by John Schrup
Often I am hesitant to use the word, “best” to describe something when comparing it to others, especially in a format such this. There are too many variables to consider. And we spend all our time—and your time–telling you, the customer, that we are looking for the best shoe for you. What is best for you might not be the best for her, or for him. To use similar adjectives would remove the personal attention, wouldn’t it? Not at all. If we set the parameters on which we are going to make this judgment (and if we cover our @$$es enough) we can actually use this space as a teaching mechanism. We believe so strongly, so faithfully, in what we do that want to spread the running gospel, to proselytize, to engage in the Platonic running discussion so that we all are faster, more injury free, more nimble, healthier, happier. And I can promise you that this is not about selling products. If it were, then our list would include nothing but the most expensive shoes in the running specialty market.
So here we are going to use the word as only a Rogue would—to stir the pot a bit, to provoke, to create discussion. As the sun rises in the east, this is word.
What makes a good running shoe? A really good running shoe? A little deeper now, what is the purpose of a running shoe? First, a running shoe has to protect you from the surfaces on which you are doing your thing. Asphalt, rock, crushed granite trails, grass, whatever. Second, your running shoe has to allow you to run as naturally as possible—the way your body is designed to run—AND protect you from the surface on which you are doing your thing. Wait. Schrup, you already said that. Repetitive, superfluous. Yes, yes I did, but I would like to clarify so that you don’t forget that natural running does not always equate to barefoot running. It is more about body awareness, functional strength and agility than an unshod jaunt through your leafy neighborhood streets.
But, but, what if I overpronate? What if my feet are a 2E? What if, what if, what if? The answers to both those questions is that you are in the minority and we are speaking generally here. We are addressing the vast majority of the running population. (The answer to the first question is really, “Well, do some foot drills and general strength exercises every day, maybe pay attention to your form a little more to make sure that the overpronation that your podiatrist diagnosed no longer is of concern. Make it a non-issue.”)
Is each of the shoes we’ll list here perfect. No. Is each of these shoes we’ll list here the only shoes you should ever consider? Nope. Is each of these here shoes we’ll list the best shoes ever made and nothing else will ever compare so why even try? Nopers. Simply, these are the best shoes available in running specialty at this moment because they protect your foot from the surfaces you run on and allow you to run as naturally as possible.
So for the next few weeks, let’s discuss.
You knew this was coming. If you’ve been around Rogue for the past couple of years, you knew this would be on here, dintcha? Brooks steps back from its insistence on giving you “technology” to create an old school shoe that really should be the focal point of their entire line. This shoe is so good that it is in the third color incarnation now, otherwise completely unchanged, and will remain otherwise completely unchanged through 2013. They could offer more colorways, but that would be tacit admission that a basic $90 shoe is better than everything else they make. The Brooks Launch is so smooth and functional that it makes the Adrenaline feel like the Beast, and the Beast feel like a German Panzer.
There are no “technologies” in the Launch. No midfoot trusses, no proprietary cushioning systems or drop-ins. No bells, no whistles, no bling—it is an EVA midsole shoe that is arguably the smoothest on the market. Like butter. It is a bit soft for my tastes, but you can’t have everything. The heel isn’t particularly low, but the complete ground contact outsole, fat blown rubber forefoot (mmmmm, blown rubber) and absence of midfoot stablility features and cushioning devices makes you think it is lower than it actually is. Super duper smooth. It fits well; it is moderately durable; it is relatively light. For a time around Rogue, we joked about opening a store that just sold the Launch. For real.
Yep. New Balance. Whoda thought that your uncle’s go-to barbeque shoe also made legit running shoes. Well, for years they have, though always just under the radar as notable; and their marketing was for the most part non-existent, so you likely saw them only at the backyard barbeque or at a fraternity party, where the national shoe of Greek life is the 990 series, the ubiquitous grey leather clunker.
Anyway, the 1400 is technically a racing flat. A marathon racer. It is as simple and functional as a running shoe should be and nothing more. Except it the fit is aaaalllmost perfect and it looks really cool, is super light and the perfect blend of the soft cushioning and firm responsiveness that you need in a running shoe. Well fitting, lightweight upper that hugs the foot; a complete ground contact midsole with no drop-in cushioning pieces, and a cushioned but responsively smooth midsole. We put the 1400 on people and the almost universal response is that they can’t believe how good it feels—for a New Balance! The next almost universal response is that they buy it. New Balance has recently refocused their design efforts (Trail Minimus, anyone?) and marketing efforts, and the resulting products are as good as they get. I’d almost have to add parenthetically the updated 890 V2 here, but the overly padded heel collar is counter what they ought to have done with that—great shoe nonetheless. The 1400 reminds me of some of my favorite shoes from the mid 80’s, well before running shoes became victims of the fashion market. This shoe (and the big brother 890) is one of the best shoes on the wall. Period.
Before I get started, I’d like to begin by noting that I still think the previous version might be a nicer shoe—a hair lighter, a wee bit more flexible. But when these bad girls are on, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to time this.
The Adios 2 is a marathon racer, originally designed for the Emperor himself, Haile Gebrselassie. But don’t be fooled, you don’t need to be a 119 lb. Ethiopian giant to wear these. The last three men’s marathon world bests have been run wearing this shoe, the last of which by a Kenyan who isn’t even an Ethiopian. The Adios 2 is bomb proof and can take whatever you dish out. It is, essentially a racer-weight trainer, in our opinion. The midsole offset is almost standard—11mm from heel to forefoot—but the lightweight and uber-responsive ride allows forgiveness of that extravagance. The midfoot Torsion piece is superfluous, and will likely soon be surgically removed when I get a spare 15 minutes and a Bennu quad Americano. But that too is forgivable because the Adios 2 has Porschesque responsiveness and a shocking color palette that makes you think you are Michael Schumacher when you strap into your Yaris. Formula I. Marathon. Same difference. And praise be that adidas didn’t use that Formotion heel piece on the Adios 2, as it does on many of their trainers. That thing is Prophecyesque. Here nor there, the Adios 2 is one of the best shoes on the wall. End of story.