The Best Running Shoes of 2012

by John Schrup

These are the running shoes in 2012 that are worthy of the Rogue Wall.  Yeah, we have our opinions.  For example:  We are of the opinion that the sun rises in the east.  So, there.  We are also of the opinion that your running shoes should be the least of your worries.  The right shoe for you is the least amount of shoe you are comfortable wearing – the one that disappears the second you put it on.

Our Top Five Six

adidas Adios 2

This is the shoe that was the reason for creating these awards.  Actually, the original Adios got this award—the yellow with black one that we first saw on Haile’s feet, or red or green that came after, whichever.  When you wore that shoe, everything was right with the world.  If you were to visit the Middle East, the ambient music would be “It’s a Small World.”  Republicans and Democrats would argue only over which one loves the other the most, sorta like googly-eyed high school kids with their first, you know.   You’d PR in everything—everything!   10K.  Breakfast.  Home Depot.  Lunges.  Socks.  Whatever.  Adidas are making a big push to regain some of their lost glory—and they’re doing a pretty good job of it—and their shoes will come around even more when they drop that maha-sucky Formotion piece.  It is no coincidence that the best adidas running shoes don’t have the Formotion shit on them.  The Adios is easily—easily!—adidas’ best shoe, and it is also easily—easily!—one of the best shoes you can buy.  The responsiveness is the first thing you notice.  One guy in the group who used to be in lurve with the Vomero has been seen in the A2, and was heard saying something along the lines of  “**** these things feel fast!”  (Alliteration!) When I’m running through the Brentview in my Adios, all the cats and dogs in the neighborhood stop what they’re doing and bring their favorite squeaky toys out to the curb as offerings.  Old school street cred.

Saucony Kinvara 3

You know how we love this shoe.  Yeah, we’d firm ‘em up a smidge, but other than that, the Kinvara are the shit. And now that we’re on that subject, if the K3 felt more like the Mirage (or Adios) in firmnessicity it would pretty much be all I would wear.   You could argue that this is the shoe that brought lower offsets to the mainstream.  I’m not going to use the M word, because, like, that’s not the kind of people we are, but that too.  Uber-light, protective, moderately flexible, the K3 is for training, for racing, for long walks on the beach—doesn’t matter. I’ve noticed that when I wear the Kinvara and then afterward go to the Central Market for the, you know, groceries, I’m much more likely to have someone ask me where I got my hair done.  They’re that good.  If the Kinvara were running for office and they had a debate, the Kinvara would wait until its opponent stopped talking, lean in to the mic and say, “Awesome.”  And the election would be over.   Also, the A5 should be renamed the Kinvara Racer.

New Balance 1600 

Just, wow.  New Balance is like one of those sports teams that you watch in your favorite professional league that sits at the bottom of their conference for so long that people are like, We have a professional sports team?  Really?  Hm.  And so then the owner gets tired of having to pick hair out of his dinner at fancy restaurants because the chef hates him so much, so he goes out and buys a whole new team.  I don’t know about the first thing, but NB definitely bought a new team.  New designers, new marketers, all that shit.  And now they are making some of the very best stuff available.  We’re big fans of their decision to reduce offsets from 12 to 8, because it is the right thing to do.  They’ve got a boss lineup of the 890, the 1400 and the 1600.  There might not be a better trio on the wall.  We like the 1600 the best because we like things that are awesome, despite our obvious efforts to prove otherwise.  You can train in it, race in it, whatever.  The fit is mmmmmmm, sexy snug.  Mama like!  It is almost exactly what a running shoe should be, and nothing more.  The only thing I’d change is the EVA;  I’d make the midsole firmer, but I ain’t complainin’.  You wear this shoe and you could be a half ton, smoke seven packs of Camel unfiltered a day, wear P. Terry’s Cologne and produce enough personal natural gas that Russian oil companies would be all up in your shizz wanting to frack you and you’d still be moving like a bat out of Hades.  The 1400 probably has a broader appeal, but the 1600 is definitely one of the 2012 shoes.  I would blindfold these bad girls and feed them truffles, like in that movie with those people in that language.  You know the one, with the words on the bottom.

Brooks Launch 

You knew this one would be on the list.  It was introduced back in 2009, and since then has been the best shoe on the wall.  Feed us enough espresso and we might even tell you that this is the shoe of the decade—both of them.  They aren’t minimalist, except that the midsole has been stripped of anything unnecessary, so don’t go calling us a minimalist store.    At the moment, you won’t find anything smoother on the wall or on the road.  When it was announced that the Launch was to be discontinued, well, I don’t want to call it chaos, but shit was ****ed up.  Women in the streets rending their Lululemon.  I know!  Seriously!  Mass jaywalking.  There were no breakfast tacos to be found—anywhere.  Pemberton Heights, 12th and Chicon, same difference.  Texas became the first state to make veganism the official religion.  Like I just said, shit was ****ed up!    The design of the Launch reminds us of days before people missed workouts because their Garmin wasn’t charged; before people took gels on a 5 mile run; before people gave a shit about over-pronation.  At the same time, the Launch are what most minimalist… err biomechanically appropriate… shoes should be, albeit maybe with a higher offset.  But you know what we’re talking about.  They’re foam, with complete ground contact.  Brooks, the number one brand at running specialty now, are dropping the Launch from their lineup, because Brooks believe that you can’t make a good running shoe without actually ****ing it up first, er, I mean adding a bunch of technology to it.  I love this shoe and I don’t even wear it.  We were so upset by the news that we built a makeshift grave site to mock Brooks.  Then, several months later, Luke’s did the same thing, completely trumping us in creativity and absurd displays of sadness.

ASICS Tarther

The Tarther, like the Launch, are no mas.  ASICS, in their infinite wisdom, and by wisdom I mean obtuseness, pulled the plug on the Tarther after one year because, well, we don’t know why.  You can still get them in Europe, so um, yeah.  But we’re gonna assume and speculate all over the place.  They didn’t sell well enough to get traction or there wasn’t enough “science” behind them, and by “science” I mean features that are easily marketable.  I’m going to go out there and say that the simplicity of this beautiful shoe is such that they went over the head of the American market, or of ASICS marketing team, whichever.  If something is that basic, it can’t be any good, no?  Like Brooks, ASICS didn’t want to put marketing dollars into a shoe that doesn’t have any marketability, other than being a superior shoe.  The Tarther were marathon racers here in the US, which means that we love it, sometimes publically and mostly inappropriately.  Did you ever notice that the Tarther and the original Adios were almost identical?  It’s true.  Both designed in the Japanese market, marathon racers, similar responsiveness, ride, fit.  Yep.  It’s no wonder our pants feel funny when we wear these shoes.  I could continue ragging ASICS for yanking that shit, but instead I’ll just say, thank you for the opportunity to have run in the Tarther.

Newton

Wait, wait wait!  Hear me out!  I know, I know, I know.  WTFF?  Yeah, it took us three years to bring Newton in, and believe me, it coulda been longer.  When Newton first came to us red flags went up right away, and maybe it had something to do with the whole triathlete, you know, thing.  I don’t know.  Or the lugs thing.  But when we sat down with Newton to talk about it, they were the only group who would or could actually talk about running as the context for the shoe, rather than the other way around.  Most reps you talk to about shoes can’t tell you anything other than what they memorized from their sales meetings and the answers we get don’t get much deeper than the ol’, “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?”  Yeah, the shoes are pricey; yeah they take some time to get familiar with; yeah the lugs are a little, I don’t know, weird.  But the more I think about it, the more I like that they are focusing on the forefoot for their technology, rather than the rearfoot.  We’re always down for the road less traveled, new design paradigms1, thinking outside the bush.  Did they get it right?  Dunno yet.  They fit like a sock/glove/second skin and once you get used to the feel of the lugs underfoot and recognize that, hmmm, they feel more like a really firm forefoot than the gooey marshmallows we’re used to, it’s a quite nice feel.  The other thing we like about Newton is that they are honest about what is marketing and what isn’t.  And in the running shoe biz, when you call someone out on that, they just get all defensive on you and say something like “We’re all an experiment of one,” or something equally as obtuse and dismissive.  Newton make a line of shoes from racer to lightweight to less lightweight to clunky, but the only models you need to know are the Distance (because we’re assholes) and the Gravity, which is the Distance with some rubber on the heel.  Subtle Chuck, who was the most vocal dissenter when a show of hands was requested about bringing in the Newtons, is now the most hyper proponent of the brand.  And that’s saying a lot because Subtle C still thinks that all music everywhere stopped after Terrapin Station.

Our Honorable Mention Awards 

Shoe most likely to be seen in a parking lot or on Arthur Lydiard’s feet, if he were alive and endorsed it, neither of which is true:  INOV-8 f-lite 195

Once upon a time, oh, about 2005 I think, INOV-8 came across the pond from the UK of England and was known only for making low-profile trail shoes.  These days, INOV-8 are known for, probably, Crossfit.  If you’re not familiar with Crossfit, it is a relatively new exercise program thing whereby you eat live animals regularly and throw giant truck tires and jump over your own barf because you just did, like, 9000 prisoner squats, and the catch is you have to do it in a parking lot on a busy street so everyone driving by can see you.  If you don’t do it in the parking lot, it’s called heavy construction work or sometimes farming.  Anyway, INOV-8 are the shoe of choice for the Crossfitters, because they believe in functional, fundamental strength work—I like ‘em already!—and shoes that are more minimaler than your traditional running shoe allow for a greater, more natural range of movement, which everyone except podiatrists believe is a good thing.  But they’re running shoes to me, except for the ones now labeled Crossfit or whatever, and they are what I think Lydiard would like, except he’d want them in beige or maybe black because of the whole New Zealand thing.   Just about the simplest uppers on the wall, they fit like, you know; and nothing but EVA underfoot with some rubber for gription making them light, protective and flexible.  They come in three or four offsets, so you can fit the whole family.  We think INOV-8 are getting a little cocky, because the most recent catalog we were given has way too many models for a company so small and so young.  But they make cool looking, great fitting, smooth as silk road and trails shoes and thus far, the 195 is the best of all that.  3mm offset (not that it matters), super simple upper, foam, rubber.   Cheerio.

Best Bloop for the Buck:  Nike Pegasus 29

Oh, man.  If ever a model had some history in the running market, this is it.  Through so many different incarnations (remember the polyurethane?), the Peg have always filled a spot in the, let’s call it “lower end” of the neutral/cushion category.  And by lower end I mean that it never had all the bling and superfluous crap that so many shoes have these days.  It usually stood about $15-$20 lower on the scale than other models, yet in our opinion was probably better than the luxury end stuff.  The 29th incarnation is one of the best, though we still think it is going the opposite direction it needs to travel.  The fit is as good as it gets:  The knit upper is so light and unobtrusive that it almost feels as if it is on the wrong midsole/outsole combination; the upper feels like what I want racing flats to feel like.  But then we get to the midsole/outsole.  It kinda makes my heart hurt, if you want to know the truth.  When I take these Pegs for a spin, I want so badly to love them and for them to love me back.  It’s like the ultimate dysfunctional relationship, isn’t it?  If you look up the word “bloop” in the Oxford English Dictionary, there is a picture of the Peg 29.  M’er F’er bloop.  There is almost no ground feel whatsoever.  But, hey, not that there’s anything wrong with that, right?  I mean, like, no ground feel.  You’re a couple inches off the ground when you put these bad girls on.  Platforms.  New York Dolls and shit.  But it does retain some nice rear-fore transition because of the complete ground contact.  One guy sent me an email or Facebook message or something espousing his profound love for this shoe—his favorite shoe everrrrrrrr—and I didn’t argue with him.  He likes it.  He’s also super efficient and fast and couldn’t tip the scales on a can of Pringles.  But that is less important than almost anything perhaps.  Dude just likes his Pegs.  For the type of shoe it is, the Peg is maybe the best.

They Should Rename This Shoe the Phoenix:  Saucony Ride

This shoe used to be, and please excuse in advance the vulgarities that follow, a ****ing piece of ****.  Really, it was bad.  No, I mean, you wouldn’t get projectile compound fractures or anything, but it was pretty archaic in just about all ways.  It was, let’s face it, ugly.  And it was heavy.  And it was inflexible.  And the fit was, depending on the model, alternately poor and bad.  So when Saucony decided to get with the times and lower the heel/toe offset from 12mm to 8mm, well, it didn’t solve any of the problems in, like, Darfur or someplace, but it was a positive move.  But this new Ride is light, fits well in that old Saucony way, and is much, much smoother than the old, tired, worn out version.  Ok, ok, there’s still the issue with that midfoot truss, which is not only entirely unnecessary, but unsightly and probably unethical. Nevertheless, we’re awarding the Ride with this, um, award because it’s done a complete 360.  Wait.  180.  270?  Dang. Translation: we like it.

Ghost Killa:  Also the… Saucony Ride

Ok, so here’s what happened.  There used to be this shoe that Brooks made called the Burn.  Shoe was bad ass.  The first version was pretty good, you know, not bad.  But the second version rocked your face off.  Shit was awesome!  I had a couple pair of them back in the day, or 2006 or whatever, and ran many a fine mile (or kilometer, for you Canadiites) up and down the ditches of the Albuquerque Valley.  Man!  Loved that shoe!  And then it went away—pulled from the lineup—probably  because it had everything that is a good running shoe needs, and nothing a good marketing person wants.  So, sort of tacitly, we were told that the Ghost was the replacement for the Burn.  Yeah, um, no.  Not really.  That first version was as close as it got, but that was still more of a sortakindanotreally lightweight trainer.  It was a little bit lower profile that what you see now, and firmer, and if memory serves and it rarely does, it felt faster.   And then the Launch came in and pushed the Ghost into the gordosphere.  Which, for Brooks, is alright because it is the best selling shoe they have that isn’t an Adrenaline.   Indeed, it is everyperson’s shoe.  Not really remarkable except that you put it on and immediately want to sit down with your non-fat soy latte (huh?) with your flat front khakis while you pretend to read Dwell in your neighborhood Starbucks.  Sold the M’er F’er outta those things.  We did.

And so when Saucony bringed out the new Ride, we deemed it the Ghost Killa.  Everything (almost everything, anyway) that we wanted to change about the Ghost, Saucony beat us to it.  Pretty quickly the Ride began to eat up the Ghost numbers here at the Rogue.  In our own Pepsi Challenge of Shoes, the Ghost on one foot, the Ride on the other, and without any prompting other than cash incentives, the Ride won out.  I know, right?  Not that we have anything against the Ghost, except that it appears to be heading in the exact opposite direction we want shoes to go.  And the Ride happens to be heading in the Rogue Approved direction.

Shoe most likely to be worn to get sex from someone who didn’t care that you leave your shoes on during sex: adidas gazelle

This is a shoe that you could take to Vegas, wear to the club on Friday night, rock the bottle service, get into all kinds of Hangover-like shenanigans…  And then, when you wake up on a mattress on the roof, you might be otherwise naked, but you’d have the nicest, smoothest, nirvana of a recovery jog around the roof perimeter until someone comes and gets you down. So, get’em now since, you know, we’re the only store in the country that has them until January. And, you’ve got lots of partying to do before then.

Best upper on a shoe that is already dead: Mizuno Wave Precision

We write this entry with just a bit of sadness.  Not a sadness that would be outwardly visible to others, I don’t know maybe the kind of sadness you have when your favorite drawers—the ones you’ve had since undergrad—blow a hole and you have to hide them from the person you share a bed with because you know they’ll throw that shit out.  The thing about the Precision is that they have almost always been a good shoe, but this latest incarnation became a really good shoe; they were what they’ve wanted since it was introduced.  They look great, have almost nothing that you don’t need, and the fit is the shit.  The fit is as clean as a Waffle House bathroom and the familiar Mizuno feel is still there.  You like this shoe?  Yeah?  So sorry.  Gone.  Gone.  All gone.  Don’t panic yet… we’ll have them through next July, but next year the Precision will be a part of history, replaced by the awkwardly named Wave Sayonara.  Knowing all this, the Sayonara should be a bitchin shoe, but there will be many of you who will find need to buy, like, nine pair of Precision because they are the best shoe everrrrrrrrr.

Best Trail Shoe Period:  New Balance MT110

Yeah, you care about this one.  Because you run on trails all the time, eating your hummus wraps that Jurek told you about and using your wool socks to wipe your ass.  You know how to filter the water of Barton Creek so that you don’t get Ebola or whatever.  And when you get back in your Outback L.L. Bean Edition to drive the two miles back from the trail head, you recover with grass fed salmon jerky and a chia recovery drink from the Ho Foo.  I don’t know what all that means, but I do now that this shoe will rock your face off and leave you thinking someone fed you bath salts.  I don’t know what that means either.  The 110 is pretty much the archetype of the modern trail shoe:  Low profile, protective, flexible, laser proof, speaks four languages fluently, uses the degree it took from undergrad, is kind to animals and has the Dalai Lama on speed dial.  The Cascadia might be the best selling trail shoe, but the people who buy that one are also the ones who keep their ski lift tags on their winter jacket so you know where they went skiing (A Basin).

Best Shoe That’s Aaaalllmost there…

When I first put the ASICS Gel Lyte on, the first thing that popped into my head was, “GD!  I’m gonna like this shoe!”  You need to read that as if it sounds like disappointment, rather than as an exultation.  Like, Awwww, maaaan….That kind of thing.  Like a kid would sound, a little whiney, when you reneg on the bribe to take them to Amy’s for a scoop if they mow the park.  ASICS has for the last decade or so been the shoe that most of the running population wore.  They are known for shoes like the Kayano, the Nimbus and the 2000 series, which is interesting because at least two of those we don’t really think of as running shoes, per se, but more like fashion shoes for people who want you to think they run.  Today, for example when I was at the Ho Foo down there on the corner, while standing in line to pay for my Fuji, fresh young coconut, avocado and organic macadamia butter Ezekiel wrap, I counted no less than nine or eleven Kayanos on the feet of rather lean Lululemon pant wearing females.  None of these Kayanos had any sort of dust or other contaminant on them.  They are sort of the Lunarglide for the Real Housewives of Travis County or whatever.

But the Lyte was, at first, brilliant.  Firm, flexible, light, low.  Praise Allah!  But then I ran in them for a week or so, and realized that the upper is severely lacking.  It was on the narrow side.  And when I say narrow, I mean I feel like I’m a 19th century Asian woman.  On me anyways.  With my narrow feet.  I know of several people who think the fit is awesome.  Perfetto, the French say.  But I take the insoles out of all my shoes, so the fit is actually ok.

This shoe had the potential to be a sort of saving grace for the whole Tarther, you know, thing.  Though nowhere near as impressive as the Tarther, the Lyte was something kinda like when your server totally  ****s up your order, but then gives you, like, a free flan after and you go, yeah, ok, that’s cool.

The good news—or the weird news, depending on how you’re gonna look at it—is that the Lyte is being replaced.  By the…wait for it…Lyte Part Deux.  It’s still pretty low, pretty light, but now the upper is going to fit much cleaner, many more people, and not make you feel like you’re being punished.  On the other coin, the midsole outsole now will have multiple densities, which doesn’t mean much if you’re not into, you know, performance.  The gooder news is that the price goes down $10.  Which tells you that ASICS is telling you which shoe to buy.  Hm.  Kinda like them dropping the Hyperspeed, at $80, and replacing it with the Noosafast, which is a Hyperspeed with kangaroos or some shit painted on them, at $100.  The 2d pair of laces are the extra $20, apparently.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, if you’re worried that you might be in the wrong running shoes, maybe you should go to the zen center, do some yoga or yardwork or some shit, and quit worrying so much.  It’s running, man, it ain’t Gaza.  JFR.  Also, the Big John cookies at Ho Foo are awesome.

1I just wanted you all to recognize that I used the word paradigm here.   Thanks.

Check it:  For those of you who fancy yourself a dedicated runner, a dedicated marathoner, who wants to find out what you’re made of, John coaches Team Rogue on T, Th mornings at 5:30.

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17 thoughts on “The Best Running Shoes of 2012

  1. Good stuff here – I agree on Asics and Brooks, way to much focus on marketing and tech. At least Brooks is inventive and has some fun with the marketing, whereas Asics pulls crap like their FAST technology in the Lyte which is basically removal of all the unnecessary stuff they put in their other shoes.

    I heard a rumor that the Launch may have been spared and a new version is in development – would be good news. That and the Kinvara have been on my feet in my two best marathons.

  2. If I was looking for the best, most irreverent shoe reviews I could find, these wouldn’t disappoint, as every other review always says. Being English, we love the Inov-8 and every new colour-blind colour way in its excessively large range. They will take over the world despite that crossfit nonsense.

  3. Pete–I agree. FAST? Seriously, so we gotta name and market it when we remove stuff from shoes? And the Mizuno thing about the EVO line: They’ve always been about less is more? Um, no. The Prophecy was based on the design of the Panzer II. And Brooks, while creating some rather cute advertisements, is guilty of doing similar things with the Nav Band (what a waste of perfectly good elastic) and the Ideal Heel.
    Really good design doesn’t need anything extra. That’s what minimalism is to me. It isn’t offset or weight, or overlays or anything. It is what is necessary, and nothing more.

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