Running is a sport meant for all ages and all experience levels. However, we are all inherently different. For this reason, paying attention to the differences between brands can help you choose the right running shoe for you.
For example New Balance running shoes typically run wide. Not a good or bad thing, but if you happen to have a wider foot then New Balance might be the brand for you. If you have a narrow foot, New Balance probably isn’t going to be your best choice.
Brand differences involve more than just widths. Let’s take a look at some of the other common brand differences that can help you narrow your perfect running shoe search down.
Running Shoe Brand Differences
Materials – Some brands use blown rubber, some use a Gel or hard plastics. The material used in the shoe affects not only support, but also cushion, rigidity and durability. Softer materials will cushion the foot more, but break down more easily and won’t offer as much support. Think about your own personal needs when choosing which materials work best for you.
Yearly Size Differences – Like other clothing articles, some brands, depending on the year, will either run slightly big or slightly small – some narrow and some wide. Some will even run true to size. Example – Asics in 2017 ran short by half size. Saucony, on the other hand, runs true to size, accommodating fit.
Width Size Differences – Width differences by manufacturers seem to stay true year-after-year. As mentioned New Balance has always seemed to run wide. Asics always seems to be more narrow. Competition shoes always fit narrow.
Lace Styles – Most manufacturers use traditional lace styles (side to side) – laces you have seen since forever ago. These include Nike, New Balance, Brooks, and Asics, to name a few. Newer style of lacing can be seen by running shoe brands like Saucony, with their Isofit and its more diagonal to diagonal lacing. They still give a firm fit but the laces place less pressure across the top of your foot.
Drop Points – Drop points are the relationship from ankle to toes in a shoe in millimeters. Drop points are difficult because it seems most major brands have an exception to the estimates I’m going to give here in a moment. However, for the most part:
- Saucony will run 4mm- 8mm.
- Brooks will run 8mm-12mm.
- New Balance 10mm-12mm.
- Altras will run 0mm always.
Again these are just general rules. It seems brands have at least one shoe in their line that is an exception. All Altras, on the other hand, are 0mm – no exceptions.
Sole Designs – A shoes sole design says a lot about how many miles you can get out of it. For example, a shoe like the New Balance 880 has a lot more sole to it than a Saucony Kinvara. Neither is better than the other; they just have a different purpose. Kinvara is light and fast. You will probably get 200-250 miles in. A larger sole wouldn’t be as effective. The 880 is more of a daily training shoe. Most people get closer to 400 miles out of the heavier thicker sole on the New Balance.
Weight – As a general rule, shoe brands focus on lower weight as much as possible, but some brands are very light, while some are very heavy. Example: Nike is fairly light. Asics is heavier, typically speaking.
Responsiveness – Responsiveness is the quality that lets you feel the ground. Some shoes can be so plush you don’t feel the ground. Some are meant so you feel connected to the ground, like you have a defined grip. Adidas Solar Glide and Brooks Launch are both very responsive
Cushion Level – Shoes brands can vary with the level of cushioning . Which you choose depends on your preference and price point. Brooks Glycerin and Asics Nimbus both are highly cushioned running shoes.
Support Level – Shoe support is broken down to neutral and stability. You might need more structure to a shoe and not need stability. Or need stability and like a free feeling shoe – something not as structured. This support level is not just about your personal preference but also how you run. If you pronate – run with most of the weight on the inside of your feet – you should look at high stability shoes. Brooks Beast is an example of a high stability, very, very corrective shoe, for someone who pronates
Fit Mechanism – Some brands will employ different ways than just the laces to keep the foot snug in place. Saucony employs a sock like finish in the shoe to hug the foot. Hoka uses an active foot frame that acts like a bucket seat for the foot to fall in place.
Utility – Running shoes like the Saucony Fastwitch are made for road racing and just that. Compare this to shoes like the Brooks Ghost, which is a shoe you could do a road race in as well as train in day-to-day.
Running Shoe Brand Differences Conclusion
Each brand will have a unique approach to the same problem – How do we make runners stay happy and comfortable?
This is a great thing for consumers because it challenges these companies to make a better product with every update they make. In addition, we also have multiple styles of shoes to accommodate the differences from person to person and varied levels of running experience – from those just starting out to professional runners.
About Our Guest Blogger
Joey Wood is an athletic shoe expert and avid runner for more than a decade. He ran cross-country and track in high school, transitioning from long-distance running to short- to mid-distance, even reaching state competition, four years in a row. From running competitively to coaching weekly run clubs for both adults and children, Joey has special insight into the world of running. He is also a shoe fit pro at Dick Pond Athletics, the Chicagoland preferred running shoe and sports apparel company. His personal experience and professional training makes him an invaluable resource on the topic of running.