Running shoes that look cool too (cool like a rapper)?
February 6, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Running shoes that look COOL? Like if Jay-Z had to go run a 5k.

I've been a runner since ran cross country in high school (so about 6 years) and have always had to have two pairs of shoes: a fresh ass fresh pair of stylish sneakers (like Air Force Ones, Onitsuka Tigers etc.) and a pair of othopedically sound shoes for running long distance (like the gross shiny metallic Asics, or gross, shiny metallic anything that's marketed as a "running" shoe).

I am tired of changing my shoes just to go running/ engage in athletic endeavors anymore and want a shoe that will stylisitically satisfy me while knowing that I won't be hurting my legs in the process. I found these which I think look awesome, but don't know if they have the support it takes for athletics.

On the other hand, maybe, I'm just overthinking how much support I need for running/athletics in a shoe. Can I wear a pair of Air Force Ones or Onitsuka Tigers and be just as fine as wearing a pair of shoes designed for running or whatever sport?

All in all, do you all have any suggestions for both styling and orthopaedic shoes?

Thanks, yall alll.
posted by defmute to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Practical point: won't your running shoes smell so disgusting after a week or two of hard workouts that wearing them around normally won't be an option?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2011

I think the problem with wearing your cool sneakers for running beyond possible support issues (I wear Vibrams, so I'm not really in the cushiony padded shoes are necessary camp) is that you'll wear them out way faster and get them dirtier. So, your Tigers (I have 2 pairs myself that I've had for several years) that would probably last years for streetwear are going to be beat to shit in a couple months because they weren't made for sport.

I always thought track shoes were really cool-looking, but that may not be supportive enough for you if you prefer more cushion, and a lot of them have spikes.
posted by elpea at 11:57 AM on February 6, 2011

I know lots of folks who wear Nike Frees for everything.
posted by adorap0621 at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2011

I don't go for long runs but have been able to play tennis and basketball in converse, casual asics, and the tigers. You do have to be more careful about foot positioning and how you land. I have done a few short runs on them as well and it felt a lot better than running shoes.

Just make sure you're letting the current pair dry out. Having them be constantly damp from sweat will accelerate wear. I rotate 2 to 3 pairs of shoes and found they last a lot longer (and don't smell).
posted by just.good.enough at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2011

Yeah, Nike Frees are pretty nice. I've recently been obsessing over the Brooks Green Silence.

If you don't need much support/stability and aren't planning to run 10+ mi in them, I think you can look into trainers or something approaching a racing flat.
posted by bread-eater at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2011

I spent the first four weeks of Couch To 5K in a pair of Adidas Sambas - rationalizing that if I can run for the subway or take a brisk 2 mile walk in normal sneakers, there's no reason I can't do the barely strenuous "run for 2 minutes/walk for 90 seconds" sort of "runs" in the same shoes.

That said, when the runs became more sustained, I got a pair of clunky ugly Mizunos and my knees are pretty happy.

One reservation I would have about running in Tigers or Chucks is that those shoes are no longer designed for athletic wear - the parent companies realized ages ago that most people are just buying them for their looks. So they're designed to look cool, not to actually provide any benefit for your feet or withstand that kind of wear.
posted by Sara C. at 12:47 PM on February 6, 2011

You want a Nike Lunarfly. Women's.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2011

I wore a pair of New Balance 420's for both running training (10K+ runs) and streetwear for about 3 months - I really like the look of them, and they were great to run in. They died much more quickly than shoes I have for streetwear only, though. Still - if you can get them cheap (mine were $40), it works out more or less comparable to "proper" running shoes.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2011

I had the same exact problem about 3 months back. I was trying to find some basic New Balance but I ended up getting some Adidas. I think they are called "Marathon".

I don't really buy into the whole hi-tech, super thick running shoe thing but then again I go jogging like twice a week for half an hour. I have not had any injury problems so far.

Those Asics look pretty cool.
posted by mr.ersatz at 2:35 PM on February 6, 2011

I rock these Asics all the time either running or with jeans on.
posted by kaizen at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2011

Don't wear Air Force 1's for anything other than looking cool. Even though they were originally designed as a flagship basketball shoe, the materials, design, and construction of today's Forces are everything you don't want to run in. (Stay away from Nike's retro Air Max line, too.) Sambas are marginally better, as they're still made for playing soccer.

The Asics Onitsuka Tigers, the Asics Bengals, the NB 420's, and the Adidas Marathons were all originally designed as running shoes (or at least for some sort of athletics). The ones being made today, like Sara C. says, are not manufactured for anything more strenuous than a stroll around town. However, just by looking at pictures of them I can tell that they'll work out better than the Forces or the Sambas. Even though the materials and construction might not be ideal, they are still "running shoes." Adidas's retros are pretty reliable in terms of retaining the qualities of the original shoe.

Nike has a history of creating "retro hybrid" running shoes. They take the upper from an old shoe, modernize the materials and construction, and put it on a current running midsole. Here's the current men's lineup.
posted by clorox at 9:44 PM on February 6, 2011

Even though the materials and construction might not be ideal, they are still "running shoes."

This is where I start getting confused on this topic. I mean, a pair of (indoor/non-cleat) soccer shoes or basketball shoes are "running" shoes inasmuch as people who are playing soccer or basketball in the shoes are spending a lot of time running during the game. I've played my share of soccer, and I can tell you that I've spent exponentially more time running around the field than I have spent kicking balls or scoring goals.

The real differences only become significant when one is running long distances. So if you're running for half an hour a few times a week, you'd probably be OK in a pair of basketball sneakers, as long as they're actual athletic shoes with good support that aren't going to fall apart after a week.

But this would appear to run counter to all information I have about how athletic shoe marketing works. And the woman in the running shoe store was absolutely HORRIFIED at the idea that I might run half a mile in a pair of soccer shoes. So who knows?
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on February 6, 2011

I think it really depends on how your individual running style's like - if you're a really heavy heel striker, your feet are probably going to like a bit more cushion, which means ugly-lookin' pillows strapped to your feet. If you don't have a heavy stride, you could try running in your Tigers - I've heard of people running POSE in them. If things start hurting, then it's probably best to stop.

I don't know if this is what you mean by 'stylish', but I wear a (discontinued) version of the Adidas adizero Mana racing flat and it's good for speedwork over medium distances. It's meant for racing, so it's light and not ultra-supportive. Long distance and I switch to the Saucony Kinvara, which has a bit more cushion for the forefoot, but is still light enough for a nice quick stride. It's hideous for women's sizing (baby blue, bright pink and light green whyyyyy), but the men's sizing gets a bunch of cool looking reds, oranges and blacks. Fair warning, though - if you're using these around town a whole lot, they're going to wear out really, really fast - the Kinvara in particular is mostly EVA foam and it compresses with use.
posted by zennish at 12:21 AM on February 7, 2011

I'm walking on a treadmill, not running, but my hip problems went away after I a) did some PT and b) tossed my fancy-pants running shoes and started wearing my Onitsuka Tigers while exercising. It's worth trying. I had no idea I was cool! Thank you!
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:12 AM on February 7, 2011

I wear the Samba when I play indoor soccer, and I'd say the question isn't so much about whether you should be running miles in them as opposed to "running" shoes as it is about how much better you can technically handle the ball, feel the floor beneath you, and to use technical terminology, do soccer type moves, in them. The running is coincidental. They're optimized for kicking and controlling a soccer ball. I'm not an expert, but they seem to be more or less the same shoe as the ones I wore 25 years ago as a reasonably competitive youth soccer player.

And just thinking of running even a short 3 miles on the street in them makes my sensitive feet hurt, but I have big baby sensitive feet.

Getting to your actual question, I'll add my answer by not really answering: I've given up on trying to find good looking running shoes. As far as I can tell, they don't exist.

I have decided to embrace the absurd designs I'm faced with every time I've reached my usual 3 or 400 mile limit and find the ugliest, stupidest looking pair I can. Neon green stripes? Orange laces? Looks like it fell off the space shuttle? BRING IT!
posted by dyobmit at 12:06 PM on February 7, 2011

soccer shoes or basketball shoes are "running" shoes inasmuch as people who are playing soccer or basketball in the shoes are spending a lot of time running during the game.

Absolutely. And that is taken into consideration when designing a basketball or indoor soccer shoe. But the designers have to make a compromise between optimal structure, cushioning, and tread for running in a straight line; optimal structure, cushioning, and tread for quick lateral movement; special features for a particular sport, like a smooth striking surface for soccer; and weight which should be low as possible in all cases. Basketball shoes sacrifice light weight and straight-line performance for lateral performance and ankle protection; indoor soccer shoes sacrifice just about all cushioning for lateral structure, light weight, and good ball feel; and your average running shoe sacrifices any pretense of lateral performance for straight-line performance and light weight. Cross-trainers are an attempt to have a good amount of everything in one shoe, but they are always biased in one direction or another and never quite achieve zen.

Story time:
In 2006, Nike introduced the Max Air 360 midsole, which was literally one giant air bubble. It was the first one not to use a combination of air and conventional foam. Each of the previous iterations of the Max Air midsoles were originally designed for their flagship running shoes, then adapted for the rest of the company's products. With the 360, though, the company decided to modify it for a pair of basketball shoes to be released alongside the runners.

So on launch day, this (alt.) and this appeared in stores. Runners liked the cushioning and smooth ride, despite their heft and slight clunkiness, and they sold very well. The basketball shoes were a big hit, too. Players loved the cushioning-to-weight ratio, made possible by not using foam, and the upper was well-designed and durable. They sold great -- for about a month.

What went wrong? Take another look at the photos, and compare the midsoles. They're exactly the same. The outsole and the upper are connected at four places: The very tip of the air unit, the thin plastic sidewalls, the pillars on the inside made from the same thin plastic as the sidewalls, and the reinforcing ribs around the crashpad at the heel which are slightly thicker on the b-ball shoes. That's fine for running, because most of the stress comes from vertical loading when your feet hit the ground, and from flexing across the foot when pushing off with your toes. But in basketball you also get a shearing effect while making hard cuts on the court (think of jiggling a pan of jello). Wearing them felt similar to wearing these. Word traveled quickly, and people avoided them for fear of ankle injuries. Not only that, but the ribs would deform and lose their strength on shoes worn by heavier players, the ones who need it most. And of course, to top it off, the air units would sometimes just pop.

As I said earlier, the running shoes were very popular and sold well. In fact, the exact same midsole was used for the next two updates to the Air Max shoe line. (The two latest versions added a thin layer of foam between the air and your foot for more cushiness in low-impact situations and even more clunkiness.)

The basketball shoes were quickly exiled to the outlet stores and never heard of again. Aside from the Air Max Elite line, which has a midsole design than can be traced back to 1997, and the more modern Hypermax, Nike Basketball steered away from big air bubbles, favoring low profiles and light weight. They got back to a true full-length air unit with the LeBron 7 in 2009 and the LeBron 8 in 2010. The LeBrons have a much lower-profile air unit and a layer of foam that extends into the pillars. They haven't seen any of the problems that the 360's did, because they were designed with basketball in mind. The same midsole will be on the upcoming Air Max 360 BB Low, which will give you ankle injuries just like its predecessor did -- there has been no word of a high-top version in the works. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

tl;dr You can run in hoop shoes because you run when you hoop, but you can't hoop in running shoes because you don't hoop when you run.
posted by clorox at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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