Running Shoe Rotation: 3 Types of Shoes for the Perfect Line-Up

What's your running shoe rotation look like?

Do you...

  • Wear one pair of shoes until you’re using duct tape and superglue to hold them together
  • Have a major shoe addiction always on the hunt for the newest shoe tech, colorway, or fit
  • Or maybe you're a little of both.

👉If you run at least 2-3 times per week with any regularity, you could benefit from a running shoe rotation.

👟👟With a couple pairs of running shoes in your closet:👟👟 

  • You’re less likely to get injured (according to this study, up to 39% less likely)
  • Your shoes will last longer, and...
  • You can tailor your shoe choice to your daily goals.

👟Want to learn how to create your own running shoe rotation? 

Keep reading to get to the heart of what a running shoe rotation is, why having one is important, and how you can create your own!  

So what exactly constitutes a running shoe rotation?

Much like a golfer wouldn’t show up to a course without their arsenal of clubs, each of which has a purpose for the game, a running shoe rotation functions in a similar manner.

Think about it this way...

A running shoe rotation allows you to match your daily run goals to a specific pair of shoes.

A basic shoe rotation consists of at least three pairs of running shoes:

  1. Daily trainers with support and cushioning: these shoes go the distance with you on long, easy runs.
  2. Speedwork shoes. Snappy, responsive, lightweight, plateless shoes for workouts
  3. Racing shoes. Race day and the occasional speedwork shoe: supershoes are the go-to choice for racing these days, but it’s important to know when and where to use them! 
1. Daily Trainers.

👟1. Daily Trainers

The Daily Trainer is the the reliable workhorse for most of your running.

These running shoes might not be flashy, but you will spend a lot of time in them, so it’s vital to pick one with which you’re compatible. 

Daily trainers on the market today usually cater to comfort, but there are a few other characteristics you might consider when choosing a daily running shoe. 

Qualities to look for in a daily trainer:

  • Durability
  • Support
  • Functionality
  • Affordability

Some popular daily trainers: 

Durability

Daily trainers should be able to take a beating, since they do most of the work in the scheme of a weekly running schedule. 

  • Longevity. Industry standards suggest runners retire their shoes after 500 miles, but some trainers will last much longer than that, while others will fall short of this benchmark. 
  • Price. It’s best to look into daily trainer shoes that will give you at least 300 miles of wear, because let’s face it, shoes are pricey! Luckily, the more shoes you have to rotate through, the longer each pair will last. 
  • Wear & tear. The variability across footwear durability depends on the shoe materials, a runner’s wear patterns, and running shoe care/maintenance. 
  • Measure performance. It’s not a bad idea to track the miles you’re putting on shoes using Strava or another gear tracking software (most watches have apps with gear tracking capabilities too). 

Not sure how to determine if your shoes are ready to retire?

👉Check out Evan’s article on when to replace running shoes

Support

Daily trainers offer a wide range of support options.

What does “support” actually mean when we talk about running shoes?

All running shoes have some level of support even if they are advertised as “neutral."

But not all offer stability or motion control for overpronation/supination (read Lucie’s article about these foot types to learn more). 

Getting to know your foot type can help you choose the right running shoes.

Stability Shoes

Designed to support the arch of the foot, designed for runners who are overpronators. 

Some examples of popular stability shoes are the: 

Motion Control Shoes

Designed for runners with flat feet, large builds, or have severe overpronation. Often heavier and stiffer than stability shoes. 

Daily trainers with the right type of support can be a game changer in terms of injury prevention and runner longevity, but the quest should also consider a shoe’s function in the rotation. 

Functionality

For runners who are putting in a lot of high volume training, are prone to injury or impaired recovery, or those who simply want more options, it doesn’t hurt to have a few different daily trainers in the arsenal. 

  • From choosing a shoe that will treat sore and heavy legs with kindness...
  • To shoes that will challenge your foot and ankle strength and stability...

Your daily trainer selection can range from plush and cloud-like to proprioceptively rich, barefoot experiences.

Before you purchase a minimalist or maximalist shoe:

  •  Take a look at the shoe’s specs including heel to toe drop (how much higher your heel is than your forefoot once inside the shoe)
  • And stack height (how much shoe material is between the ground and your foot)

Minimalist Shoes

A minimalist shoe is designed to emulate barefoot running while offering various degrees of underfoot protection. 

  • Typically, a minimalist shoe will have low (less than 5mm) or no heel to toe drop, a roomy toe box that allows natural toe splay, and a low stack height. 
  • The lower a shoe’s heel-to-toe drop, the more likely you are to strike the ground on your forefoot or midfoot instead of the heel. 
  • This shifts the workload of each stride further down your kinetic chain, away from the hips and knees, and into the lower leg and ankle. 

While minimalist shoes do not work for everyone and they require a gradual introduction into a shoe rotation, some runners have anecdotally found minimalist footwear or barefoot running to be helpful in staving off injury. 

  • In a 2014 systematic review, several physical therapists examined studies on barefoot and minimalist footwear for running. 
  • They couldn’t make any definitive conclusions about the risks or benefits of such footwear, but they did acknowledge that running barefoot decreases max ground reaction forces, ground contact time, and stride length. 

It is vital to consider your injury history as a runner before immediately jumping into a minimalist shoe, so tread carefully and do your research, bearing in mind that what works for your running buddies or an elite you follow on social media may not work for you, and that is OK!

Some popular minimalist shoes: 

Maximalist Shoes

On the other end of the spectrum are the highly cushioned maximalist shoes that feel like a warm (yet breathable) hug on your sore feet and tired legs. 

When you’re trying on maximalist shoes, expect them to be rather plush, have tons of underfoot protection and comfortable upper material, a higher stack, and generally, a higher heel-to-toe drop (10-12 mm or more). 

Higher drop daily trainers will take the load off your ankles and lower leg, making them a better choice for runners struggling with plantar fasciitis, Achilles, or posterior tibial tendonitis. 

Popular daily trainers with loads of cushioning: 

Affordability

Since daily trainers are your foundational shoe, you’ll likely go through several pairs throughout your running career. 

  • For example, If you run an average of 20 miles per week in your daily trainers, and you get 500 miles out of them, you will probably have to replace them at least once or twice every year! 
  • Do the math and that’s a lot of money to be spending each year–on a worthy investment of course. 

Daily trainers usually start at $110 and quickly rise in price depending on the brand, materials used, and special shoe features or customization. 

One of the easiest ways to save money on running shoes is to buy previous years’ models and seek clearance sales at your local running store or on 3rd party retailer websites. 

Websites with notoriously good deals on running shoes:

2. Speedwork Shoes

2. Speedwork Shoes

With a daily workhorse or two (or three..or more) on your shoe rack, it’s time to seek out some fast shoes that will help you fly through your speed workouts.

While you’ll only be using this shoe once or twice per week depending on your training schedule, finding a shoe that simultaneously provides enough ground feel and protection without sacrificing too much durability is key.

Expect to see more wear on these shoes than you would a daily trainer since speedwork shoes are generally made with less (and lighter) material, though they are usually more resilient than race-specific shoes with carbon plates. 

Three factors to consider with choosing a workout shoe:

  • Responsiveness
  • Weight
  • Intended Distance

Popular Speedwork Shoes include:

Responsiveness

If you’ve been a part of the running world for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “responsive” thrown around to describe a workout or racing shoe.

But what does that actually mean? 

Responsiveness, as defined by the Doctors of Running Podcast (episode #126), is the ability of a shoe to respond to load.

A shoe’s responsiveness is the product of several construction characteristics including: 

  • Foam resiliency (how much the midsole foam bounces back after compression)
  • Shoe stiffness
  • Shoe geometry
  • Outsole material, and...
  • A runner’s individual biomechanics

With all of these factors determining how much a shoe gives back to you in stride, responsiveness is highly subjective.

  • A speedwork shoe might be advertised as responsive, but once you put it on your foot and try to hit your paces in a workout, you might find that it’s too soft or has an odd rocker shape that doesn’t work with your stride length and cadence. 
  • The opposite may be true as well; more responsiveness is not always better–particularly if you struggle with lower leg injuries.

It might take a few tries to find your best fit when it comes to a responsive speedwork shoe, but it’s worth it when the glass slipper finally fits! 

Weight

A single running shoe can weigh anywhere from 6-11 oz depending on the shoe size and construction. 

When you double the weight for a pair of running shoes, that’s 12-22 oz of extra weight you’re carrying. 

On the low end, it’s the equivalent of a Campbell’s tomato soup can; as the shoes get heavier, you’re up to the weight of a standard NBA basketball! 

  • For your daily trainers and recovery run shoes, some extra shoe weight can be beneficial as it will encourage slower, easier paces. Heavier shoes typically offer more cushioning and stability too.
  • However, a speedwork shoe should not feel like an ankle weight! The more your speed work shoe can feel like an extension of your foot, the better. 

When you’re shopping for the perfect speed work shoes...
 
The weights listed on each product description (unless otherwise noted) are based on the average men’s and women’s shoe size–10.5 and 8.5 respectively. 

  • In general, running shoes are considered lightweight when they weigh less than 9 oz for men and 7.5 oz for women. 
  • With lightweight running shoes, there are certainly tradeoffs. 
  • Keeping in mind the intended distances for your speedwork shoes can be helpful for making the decision as to whether or not those extra ounces and underfoot protection are worth shedding for speed. 
The weights listed for running shoe descriptions (unless otherwise noted) are based on the average men’s and women’s shoe size–10.5 and 8.5 respectively.

Intended Distance

As a general guideline, the further you run, the more underfoot protection and cushioning you’ll probably want. 

  • For runners aiming for a 5k PR, a lighter, firmer shoe with more ground feel is appropriate. 
  • However, if you’re training for a half marathon or longer, choosing a more supportive shoe that minimizes fatigue might be a better move. 
3. Racing Shoes

3. Racing Shoes

The final tool in a runner’s shoe rotation is the carbon-plated racing shoe AKA supershoes!

While they are not a necessity, plated racing shoes are surging in popularity.

If you’ve run a road race lately, you’ve probably seen them on the startline...

  • Flashy, lightweight, highly cushioned racing shoes that make the spring in runners’ strides seem effortless. 
  • No longer just for the professionals, plated racing shoes are widely available to runners of all abilities. 

While these shoes are impressive feats of engineering that can help some runners achieve personal bests, they should be treated as a tool used periodically rather than as daily trainers.

Early research on carbon-plated super shoes doesn’t show conclusive evidence to support greater injury risk, but it also doesn’t provide evidence to show they are entirely safe either.

What we do know is that... 

  • Carbon-plated supershoes change your loading patterns and forces as you run. 
  • If you’re curious about these new technologies, but not sure if they are right for you, check out this video from Doctors of Running on how to gradually introduce your body to super shoes. 

Carbon-Plated Racing Shoe Factors to Consider:

  • Price
  • Design: Plates, Rods, and Foam
  • Stability

Popular plated racing shoes: 

Price

Since many plated racing shoes start around $200, they are quite the investment for most runners. 

  • Similar to speedwork shoes, you can find plated racing shoes on discount at 3rd party retailers or running shoe companies directly.
  • Local running stores often have a corner of discounted shoes from previous years too! 

Budget-friendly plated racing shoes (less than $200): 

Keep in mind that since these shoes typically have a carbon fiber plate or similar elements to create stiffness when force is applied, the durability of these shoes is reduced in comparison to daily trainers and plateless speedwork shoes...One more reason to use your super shoes sparingly.

Plates, Rods & Foam

So what’s the big deal with plated shoes? 

  • While they might sound like magic, the real answer lies in forces. 
  • Plates are simply designed to stiffen the midsole of a shoe. 
  • For plates to actually improve running economy and reduce ground contact time, they must receive enough force from the runner’s footstrike. 
  • If enough force is applied to the plate, it will snap back in the midsole and propel you forward. 
  • There is some evidence to show that not all runners will benefit from plated shoes to the same extent, and this is largely due to individual biomechanics. 

Some shoes will have a plate that extends the entire length of the shoe while others will only be present in certain parts of the shoe, or shaped with ‘wings’. 

  • Energy rods like those found in the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3, while still intended to improve running economy like a plate, are designed to mimic the bone structure of the foot instead of creating a uniform, flat surface on which your foot must land. 

On top of the plate technology present in racing shoes, the advancements in midsole foam are worth noting when choosing a racing shoe for your shoe rotation.

A racing shoe midsole should simultaneously be able to absorb shock while also retaining enough of its shape to “give back” what the runner puts into it. 

Plates and rods add stiffness while midsole foams absorb and return energy from footstrike. The most commonly used foams on the market now are EVA, TPU, PEBA, and EVA infused with CO2 or nitrogen. 

Now to get into what each of those abbreviations actually mean:

  • EVA: The most commonly used foam, ethylene vinyl acetate, is light and has a cushioning effect and returns roughly 60-65% of the energy put into it from footstrike. 
  • TPU: thermoplastic polyurethane is more durable and has better energy return than EVA (70-75%), but is significantly heavier. 
  • PEBA (AKA Pebax): polyamide block elastomer is extremely light and has superior energy return, starting at 85%. The major critique of PEBA foam is that it is far less durable than EVA or TPU. 
  • CO2/Nitrogen Infused EVA: Chemically treated EVA results in a lighter and softer material with energy return ranked somewhere between TPU and PEBA.

Running Shoe Rotations at WeeViews

Wondering what running shoes we rotate through?

Check out these running shoe rotation picks from the WeeViews team...

Evan Jensen - Running Shoe Rotation Picks

What's in your running shoe rotation?

Share your favorite picks in the comments.

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Abigail Lock
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Endurance athlete with a proclivity for mountain running and high altitude desert dwelling. NASM Certified Sports Nutriti...

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