A Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Running Shoe Story

imageImagine this: you are one month out from your goal race. Training is going perfectly. You’re hitting your paces and your mileage targets like never before. A quick glance at your training log and you realize you’re a few miles over the limit on your current pair of kicks. No problem, right?

Since you were fitted at your local running store last time, and knowing there’s no time in the schedule to head back in, you take a late-night hop onto your favorite shoe site and excitedly order the latest version of your tried and true shoe, drooling over the latest color choices. Days later, that familiar shoe-shaped package arrives at your doorstep and you tear that box open before the UPS driver has even returned to his truck. Ahh, the sweet aroma of new shoe fills your nose. You tear the tag off and cast aside the paper and cardboard holding its curves in place. You slide your foot in, like you have so many times before and go for a celebratory jog through your living room. A quick Instagram pic celebrates your new arrival and soon you’re headed out the door for the inaugural run.

Just a few minutes into the run, you have a sinking feeling. Something is … off. Alarms start to sound in your mind as you try to ignore the growing cramp in your arches. What is this feeling? This has never happened before. You stop, assess your shoe, looking for something different. You realize you really don’t know anything about the anatomy of a running shoe and staring at your foot is about as fruitless as looking under the hood of your car when the check engine light turns on. You tell yourself that maybe the shoe just needs to be worn in, knowing full well “wearing shoes in” is a myth. You massage your feet upon returning home. You try two more runs with the same results: foot pain that cannot be ignored and the realization that your shoe- YOUR SHOE- the beloved, trustworthy shoe, has been replaced by an imposter.

This sounds like a runners worst nightmare, right? I wish this tale were fiction, but sadly, this is my reality. From the time I began seriously running, I have been running in the Asics Kayano- a stability shoe that supports my flat feet with enough cushion to get me through miles of training. Kayano 14 was my first love, and as the years have passed, I’ve been happy with each revision. The shoe just always worked. It felt familiar from the first wearing and held up well as the miles piled on. When I ordered the Kayano 22 in April, I had no reason to doubt this shoe would be as amazing as its predecessors. After those few stubborn runs and the foot cramps that led to pains in other places, I had to come to terms with what was about to happen: the shoes were getting sent back.

What happens next is a series of follies, high hopes, and repeated disappointments. This all took place at a time when the checkbook was suffering, so when my online retailer offered me a store credit on my returned shoes, I decided to order a new pair with the credit, rather than searching other online retailers who still carried the Kayano 21 or heading to the local store to try on alternatives. Running can be expensive, right? I was trying to be fiscally responsible!

Back they go.
Back they go.

I took this as a sign to play the field and see what other shoes were out there. I had thoughts over the years of trying a new shoe, just for the sake of variety, but always reminded myself: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But this time it was BROKEN and a fix was needed fast. I scoured the interwebs, reading shoe review after shoe review and settled on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline. Long ago, before I became a serious runner, I had owned a pair of Adrenalines, and in my faded memory of them, didn’t recall them being a bad shoe. With just a few weeks left before Fargo Marathon, I needed these shoes … stat!

Repeat above scenario of package arrival, tag ripping, living room jogging, and Instagram documentation. Repeat excitement of the inaugural run, and repeat that quiet voice of doubt in the back of my mind growing ever louder. Repeat pains, but this time in new and exciting locations! Repeat several stubborn runs, and repeat waving the white flag. These, too, were going back from whence they came.

How could this be??? The reviews were so positive, but my legs screamed in anger! As race day quickly approached, I abandoned the search temporarily because I couldn’t risk injury with another new shoe. I dug out an old pair of Kayano 21’s from storage, figuring they had at least a few miles left in them and they would be better than nothing.

The marathon came and went, and the old shoes did their job. The injuries that started to appear with the two failed shoe attempts lingered, as did the feelings of betrayal and resentment. I know this sounds incredibly dramatic, but I was feeling so lost. Could I order another pair of 21’s from another retailer? Sure, but soon those shoes would disappear, and I’d have to go through the search process all over again. I don’t have a lot of money lying around to stockpile shoes, so the practical thing to do was to just keep searching online for my sole-mate. The right shoe had to be out there somewhere, right?

Mizuno Wave Paradox arrived and I couldn’t even allow myself to feel hopeful. The shoe felt alright when I first slipped them on, but a three mile run left eight out of 10 toes completely numb and re-aggravated my nearly healed tendinitis. I sheepishly tossed them back in their box, ignored the eye rolls and deep sighs from my husband, and prayed to the gods of running that the internet shoe store would accept a third shoe return in just as many months.

Here’s where you are probably thinking: What’s wrong with you, Pumpkin? Why wouldn’t you go to your local running store when this mess started? Why wouldn’t you try on the shoes you were purchasing? Why would you trust the internet reviews? Why wouldn’t you go see the experts for their help? These are all really great points. And … I’m stubborn. And I wanted to use that store credit online. I figured enough research would get me the results I needed, and it’s not like I would really know if a shoe was a dud until I went for a run in them, which I wouldn’t be able to do inside my local running store either. I also felt like a schmuck going into the store to try on a shoe, knowing full well I would leave there and buy them online with the credit I had from the online retailer, because by now I couldn’t afford not to.

I finally caved. I did a little more research and narrowed down the next choices to the Nike Structure 19 and the Asics GT 2000-4. I went to the store and tried both on. The Nikes felt good and I ran around the store a bit, trying to gauge as best I could whether they would work for me. I did the same with the Asics and felt that both were promising. I left the store and debated for a few more days. Would I let my anger towards Asics push me to Nike out of spite, or would I let bygones be bygones and go with the shoe that many of my friends have given glowing reviews? Luckily I read one more review of the Nike and when that shoe was compared to the Kayano 22, I knew that GT 2000’s were the winners by default.


So, does this story have a happy ending? I am cautiously optimistic. I’ve run several times in the new shoes and think I can safely say these will work. They aren’t the loves of my life, but they will do. I know my next sole-mate is out there somewhere, but for now, I’ll play it safe and bide my time in these. Who knows, maybe Asics took my strongly worded email into consideration and they’ll return the Kayano to its former glory for next year’s revision? A girl can dream.

Have you ever experienced shoe woes?

I'm a college mental health counselor, runner, cyclist, wife, and mom to two strong-willed children. I started running in 2011 after the birth of my last child after years of love-hate relationships with fitness. My favorite distance is the half marathon, but I love the challenge of tackling the marathon. My biggest challenge is the mental aspect of racing, but my greatest strength is I'm stubborn and never give up! I'm a free spirit, an open book, and try to be authentic both in real life as well as in my internet life. Running has given me a place to face my fears, chase goals, and stay humble. Side note: I love cats and coffee and tacos.

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  1. Thank you for your post as my achilles was acting up (never has before) with the Kayanos 22 that I bought at REI last month and I have had lingering thoughts that perhaps ASICS updated; you have confirmed my suspicions and thankfully, I can return them to REI per their policy. Now the “fun” part of looking for a new pair!

  2. It is frustrating how when you finally find a shoe you like, they “update” the next model. I have had this experience with several different companies as well. I wear Saucony at the moment and they don’t seem as drastically different as some of the others from season to season. I used to dislike Nike but now I am in love with the Lunar Glides for longer races. I am hoping they don’t “update” the next shoe!

  3. Try the next kayano’s when they come out in September! They are going back to a wider forefoot and upper is more stretchy! I know I hate that they narrowed them, but they are fixing the mistake! Don’t give up!

  4. The Kayano 20 was my very favorite. I didn’t really like the 21, and only got one pair during their season. I’ve been fine with the 22, though I did go up a size to accommodate what I’ve read about their sizing. I would like it if the 23 ends up more like the 20!

  5. I’ve had kayanos for years and have had no problems with the 22s – I have a narrow foot though. I hated the 18s though, exact same scenario as you describe, with pain and poor fit. It was so disappointing. I just stocked up on 17s and they got me through until the 19 came out and all was right with the world again!! Fingers crossed the 23s are better for you – they are due out soon.

    1. Isn’t it funny how different all of our feet are? the 18’s worked great for me, but those 22’s were going to be the death of me (or at least the death of my feet). My fingers and my toes are crossed that the 23’s are better!

    1. I did not end up buying that particular pair at the store, as I had a big store credit online that I had to use. I plan on buying my next pair from that store to make up for it. 🙂

  6. Love the way you told the story! Haven’t we all been there? You find the shoe you want to wear for the rest of your life, and then they go and ruin it. I’m stocking up on Saucony triumphs right now on the assumption that since I really like it, the next version will be unwearable.

    1. I have a pair of Saucony Triumphs that didn’t even make it into the story! They are a pair that were gifted to me by my sister in law after Saucony made a revision that rendered them awful for her. I have worn them on a handful of runs and have deemed them okay in a pinch. They hurt if I try to run long in them though.

    2. New Balance has been doing this to me for years. I found a happy place with Boracay, which they only made one version of and then completely eliminated. Not even updated — eliminated. I’m currently testing some other models while stockpiling the exact same Boracay from online retailers. (Which, since it’s been discontinued for a while, is getting really cheap!)

  7. oh man, the struggle is real! I wore the Brooks Adrenaline for years with no problems when I first started running, but as I got stronger – and then more efficient – I wanted a lighter shoe. My “shoe guy” at my local running store calls me Cinderella because I am so hard to fit! I have super skinny heels, a wide forefoot and a long big toe (painting a beautiful sight, aren’t I!). I went through many many pairs in the store on several occasions and then a few years where I just went through different shoes trying to find Mr Right. Some would feel great on shorter runs, but then destroy my feet with blisters once I got past 10 miles.

    I made the switch to New Balance about 1.5 years ago and really like that almost all their shoes come in widths. I found the New Balance Vazee Pace last fall and it’s love – I’m on my third pair now.

    1. I’m glad you have finally found your true love! I still feel like I’m playing the field. I’ve “settled” on the Asics GT 2000, but it still doesn’t feel like a perfect fit. I have been called Cinderella several times during my shoe hijinks this Summer. It adds insult to injury that we spend SO MUCH MONEY on these shoes- it feels like a huge gamble sometimes!

  8. This has happened to me so many times. I started in Asics GT2080. Loved those. Then the GT2100 came out and I hated them. I moved to Brooks Adrenaline. I loved the 7’s & 8’s, not so much the 9’s. The Adrenaline 10’s made me sad. On to Mizuno Wave Inspire 6, 7, 8 … and then they changed everything with 9. Back to the drawing board and to Saucony. Guide 6 & 7 made my feet so happy. The 8’s were ok … until one pair tore apart the top of my second-to-last toe every time I ran in them (I think it was a bad seam). And then every single pair of Guide 8’s was wearing down on the inside of the left heel within 100 miles. The padding looked torn, and it was literally all the way down to the outside material. I’ve never had this happen with another shoe before, but 3 of 4 pairs of Guide 8’s have this problem. I decided to try the Mirage – which switched me out of a 8mm drop to a 4mm drop, so I did it gradually. Loved the first pair, but then started having too many aches & pains when only using them. Now I’m using an old pair of Saucony Guide 7’s out of desperation – I’d tucked them away and they only had about 140 miles on them. Sigh. Guess it’s time for a visit to my running store!