There are few things more important to a runner than the shoes we love. But what are the best shoes? What are the best shoes of all-time? Well, according to John Stanton, founder of the Running Room, there might just be an answer. “Starting in 1993, ASICS Kayano has stood the test of time and been a consistent top performing and selling shoe designed by Toshikazu Kayano of ASICS.”
The Kayano recently came out in its twenty-ninth iteration, and the $160 shoe—neutral-riding, designed for stability and support, practically guaranteed to please everybody—registered quite a few votes from our audience. When the question was put to more than 12,000 runners, we heard lots of high marks for ASICS. A typical comment went like this: “ASICS Kayano have been my go-to for over 15 years now.” Stability shoes—not the newfangled super expensive carbon-plated numbers that are currently all the rage—generally ranked highest as the Greatest Shoes of All-Time.
Nike, which began the carbon-plate revolution and is generally worn by most runners attempting Olympic gold or even a Personal Best, earned lots of raves from our audience. But it’s not the $365 NEXT% that made our audience swoon, though of course those are shoes we love. The best-selling running shoe by Nike? The Pegasus, which was introduced in 1983 and worn in training by athletes like Joan Benoit Samuelson and an up-and-comer named Eliud Kipchoge. (Phil Knight, the Nike founder, is known to wear the Peg at black tie events). “I will always have a fondness for the Pegasus, as it was the first actual running shoe I’d ever run in,” said one reader. “I ran for several years in Nike cross-trainers, and for months in combat boots, before “discovering” real running shoes. It was revelatory to say the least!”
I think when we ask what the All-Time Best Running Shoe Ever is, what we’re really asking is: what shoe were you wearing when you fell in love with the sport? People love the Ghost series from Mizuno, which is what I ran my first marathon in, and Brooks Ghost, Brooks Beast, Brooks Glycerin, and the Brooks Adrenaline (Brooks, after Nike, is the second best-selling running shoe). Of course, lots of people called out New Balance. Again, the shoes that runners were referencing were models like the 860 or the 1400 (both neutral stability shoes). Our friend Kelly Arnott (of Chilly Marathon fame) said: “The greatest running shoes of all-time is the New Balance 998—this must be 50-years-old and had AA to D and E for men and went to size 15. My grandfather’s store Hendry’s Family Shoes in Hamilton sold it from 1994 to when we closed. I am an old shoe dog.”
For new shoes, HOKA received plenty of votes as the Greatest Running Shoe of All-Time. HOKA, more than anyone, is revered for its comfort and cloud-like ride. Often I’ve wondered if runners could tell the difference between shoes if they wore blindfolds. It’s almost an emotional connection to our shoes that makes us keep coming back to a sneaker we trust. That mental edge—if we think the shoe is The Best, perhaps we run like it is—can make all the difference when choosing a running shoe. Anita Behnessilian-Melnyk said Saucony makes the Greatest Shoes of All-Time. She gets a new pair of Saucony shoes before every race. The Saucony Ride, in its fifteenth iteration, received lots of love. Paula Danyliw only wears Saucony shoes. She has five pairs of Saucony sneakers, and when she shared a picture of her collection, she wrote: “Don’t mind the Nikes in the background, they’re my daughters and she doesn’t know any better.”
What’s the Greatest Running Shoe of All-Time? Something neutral, that brings people into the sport, that’s consistent, and holds up over the kilometres. The Best Shoe Ever can’t be super expensive and it has to be something you’d recommend your mom. I like the way one reader put it, when talking about his most successful sneakers. “I think the Best Shoes Ever are the ones I wore 40 years ago,” he said, “I think they worked much better back then.”
Perhaps it’s his youth, not his sneakers, he’s pining for.