I love runners. Yes, I generally also love people who run but no, here I am strictly referring to the shoes beneath our feet which so gloriously, or not so much on some days, carry us over miles and miles of running terrain. Ever since I was a kid, shopping trips to go and buy a new pair of runners were a big treat in our house and my brothers and I used to get so excited when my mom would announce it was that time of the year again. It was treated as a big occasion – mom would take us into Dublin city individually with the primary purpose being to find the perfect pair of runners. In that magical way that mothers do, she had a way of transforming a shopping trip into a special occasion and we treasured our purchases with all the more love and respect as a result. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve gone runner shopping with my mom, the enjoyment I get out of runner shopping is something that has remained with me over the years and it remains my favourite type of shopping. My big brother and I used to believe that it was the type of running shoe you had that made you faster so when we would get our new shoes, we would put them on and race each other to see who had the faster shoe. If I beat him, it was obviously only due to the shoe, as, you understand, it could not possibly be because that I was faster than him. New runners on your feet feel like magic. You stand taller, you feel faster and anything feels possible. It’s almost like you can feel your runners daring you to run faster, try something new, break the boundaries. It’s an electric feeling and perhaps this explains why I have something of a mild addiction problem when it comes to the buying of running shoes. Can you ever have too many pairs of runners? But I’m a runner. I need them.
So, at the moment I’m running in a pair of Saucony Kinvara 5s, Saucony Kinvara 4s, Nike Pegasus 31 and occasionally in a pair of New Balance Minimus. From this list it’s pretty obvious that I prefer to run in a lightweight, natural, neutral shoe. The less shoe, the better as far as I’m concerned. I love the lightweight feeling of the Kinvaras and the Minimus but with marathon mileage, I find that I need some support and cushioning, which leaves the Minimus only for shorter, faster sessions. I did train for a marathon previously alternating solely (pardon the pun) between the Kinvara 4s and the Minimus and was fine with it, to the extent that I seriously considered running the marathon itself in the Minimus. I love this shoe and with all due credit to New Balance, the shoe lasts for a phenomenal amount of time. I ran up some serious mileage in that first pair and they remained in near perfect condition after 6 months.
I’m on my 4th pair of Saucony Kinvaras. My first pair were the Kinvara 3s, which I loved to death, quite literally. I ran my second marathon in them and continued to run in them until precious little shoe remained. I now know that this is a serious no-no in the running world but I was seriously under-informed at the time and by that stage, they felt like they had become dear friends whom I couldn’t bear to part with after spending so much time together on the roads, just me and them. New runners seemed like a betrayal! But I got over that and moved on. I tried out a few other types of shoe after that including the Adidas Supernove Glides and the Asics Nimbus but I found the former very stiff and the latter too bulky and heavy. I returned to the Kinvara 4s in preparation for the Dublin marathon 2013 and fell in love all over again. I’ve since read a lot of reviews online and elsewhere of the 4s with many criticisms of this edition being aired. Personally, I found that the shoe really worked for me and I rode it through the Dublin marathon to pick up a P.B, which is still my best. They felt light but provided everything I needed in terms of shoe over the distance of 26.2.
Gearing up for the Dublin marathon the following year, I had already been researching and trying to find out as much as I could about the eagerly awaited Kinvara 5s long before they were released. In all my excitement, I couldn’t wait for them to arrive in Ireland so I ordered online. The bright, alerting colours and the obvious new design of the Kinvara model made this immediately distinguishable from the previous model. Roomier in the toe box, significantly more padding and cushioning around the ankle and a new lock-in mechanism in the lacing system along the tongue were the most obvious changes. It looked like a great shoe and in theory it should have felt like a better shoe but I have to admit that I didn’t feel the love for it right away. It felt bulky and I felt slower in them. It was almost like all the extra cushioning was making the shoe feel too comfortable, which in turn, was inducing me to relax more. This is not conducive to better running! So, I shied away from the 5s, returning more and more to the 4s and my other shoes. However, when I picked up foot injuries in the weeks prior to the 2014 Dublin marathon, I started wearing the 5s because of all that extra cushioning in an attempt, vain or otherwise, to protect my feet a bit more. I ended up running the marathon in the 5s for similar reasons and continued to wear them for nearly all of my runs post marathon. We bonded. What can I say, they were a god-send during those weeks and I found I adjusted quicker than I would have expected. I now love these shoes and they have worked their way into the starting lineup.
I nabbed a second pair of Kinvara 4s in January to replace my old pair before they disappeared from the shop shelves and have been training in these, alongside the 4s, since February. I was also seduced into buying a mad “punch” coloured pair of the Nike Pegasus 31s by the clever marketing people over at Nike. Mo Farah running in slow motion and making running look all kinds of beautiful, natural, graceful and stylish was too much for my small mind to overcome so I relented and took the bait. It’s a nice shoe. Looks great and feels like a big soft, couch with just enough structure not to let you slouch. There’s good grip around the heel, lots of room in the toe box (if you’re wide-footed like me) and a nice snug fit all round. My only complaint is that the shoe feels bulky and heavier than I was expecting but in fairness, this is probably primarily due to my being accustomed to wearing a much lighter shoe in the Kinvaras. In comparison to both the 4s and 5s, the Pegasus tends to feel like a lot of shoe. As a result, I’ve generally tend to only wear the Pegasus for short recovery runs and easy days.
My confession: I’m starting to feel the itch again. The need (is it a need?) to buy another pair of shoes has slowly started to creep into my thoughts again lately and I’ve been thinking I’d like to try something new. Open for a super new shoe that makes me feel electric, a shoe that gets me all giddy inside and most importantly, a shoe that runs faster than my brother.