About 15 years ago, a friend turned me onto Mizuno running shoes. They are light, relatively inexpensive, and had the support that I needed for my gait an pronation. They are great shoes. I generally love me some Japanese design. Function-wise, Mizuno was no exception. They have been my faithful go-to running shoe ever since then. For some reason, however, they just keep making them uglier and uglier. From a visual design perspective, the only distinction between my most recent pair of Mizunos and a pair of granny-style mall walkers is the fact that the colorway is not white on white. I know that running is not a fashion show, but I’m running the NY Marathon in a few weeks and I want to wear some good looking kicks for the race. I’m not exactly a young buck anymore, but hey man, I’m certainly not a senior citizen yet either. Until then I’m not trying to give off any grandpa vibes with my footwear. After imagining the horror of opening up the NY Times on Nov. 8th and seeing a photo of myself running down 5th Avenue sporting old-guy kicks, I went on a quest for a non-geriatric looking pair of running shoes to race in.
I had heard good things about the brand ON. I think that they are a pretty good looking shoe and decided to try a pair. They had a nice fit for my foot and seemed okay for running…. except for the fact that the sole design is super prone to rock collecting. Given that I have been running on trails or gravel roads 3-4 times per week, they just weren’t practical. When I wore the ONs, I was forced to stop every half mile or so to remove (some quite sizable) stones lodged in the out sole. They are probably fine for city running, but I’m not going to gamble on wearing them for a marathon without having worn them on at least a few long training runs.
Prevailing public opinion (especially of non-runners) seems to be that Nike is the obvious choice in running shoes. I have had a love/hate relationship with Nike runners since my first pair of Air Pegasus that I wore in high school track. There has always been something not quite right about the way they work on my feet. The past couple of years I have picked up a few pairs of Vapormax, but mostly just for looks. I have never actually run in them. They are not comfortable at all on my feet, even just walking around the city. Summer 2020 I picked up a pair of deeply discounted Nike trail runners that I actually think are great. So when I saw the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, I thought I would give them a shot. The visual design is about as non-octogenarian as it gets. In fact, when I first took them out of the box, I was worried that they might be a little much. After my first run in them, I was hooked. They are insanely comfortable and light. I only wore them for three shortish runs before breaking them out on last week’s 20-miler. Didn’t even get a blister. They are honestly the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn and they seem to give me a literal bounce in my step. All of that said, there are definitely some drawbacks. First: they are insanely expensive as far as running shoes go (roughly double the price of the Mizunos I was using). Another downside is that they appear to be wearing out much faster than the average running shoe. The front section of the out sole is super soft, almost tacky to the touch. This is awesome for gripping the road, but I’m already seeing significant wear after putting only 50ish miles on them. Based on these facts, I’m not sure that I will be able to justify these as a daily runner. I may have to reserve them for training/racing, only. For now, I will enjoy these kicks to the maximum (as well the fresh still-in-the-box pair that I will race in next month), even if it means my theoretical photo in the Times ends up looking like that middle aged guy who is desperately clinging to youth by wearing loud sneakers! 😉