My friend Tim recently blogged his top five running (training) shoes ("over the years"). It prompted me to write a blog about the same. Although Tim found it a bit difficult to narrow his list down to a top five, I had no problem, rattling them off without a second thought. The fact of the matter is that, although I have worn good shoes over the years by Asics, Adidas, Brooks, New Balance, and Saucony, there are very few shoes I considered "great." Maybe ONLY five. And much to my dismay, every single "great" shoe I've worn has either been discontinued or upgraded to something that only remotely resembles the original. Bill Dieter at Second Sole once told me I represented only ten percent of the population when it came to running gait. A podiatrist once told that watching me walk looks like my feet belong on two different people. Maybe that's why it's so difficult for me to find great shoes, and I've been relegated to searching the shelves in discount shoe stores looking for the one remaining pair, in my size, that slipped out to the general public. It doesn't happen often but when it does, it's akin to finding buried treasure.
In retrospect, as I review my top five, I can't help but wonder if something else was responsible for my favorite shoes going the way of the Dodo. Afterall, these are NOT pretty shoes. In fact, I remember trying them on, only to wince at the color/design when they were taken out of the box. And yet, I saved the worn versions of all of them (see photos below). That being said, I present a list of my top five training shoes of all time, in no particular order:
Adidas Ozweego (original): these shoes had an upper that looked like a quilt and they were the first Adidas shoes I ever saw without parallel stripes - I used to call these my "clown shoes" because of the way they flared out at the ball of the foot, and because it was the only shoe I ever wore in women's size 10:
Asics Gel Lyte Ultra: one of the lightest training shoes I ever wore, it had the most comfortable tongue of all time (it was hard-wired to the flaps) - this shoe came out when the Gel Lyte series version number was "3" and there was no "Asics DS" series:
Asics Gel Lytespeed: almost a racing flat with lots of cushioning and very little tread, and in neon colors, another very comfortable tongue design - the "split tongue" which was more like extra padding along the flaps - I ran my first Boston Marathon in these shoes:
Saucony Grid Azura (original): these shoes looked like they were made out of "stocking" material with a blue tiger stripe pattern, but, were they comfortable, and light and airy - these shoes could never be worn in the winter:
New Balance 826 (a relatively new shoe): I just ran in these shoes last year, only to find, when I went back to get a new pair, they were discontinued and replaced with something cost-prohibitive (for me) - I've since combed the internet for a single remaining pair, only to come up empty handed time and again:
Last of all, the honorable mention goes to the original Saucony Lady Jazz (from 1981) - my first real pair of running shoes, received as a Christmas gift from my parents after extensive research in Runners World magazines after school in my track coach's classroom. I don't remember them being bad-looking, but it may have been because I retro-fitted them with Star Wars shoe laces.