Don't Tell My Running Shoes But...

by Carissa

Don't tell my running shoes but they're no longer the only ones in my closet.  They have the right to be shocked since I've had the same approach to running shoes for years now.  My routine was as follows: go into a running store, get fitted by a sales person, and buy whatever shoe was recommended for me based on my pronating feet.  Sometimes that meant buying a shoe I didn't particularly like the look of.  But that's what every good runner does right? Function over fashion was a strict rule in my running shoe rule book.  Five hundred miles later I was back in the store for a new pair.

This summer I found myself with a Nike Employee Store pass (a SWEET benefit of living where Nike is headquartered.)  Since I like living in running shoes and since my shoes typically get dirty/muddy/you-name-it over the course of running 500 miles in them, I thought it would be nice to pick up a pair of running shoes just to kick around in.  Not to mention, it was about time I got to pick out a shoe based on what I thought was cute!  As I browsed the selection of shoes the Nike Free 3.0  caught my eye and piqued my interest.  This shoe is the closest shoe to barefoot running that Nike makes.  I was completely naive to the barefoot running movement until I read the book Born to Run.  After I read it I was curious about my shoe and how the heavy support was impacting my body.

Nike Free 3.0
The sales person at the Nike store explained that there are three types of Nike Frees each with a number that represents the level of support the shoe gives.  Nike Free 3.0 offers the least amount of support, 4.0 is the in-between, and 5.0 is the most supportive.  As with all minimalist shoes, the sales person warned me that I should ease my way into them.  I figured if I was going to buy a minimalist shoe I might as well buy the most minimalist shoe, and you'd better bet I was going to try running in them.  So much for keeping them clean.  

I gave my new shoes a try on the treadmill, fully expecting them to be uncomfortable to run in or that some part of my body was going to start screaming at me to stop.  But it never happened.  My Nike Free's were REALLY comfortable.  And thus began my love affair with the Nike Free 3.0s.  I wore them during my everyday life.  I wore them to train. I wore them to race.  I loved the shoes.  The more I wore them, the less I wanted to run in my current pair of running shoes, the Mizuno Wave Inspire.  I continued to wear the Mizunos on trails or on my long runs but by comparison they felt heavy and cumbersome.

Mizuno Wave Inspire
Several weeks later I began to question whether there might be a better shoe for me.  Could I combine the light comfortable feel of the Nike Free with the support I was getting from the Mizuno Waves?  I stopped by the local running store hoping to get some shoe advice.  The sales person told me that the Nike Free 3.0 is a shoe that will make your body do all the work. He backed this up by telling me how sore he was by day's end the first time he wore a pair of Frees to work.  This new information made me thankful my body had been reacting so well to this shoe.  

Next, the salesperson told me there are shoes called "racing flats" designed to be light for racing but offering support for a runner who pronates. I don’t know about you, but I thought the idea of owning a pair of racing flats sounded pretty cool.  I tried on about five pairs of shoes and tested them out by running as fast as I could through the clothing racks.  I picked the Saucony Kinvara 3 because they were the pair that felt the most like the Nike Free 3.0. As an added bonus I even like the way they look.  Jodi’s proclivity towards all things bright in the form of running gear has definitely rubbed off on me.  

Saucony Kinvara 3
The sales associate assured me I could race half marathons and marathons in this shoe and that they would be great for my mid-distance training runs.  He even said I could do long runs in this shoe as long as I worked up to the distance.  My plan is to run recovery runs in my Nike Free 3.0, mid-distance runs and speed work in my Saucony Kinvara 3,  and long runs in my Mizuno Wave Inspire.  I just started using Daily Mile (more on this in another post) and it tracks how many miles I'm running in each pair of shoes. Phew!

Owning three pairs of running shoes is an upfront investment and one not everybody can make.  I chose to pre-purchase 1,500 miles of running divided out over three pairs of shoes versus 500 miles in one pair.  If you only have a budget for one pair of shoes, your best bet is to buy a pair that will support you during the longest run you do.  And that, my Sole Sisters is the story of how I went from a single pair of running shoes to a happy partnership with three.

How about you Sole Sisters?  Do you have more than one pair of running shoes? Have you ran in a minimalist shoe?  What did you think of it?


  1. I love love love running shoes. I try to have two pairs active so that I can alternate them on different days. My problem is that I cannot get rid of old shoes. I have too many memories with them. I start to think that now I have worn them down, they are my minimalist shoes for speedwork :). And yes, I do wear my old shoes for speedwork!

    I do own a pair of Nike Free 3.0 and have not yet worn them for running. Maybe I am waiting for my legs, feet, and body to get stronger before I wear them for a workout? :)

    I do have a pair of NB shoes that is a step away from minimalist shoes. They are supposedly designed for those who wants to be partially minimalists. I wore them for my marathon and my forefeet felt raw the second half of the race. So I am thinking I am not yet strong enough to handle complete minimalism.

    With all the cool shoe colors and design out there, I want to run more so that I can wear out my shoes and get new ones to try.

    Shoes, my candy for the soul (or sole)!

    1. I have to say I was totally impressed by how cool your trail shoes looked on Saturday. I'm guessing if you don't throw your shoes out then you must have a ton of shoes. That's interesting that you use the old ones for speed work. You have to give the frees a try at least for something short and tell me what you think of them. I ran in them today and was reminded how much I love them. Trail shoes are definitely my next investment especially if you invite me out to more XC races! :)

  2. I just found your site an am so excited! Thanks for the education on the different number Nike Frees. This is the only shoe I run in (in fact I've found that big klunky shows make my knees hurt).

    1. I'm so glad you found us Stephanie! The frees are still the most comfortable shoe I run in. What sort of lengths do you find are good for you in them? Do you ever run double digits in them?

  3. The most I've gone is 6. But not for long! I'll be joining the kickoff to run the Queen of the High 1st half! ;)

  4. Why don't you use your Frees for longer distances?

    1. Since they have so little support I want to be careful to not injure myself. For example, I've had a sore leg/foot but it's been on the mend. Today I ran in my frees and it's hurting again. :(

  5. Makes sense. Hope you feel better soon!