This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.
I just got through writing a draft of my 200 mile review on the most recent running shoe to achieve that level of success and while I was writing that post I got to thinking.
Why do I even bother to write running shoe reviews, since I do not represent any particular brand, do not show a whole lot of brand loyalty, not too many freebies come my way, I mostly buy or trade for the shoes I am running in and spend way too much of my free time writing about stuff that not too many people read?
Mostly because I can.
Also I do enjoy writing about the different shoes I run in. The more I write about my running shoes, the more it makes me think about what I am really looking for in them as I change as a runner and my body changes as I get older. There are definitely changes happening and I believe that finding/using the correct running shoe for the runner I am now, not the runner I used to be, does make a difference.
When I am looking for yet another new pair of running shoes, I have starting points on what actually worked versus what I thought (with my crappy memory) was great.
Four Stages of Running Shoe Reviews
There four stages, at least in my opinion when it comes reviewing running shoes:
- Initial Reviews
- 50 Mile Reviews
- 200-300 Mile Reviews
- Retirement Review
Let's look at the different reviews from how I see them in more detail:
Initial Reviews - I don't get comped too many shoes, which means that I purchase or get as gifts the running shoes that I review. That also means my initial reviews are going to be typically pretty positive and they are done after 1-2 runs in brand spanking new shoes, that I have high hopes for how great the new shoe is going to be. After all I did the research and they are the ones that I wanted.
Yeah, at this point I am excited about them and want those new running shoes to be the next great running shoes for me. So the initial review should be a positive one most of the time.
50 Mile Reviews - Usually take place a couple to three weeks after the initial review. By 20-30 miles the running shoes have broken in fairly well and by the time I get to 50 miles, I should have a pretty good idea of how well those running shoes are working for me. Sometimes it even works that way.
Unfortunately, from my experience many 50 mile reviews can be pretty much fool's gold and not give a true picture of how the shoe will perform over its time in your running shoe rotation. All too often, shortly after that great 50 mile review, those once great shoes get quickly relegated to the back of the closet, until it is time for one of my annual shoe purges.
200-300 Mile Reviews - You do not see these very often and I attempt to review any of my shoes that make it that far. Part of the reason is that most reviewers don't have the time (it can take 1-3 months to get a pair of running shoes up to this mileage) or aren't doing enough mileage to get multiple shoe shoes to this level of use or they run into the injury bug, which does seem to be a little more prevalent among running shoe reviewers. I wonder if that last one has anything to do with running in shoes that are not quite right for them.
From my experience something almost magical happens between 75 and 150 miles to many of the running shoes I have used. All those little things you poo-pooed, overlooked or had not encountered finally have had a chance to crop up and their fatal flaws are exposed.
By the time a shoe reaches 200 miles I have found out if the shoes are still comfortable, are wearing the way I expect that style to wear or not and most importantly - if I still like them or not.
Like I said - not a lot of the shoes I have run in over the past 5 years have made it to 200 miles and even fewer to 300 miles.
If I am still running regularly in a pair of running shoes after the 200-300 mile review, it has been a good shoe for me. Although someday I will get to review that mythical 500 mile shoe and write about how I still want to be running in those shoes. It hasn't happened yet, but someday it will.
I still believe.
Retirement / Get them outa here Reviews - You know that review that reviewers very seldom publish, but should be done more often when we stop using a pair of running shoes in our rotation and banish them to the back of the closet or worse.
We hardly ever hear about those shoes and the why they got relegated to closet, lawn, eBay or local thrift shop. I know that I am terrible at writing these kind of reviews, because I tend to not want to say bad or nasty things about running shoes (that old they might be horrible running shoe for me, but great ones for someone else).
However, if a pair of running shoes makes it to the point where I wore them out because I did like them so much, I am more likely write a retirement review. Hell I have even done a couple.
The reality is that
I am not a high volume running shoe reviewer, which means that I don't have several running shoes in the wings just waiting for me to review them and no pressure from brands or myself to get a review of a certain pair of shoes out by a certain date.
Over the years I have read and written a lot of running shoe reviews and notice that the first two stages are the predominant ones that are done by most reviewers and even myself.
Unfortunately, those style of reviews are often done while the writer still has delusions of grandeur when it comes to how great the new running shoe is and will perform for them. Most of the time a 50 mile review is done within a couple of weeks and some of the issues that would come with more mileage on the shoes, does not show up until later and usually there are no more miles or reviews planned for those shoes.
Also we tend to forget that the reviews are subjective and based on how those running shoes work for the person reviewing them, not necessarily how they will work for someone else, where they primarily run, their height/weight, gender and your running form.
I have found that most reviewers are honest about the running shoes that they write about, but sometimes you have to read between the lines to see some of the issues they have with the shoes they review. Or if you know they are running in a certain pair of running shoes and there is no 50 mile review, you can bet there is an issue and they have chosen to simply move on and give feedback to the brand about why they would prefer not to write about them on their blog.
It is not that they are being disingenuous to their readers, it is more that they want to maintain a good relationship with the brand, so that they will continue to receive comped shoes and not have a huge outlay of cash to be able to keep reviewing the newest and greatest running shoes for us, which is part of their runblogging business.
The big thing is to remember about anyone (including me), when they/I write a review:
What works great for a particular reviewer, might be horrible for you and what doesn't work for a different reviewer, might be the perfect running shoe for you.
That is why I always recommend that readers need to read more than one running shoe reviews and blogs, find a reviewer who seems to have similar tastes in running shoes (Peter, Tom and Sam are my main go-to reviewers) and talk to local runners you see actually running in those shoes, to see what their experiences are.
But the biggest thing is you gotta actually try on and then run in the shoes to see if they work for you or not. Yes, it gets expensive, but no matter what a reviewer says about a pair of running shoes, you are the person that spends time in the shoes - no one else. So don't let anyone poo-poo how you feel about the shoes you wear, especially if they are working well for you.
For me I plan to keep writing about the shoes that I use and since I don't have any brand relationships and have no plans to go after any again (my history of brand loyalty sucks), I will not be doing a large volume of reviews. Which means that I will continue to do the 200 mile reviews and even some of those not so popular retirement/get rid of this piece of shit reviews. :-)
What do you think, am I way off base as usual?