Today, I’m going to be talking all about how to build a running shoe rotation.
2019 was a very exciting year for me as I was able to dabble into the world of running shoes testing, running, and training in a variety of different brands checking out different technologies.
I decided to take things a little bit more seriously in 2020.
In 2020, what I decided to do was break the year up into thirds, from January to April, from May to August, and from September to December.
I built a running shoe rotation for each of those thirds of the year just to allow me to try out some of these manufacturers, these new technologies, and all the exciting shoes that were coming out.
I’ve learned a lot about building a good running shoe rotation, what I’m looking for, all the different shoe categories, and the things that I look for personally in a running shoe.
So, today I’m going to be sharing all of that with you and how you can build your personal running shoe rotation.
Let’s dive straight in…
Related: If you find it hard to understand some of the running terms used in running articles, here’s our buster of the most common running terms.
My Running Shoe Rotation
Max Cushion / Daily Trainers
For me, when I look to start building a running shoe collection, I will start at base level, the max cushioning daily trainer type of shoe.
Why do I do that?
The majority of my miles are done in these type of shoes. These are easy days, recovery days and sometimes I push steady runs depending on how the shoes fit.
I’ll cover the ones that I’ve got in my rotation to explain which ones I might go a little steadier in, but the majority of them are just for kicking back, relaxing, and enjoying the trails and the roads, and not letting your feet take the pounding when you’re running.
This category consists of shoes that tend to have quite a big stack height.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that the midsole material is quite big in the heel and the forefoot.
Nike React Miler
A great example for me is the Nike React Miler. You do not feel the ground in this shoe. It’s similar to maybe the Hoka Bondi range.
The Miler offers maximal cushioning in the heel and forefoot and allows you to go out there to soak up the miles and enjoy the roads or trails.
Related: If you have some bigger-fitting shoes, these are some tips to make your shoes fit smaller.
Another great one I have in my rotation is the Asics Novablast. The Novablast offers great soft cushioning in the heel and forefoot.
With the Asics Novablast, you do not feel anything in terms of what you feel underfoot because of the volume of cushioning.
This is a great shoe to take out on your easy days. I call the Novablast a crossover shoe because I can use this shoe on multiple types of runs.
I can use it for easy and recovery runs, but I can also use it in steady runs as well because I do like to go a little quick in this shoe.
So I run in the Novablast when my feet are quite beat up to allow myself to do a little bit of speedwork in with some good extra cushioning.
Then, I save the next category, which we’ll talk about after this, for those speedier days when I want a little bit less cushioning, less weight, and a little bit quicker shoes.
New Balance 1080v10
Another great shoe that I have is the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080. This shoe has a massive stack in the heel and a good stack in the forefoot meaning that you just get that cushioning and that beautiful ride that you need on those daily runs.
New Balance Fuel Cell Prism
Finally, another great crossover shoe for me is the New Balance Fuel Cell Prism which is super lightweight and poppy.
The Prism is a relatively decent stack in the back but a bit smaller in the forefoot.
Again, I just don’t feel the ground in the Prism because of the volume of midsole foam that’s in this shoe.
So, that’s the first category that I always look to build from.
I like to get a couple of shoes in that range to allow me to rotate the shoes on a weekly basis and get my feet used to different shoes.
Speed Day Shoes
I call it the speed category because they are running shoes for speedy days.
I certainly like to do a couple of sessions a week and so I need some shoes that are going to be a little bit lighter, a little bit more poppy, and a little bit more forgiving in terms of the materials used in them.
Sometimes, not all the times, these max cushion daily shoes have so much material bulked up in the upper that they can feel a little bit restrictive especially when you try and pick up the pace.
The shoes that we’re going to be going through now are the ones that I’ve used and got to 100 miles in and really enjoyed.
New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo
This is the New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo. I got this shoe, in the beginning, to go for some of the speedier work. There’s a lot more ground contact feel in these shoes.
As you notice, there’s a little bit less stack height in the heel and certainly a heck of a lot less in the forefoot.
I liked the materials used in and around the upper, but this one was a little bit on the heavier side for me. It wasn’t actually that much lighter than the New Balance 1080v10.
But it certainly feels light on the foot because of the way it’s constructed and the materials used.
For speedwork, I look for a shoe that’s going to be responsive.
For clarification, what I mean by “responsive” is as your foot lands on the ground at that point where you toe-off, responsiveness is what response does the shoe give you at that push-off stage.
Does it kind of give you anything or you have to do all the work?
Does it feel sloppy at the push-off or is the shoe providing you with any feedback at all to pop you away and move forward?
The New Balance Tempo wasn’t that responsive, but it wasn’t too bad. It kind of sits in the middle.
Again, it was a great option for me once I was using it back in the early part of the summer.
Related: Top Running Shoes for Tempo Days
Saucony Endorphin Speed
The Saucony Endorphin Speed is the Sister to the Endorphin Pro. It is a great example of a shoe that is responsive.
Actually, the Endorphin kind of crosses over with what I was saying with max cushion daily trainers although it’s not.
The stack height on this shoe is a lot bigger than some of the other speedy shoes.
Big cushioning seems to be the way the world is going. So, we don’t judge every shoe by the cushioning.
What the Endorphin does different to max cushioned shoes is have much lighter materials on the upper.
The Endorphin is responsive because it contains something called the SpeedRoll technology which when you land, it rolls you on and pushes you off.
Plus, the midsole material is absolutely amazing. It just is one of the most responsive shoes I have and one of my favorites at the moment for speedwork.
Speed shoes have a stripped-back upper, much thinner materials, and are much more flexible through the heel counter. This allows you to get the best out of yourself in those speed sessions.
Brooks Hyperion Tempo
Another shoe that I’ve been testing lately is the Brooks Hyperion Tempo.
Like the Endorphin speed, the Hyperion Tempo has one of the lightest uppers I’ve had with loads of holes in it to give you some good breathability and shed some weight.
So, the Hyperion has a simple one-piece upper, medium cushioning around the top, and nothing fantastic in terms of stack height.
This shoe has a little bit more stack in the forefoot than the New Balance Tempo, but again, it’s just upper, lightweight midsole foam, and very thin outsole rubber.
So, those are the type of shoes I look for when I’m building my speed collection.
Long Run Shoes
This is not a category that I would have ever considered back in 2018, but more and more shoes are releasing “training partners” for shoes.
These partner shoes are intended to be marathon distance racing shoes.
This means you can train in their “training partners” and then slip into race-day feeling that familiar feeling but actually having something a little bit lighter.
New Balance Fuel Cell TC
A great place to start with that is going to be the New Balance Fuel Cell TC. “TC” stands for Training and Competition with the “RC” which is Racing and Competition.
So, the goal of these types of shoes is to be able to train and train and train in these shoes.
The predominant work that the Fuel Cell TC has done is the long runs and anything really over 10 miles.
For me, these shoes have a bit of a crossover with max cushion shoes and daily shoes because they are a higher stack height but that’s to provide super cushioning over the distance.
Then there’s a speedier upper where you’ve got much lighter weight materials to keep the shoe nice and lightweight but nice and cushioned so on those longer efforts, your legs do not feel quite as beat up as they may be would have done in an old traditional racing flat.
For me, the TC has been the epitome of the long-run shoe that I’ve really enjoyed.
The Fuel Cell TC is not a shoe that I’d ever consider taking out for an easy run. It has a carbon fiber plate and it feels awkward at slower speeds and even in steady paces.
Saucony Endorphin Speed
The Saucony Endorphin Speed is another crossover shoe that I like to use on my tempo and speed days.
Again, with its bigger stack height, nylon plate, and lightweight upper, the Endorphin Speed just lends itself to going for those longer-distance training runs.
So, for long runs, I need a long-run shoe that’s going to do the business and I do not want something like the New Balance Tempo that has a thinner stack height.
I can feel the ground because my legs feel really beat up after going the distance in that shoe.
So, I love to just have a couple of options that I can rotate as and when.
Race Day Shoes
This is the most exciting category of them all, the racing shoe category. These are the ones we feel comfortable racing in and do our best.
There are a few things I look for in a racing shoe…
Hoka One One Carbon X
Related: Do Hokas Run Small or Big?
The main thing that I tend to look for is light weight. For my size, shoes tend to be heavy.
So, I look for something under 10oz (or 270 grams)
One thing that contributes to the Hoka Carbon X’s lighter weight is its really thin and super lightweight upper material.
The upper is literally a one-piece material with holes everywhere. There’s nothing fancy about it and no structure in the heel or anywhere else.
When you slip this type of shoe in, you’re basically not looking for comfort, you’re just looking for something lightweight that feels good and that’s going to do the job.
The Carbon X is on the firm end of the spectrum. So, whether you like a firmer racing shoe, something like the Carbon X will be great for you if you are one of those people that likes a traditional racing flat but wants to try something a bit more modern with a bigger stack height.
Hoka’s tried and true Meta Rocker technology rolls you through the gait cycle lovely.
Saucony Endorphin Pro
We’ve also got the Saucony Endorphin Pro which is the speedier upgrade to the Endorphin Speed.
The Pro has a super lightweight 3D FORMFIT upper which just molds to your foot beautifully.
Like the Carbon X, the Pro has no structure whatsoever. It has a lovely lightweight midsole and barely any rubber outsole.
The Endorphin Pro is halfway between the Carbon X and the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% (below) in terms of responsiveness, softness, and firmness.
While the Carbon X is on the firm end, the Endorphin Pro is firm but it’s also soft. The Pro just sits in that sweet spot in the middle.
We’ve compared the Saucony Endorphin Pro and the Nike Vaporfly Next%, make sure you check it out.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
This is the marathon shoe that everybody is talking about. This is one of the lightest shoes out there.
It’s super lightweight and you can see right through the upper material.
It has a squidgy, crazy soft carbon plate ZoomX midsole. There’s minimal outsole rubber just on the forefoot where you’re landing, striking, and rolling through.
Again, the Nike Vaporfly has nothing to the upper and no structure whatsoever. You don’t want any of that in a racing shoe because you should only be looking for something that feels comfortable underfoot.
So, the Hoka Carbon X is firmer, the Endorphin Pro is a little firmer and softer, and the Vaporfly is a little bit softer and a little bit more forgiving with a little bit more bounce.
So, those are the four categories that I use to use to build my running shoe rotation and how you can build your own.
How & Where To Start Building Your Running Shoe Rotation
If you’re a beginner runner, what I always recommend is start in the daily max cushion category.
Get any shoe that’s going to be comfortable that you can go out and get used to running in and just enjoy the sport of running.
When you’re comfortable and you really want to progress with your running, then you want to maybe look at something like a speedier shoe, something a bit lighter that you can put on to do some intervals in and then flip back to your maximum cushion shoe the following day.
And then when you get to that point when you feel you’re comfortable and you want to chase some PBs, then that’s when you want to look into your racing shoe category.
The long-run category really is specific and unique to the individual. If you like to do long runs, it’s certainly something that you should consider.
If not, you can use your daily maximum cushion shoes for the longer runs or the speedier shoes if they’ve got a bit more stack height on them and the cushioning is a bit more forgiving.
How Many is Enough?
If you want to build up your collection nicely, obviously one shoe in each category is more than enough.
From there, you can continue building your categories. If you enjoy what you’re feeling and you want to try another shoe, add to those categories.
Obviously, some categories are more expensive, but there are always some good deals out there especially when companies release new iterations of their shoes.
Why Rotate Running Shoes
Rotating running shoes is going to allow the midsole to decompress after using it.
Midsoles do compress as you’re running in them and if you use the same shoe every single day, the midsole will compress a lot quicker than if you give it a chance to breathe and open back up a bit and decompress and be ready for the next run.
That’s it for today’s article “how to build a running shoe rotation”.
I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I shed some light on:
- How I build my running shoe collection.
- How you can build your own shoe collection yourselves.
- How to rotate running shoes.
Let me know what your current running shoe rotation is.
If you enjoy your running shoes as much as I do and you have a bucketload of running shoes, tell us what your favorites are in each of those categories.