one considered were comfort, price, design and taste.
I never liked the daily training shoes that most brands marketed as their biggest offerings. I preferred the racing flats as they used to have a low profile, very low heel-to-toe drop and were light-weight.
So here are my all-time favourites, some of which still survive, and I use them for my runs. If you can find them, just get them. Since they are old models, they would also cost you a lot less than the ridiculous prices that carbon shoes are going for.
Asics Gel Noosa Fast: Asics’ most popular models are the Gel Nimbus and Gel Kayano and they do everything the brand claims they do. But my favourite remains the Gel Noosa Fast, which probably never made it to the Indian markets. Not only do I love the bright yellow soles and colourful overlays on the uppers, the shoes are extremely light, responsive and let your feet breathe. They are exactly what the name suggests—fast. Not only do they make for great race day shoes, I have also used them as my primary sneakers while traveling. They are still serving me well, and despite having a pair of Asics Metaspeed Edge at my disposal, I love the simplicity and durability of the Gel Noosa Fast.
New Balance Vazee Pace: I got this pair in 2015 when the brand launched in India and first used the shoes for a trail run near Shimla. They made it through the rugged and rocky mountain trail with flying colours, despite some bruises, and fared very well till last week when the pasting finally gave away after a few runs that I went on recently. These aren’t exactly racing flats but they are light and feel very comfortable. They could easily double up as training as well as race day shoes.
Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2: I remember being very excited to get this pair, because Kenyan athlete Wilson Kipsang had worn them to set a world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2013. These use a thin layer of the excellent Boost foam, are light, and have a low heel-to-toe drop ratio. The outer soles were made of a layer of rubber manufactured by the tire brand Continental, that not only increased the life of the shoes, but gave you proper grip even while running on wet surfaces. The mesh upper was extremely breathable, but provided little protection against cold. I am still using these for my runs, despite covering a hole near the big toe with a Band-aid plaster. The latest version on the market is the Adizero Adios 6, which come without the Boost foam and has thicker soles.
Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 3: When it comes to race day shoes for short distances between 5km and 21km, I just turn to the Adidas Takumi Sen 3 without a second thought. They were designed for Japan’s popular Ekiden races, which are all about speed, and I love the minimal cushioning that lets me get a good feel of the ground I am treading. They are extremely light and let me do the running without weighing me down. Given the lack of cushioning, they could be a tad bit uncomfortable for marathon distance races. The latest version, Takumi Sen 8 Tinman, is aimed at elite runners and comes with carbon rods in the sole.
Asics Gel Noosa Tri: These were the shoes that always made me feel happy. Because they were bright and colourful, like a graffiti artist had painted over them and that made the shoes cheerful. They were extremely technical shoes too, as they had been designed for the triathlon. The shoes had thin meshes, uppers, medium stacked soles, plenty of grip and good ankle support. Asics has kept this range alive and the latest version is Gel Noosa Tri 14 and thankfully the brand has preserved its cheerfully colourful DNA.
Special mentions: A list of running shoes is never going to be complete till you talk about Nike, whether you include it in your favourites or not. Currently, Nike’s Vapour Fly Next% range is all the rage, but before that, they had the excellent LunaRacer 3. I first used the pair in 2015 and must say that they made for a great pair of racing flats, much better than the uber-popular Pegasus series.
The other shoes from the past that I have used and liked are Reebok’s Floatride. These were launched in response to the Ultraboost range developed by Adidas and, in my opinion, the Floatride was the only pure running shoes from Reebok. The range is still out there and a new iteration has been launched this year but I don’t know yet how that is.
Finally, I have also enjoyed using a pair of Puma Faas 300—the company’s lightest running shoes at the time, and also the one with least cushioning, so, in essence a pair of racing flats. The best part about the Puma pair was that it was affordable and did its job without burning hole in your wallet.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.