Once a Shoe Geek...
I’ve always been a shoe geek. I can remember the first ‘real’ pair of running shoes my parents bought for me way back in the late 1970’s called the Autry Concorde. They sold for $34.99, which seemed like a lot of money at the time. I was still playing hockey mostly, but I thought these running shoes were awesome. I was using them during dryland training for hockey and for track and cross country during the school year.
As I began to focus less on hockey, I began taking running much more seriously. With more running, came more shoes. I was now getting heavily into the sport in the early 1980’s, and bought a pair of New Balance 990, which was the first running shoe to sell for over $100. I don’t know if my parents ever knew how much I paid for these shoes ($125), but I loved them and was convinced they’d make me a better runner.
Once I began racing more, I then realized that there was a need for lighter shoes for competition. Spikes for track and cross country, and racing flats for road races. I was a huge fan of running legend Dick Beardsley, and decided that my first pair of racing flats should be what he wore…the New Balance Comp 400. These were featherlight and you felt like you were flying in them.
While I was running track and cross country in high school I remember being so excited when I got a part time job at a sport store and could talk running and running shoes all the time…and get paid for it!
One of the best parts for me was on shipment day when the latest new models of running shoes arrived. I was like a kid in a candy store. The smell of new shoes fresh out of the box, inspecting the traction on the outsole, pressing on the midsole to feel the amount of cushioning, flexing the shoe to see how they would move with my foot. Pure bliss!
I’ve been involved in the footwear industry on some level for most of the time I’ve been a runner. From working in stores, to being a manager/buyer, to helping to design some shoes, and to being a brand ambassador/team member. I’ve worked at a number of sports stores/running shops through the years including Footlocker, Alford’s Sporting Goods, Source for Sports, Athlete’s Foot, Runners’ Choice (Guelph), Trailhead and Running Room. I’ve also probably worn every brand of shoe you’ve ever heard of, and many obscure brands that you haven’t.
A few early shoe memories include…
Favourite road running shoes: ASICS Explorer (1983) & ASICS Epirus (1986).
First trail running shoe: Adidas Response Trail (1986).
First shoe with an air midsole: The original Nike Air Pegasus (Nike now sells version 38).
First shoe with a gel midsole: ASICS Gel GT 2 (1988).
Favourite track spike: Nike Zoom Ultra (1990).
Some obscure brands: Fila, Diadora, Turntec, Kangaroos (yes, they made high end running shoes).
Favourite road marathon shoe: I loved the original Mizuno Wave Rider (2003).
Most pairs of the same model: La Sportiva CrossLite (24 pairs over a few years beginning in 2008).
Shoes I had the most injuries in: Puma Lab 1 (sorry Puma).
Best, most economical shoes at the time: Reebok Sydney Maree Trainer & Puma RLX (both sold for about $50 in the mid 1980s and a great value).
Favourite Winter Ultra shoe: La Sportiva Uragano.
Most durable shoe: Vibram Five Fingers.
Favourite shoe when running as a 4 person human centipede - Nike Sock Racer.
Favourite trail running shoe: Yet to be determined!
From 2005 up until last year, I was a member of the La Sportiva Trail Running Team. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of an awesome group of runners representing a trail/mountain specific company. During this time I was also asked to be a member of their shoe testing team where I had the opportunity to test new prototype versions of shoes before they went into production and was asked to provide early feedback. I enjoyed sharing my gained knowledge immensely through this.
With cutbacks occurring over the past year, my contract was not renewed for 2021. While I appreciated all the support I received over the years from La Sportiva, in all honesty, I was still pretty disappointed this happened.
With every negative or disappointment in life however, there is always something positive to look for, find and learn from. That was certainly the case with not being committed to a single shoe brand this year. In the past, it was actually written in my contract that I was not allowed to wear other brands of shoes. This year however, I’ve taken the opportunity to test out many other shoe brands that I’ve wanted to test for a long time, but wasn’t able to. It’s been great to get a better understanding and appreciation of the latest shoes on the market and what works best for me, keeps me healthy and also offer greater feedback to coaching clients and others.
Some models I’ve been given from companies to test and provide feedback, and other models I’ve purchase as I’ve been very curious about them and wanted to test for myself.
While I am very open to the possibly again of working with a single shoe company in the future at some point as an ambassador (as long as I believe in the quality of the product), I am currently enjoying the freedom of trying and testing multiple other brands of shoes. I’m always happy to share my thoughts on past shoes I’ve tested, in addition to some of the most recent models.
I’m currently testing various models by Hoka, Scott, Nike, and Speedland, but have a few other brands coming that I’m also really looking forward to testing and comparing. I definitely feel that I am now able to give more feedback to coaching clients about the various models on the market after running in them, compared to just looking at product knowledge info or seeing in a running store
There is no single running shoe that is best for EVERYONE, and I’ve really been enjoying the process of exploring the latest and greatest of what’s currently available!