Early 2000s Running Shoes Are the Moment’s Hottest Sneakers. But Can You Actually Run In Them?

I wanted to know: Can you run in cool-guy running shoes? And could this be the thing that finally made me care about how I looked when I was getting my miles in?

The answer to the first question came easily: You can pound the pavement in these. The retro models are marketed only for everyday wear, and representatives from both New Balance and Asics seemed vaguely concerned when I asked about actual running, emphasizing that these were not for serious mileage. But of course, that is exactly what they were designed for in the first place. And while the reissued models might be made with slightly heavier and less-breathable materials than the originals, the differences seemed pretty marginal in practice.

Introducing these new shoes while in the depths of marathon training was a potentially horrific variable in an always-fraught couple of months. But while there’s a lot of unscientific running-store bro-scicence out there about how running shoes are supposed to fit and affect your gait, the current best research indicates that the only thing that actually matters is simply how they feel to you when running. And so while my injury history made me very nervous on my first few jogs, I quickly got used to having the fashion-y reissues in my sneaker rotation. Your mileage may vary (sorry), but they felt like normal running sneakers to me.

On one level, this was a godsend: When your running shoes and non-running shoes are one and the same, you’ll never pack for a weekend trip the same way again.

However, I also discovered that my new shoes did not make me look particularly cool while running. Like any subculture, running has its own style diktats that would be hard to explain to an outsider. I put this dilemma to Weiner, who said he experiences a similar thing with road cycling. “If you’re into clothes on one hand, and part of a culty athletic community like that on the other,” he told me, ”It’s almost like you speak two different languages. It can be fun to try and find ways to merge them, but also pretty messy, because you realize that what reads as ‘cool’ in one language might be indecipherable or even verboten in the other.”

Along these lines, running in long tights and a short sleeve shirt tells me you’ve never sweat hard on a chilly day, and while Kipchoge-tier racing shoes are excellent for going fast, they’re a bit dorky on a relaxed group run.

This fall, I ran an easy seven miles most Friday mornings with a friend. When I showed up in my new shoes, she told me I looked like an old man who hadn’t bought new gear for 20 years. I looked, in other words, less committed than even the most shuffling “hobby-jogger.” And to a runner, there’s nothing cool about looking like you haven’t run enough in the last 15 years to need new shoes.

So I’m going to hang onto my silver sneakers, but I won’t be sad when five or six hundred miles from now, they’re ready for the recycling bin. As it turns out, the only way to achieve big running style is by running big miles.

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