Running Shoes of the Year — 2021

This year has been another where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced its will upon my running and many other parts of my life. Despite promising to cut back on the number of running shoes I was going to get in 2021, more than 25 pairs found their way on my feet. 
Looking back, buying too many pairs of running shoes again was my feeble attempt to have some sort of normalcy in my life despite the pandemic. No, I didn’t go all-in and get the latest and greatest models. Even with the pandemic-induced stress buying, I didn’t stray too far from the running shoes I usually purchase. Mostly, last year’s models that were on close-out, trading shoes with other runners and buying gently used ones from eBay or other places. 
Let’s get right to it
I only have two pairs of running shoes that have impressed me this year enough to be considered as my shoes of 2021. 
For 2021 I have a tie for running shoes of the year. I was going to go with just one, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to make it a tie. 

Running Shoes of 2021

Go Faster shoe of the Year 

361 Degree Flames

I limit myself at how much I run in these shoes. Not because I don’t like them, no, no, no. I love running in them and know that when I put them on, none of my Strava segment or age group PRs are safe. It is more that if I wore them more, I would be injured too often. I can’t run those paces that frequently and remain healthy and the Flames want to run fast – they do not like slow. They are a great shoe for the way that I run and allow me to run faster than I should. Now, to get them into a race situation and see what they let me do. “Flame on!”

Trainer of the Year 

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2s 

No other running shoe in recent memory has done as well on my feet as the Endorphin Speed 2s for all-around comfort and versatility. 
They are comfortable, with no blisters or hotspots, and do not bother that troublesome right foot of mine. I can do any run that I do in them in most reasonable weather conditions and have done a greater number of longer runs in the Endorphin Speeds than any other running shoe over the last 5 years — already. 
The first time I wore them I had a big smile and the last time I wore them, I still have that big smile when I finish. The Endorphin Speed 2’s are great running shoes, and they have the potential to be that mythological Unicorn shoe that I have looked for, for so long. If I had to pick one shoe to run at any speed, any distance — the Endorphin Speed 2s would be the one.
That’s it, my shoes of the year for 2021. 
Below are quickie thoughts on the rest of the shoes I ran in this year.

Go faster shoes

I have tried quite a few go-faster shoes in 2021, but no races to actually find out how fast the shoes are. I find that I am gravitating more towards the higher stack racing shoes and leaving behind the more traditional “flats”. They higher stacked shoes are more comfortable and seem to have a wider toe box, since they are supposedly developed as marathon racing shoes. There are a couple I would love to try in 2022 from Saucony and Brooks, but for now I will stay with the ones that I have.

Daily Trainers

I searched all year for a pair of daily trainers that I could get my long runs done without my feet bothering to the point where I didn’t want to run more than 5-6 miles at a time. I tried the heavy trainer route, which didn’t work. I dislike wearing heavy running shoes and they tend to quickly turn into walking shoes or go away. Finding the right balance between cushion, comfort, weight and outsole grip has been difficult, but the Endorphin Speed 2s have been wonderful and the GlideRide v1 and Energy v2 give me some choices to rotate in.

Somehow or another I missed the Saucony Triumph 17s which had about 22.0 miles, before I stopped running in them due to the toe box issues. Loved the feel underfoot, but they were and felt heavy and the toe box uncomfortable.

Trail running shoes

I haven’t done much trail running at all this year and none of the trail shoes that I have run have impressed me all that much. The Speedcross 5s have the potential to be pretty good, but I have to get more than the 4.0 miles I ran in them the other day before I judge them too much. Plus, they are a bit too aggressive for most of what I use trail shoes for, so I am still looking for a solution here.

Looking Back

This year was a weird year, it seemed that I kept jumping around looking for the running shoes that worked best and it didn’t matter what brand. 
When it comes right down to it, I will probably never be loyal to any running shoe brand. I love to try different styles and technologies that the brands do bring to the table. However, I might stick with a few styles that are currently working for a while longer than usual, just because of the supply chain issues. 
Who knows that might break me of my shoe whoring ways since running shoes are already starting to be increasing in price as the availability becomes more of a problem.
Especially, on the secondary markets where I usually find my running shoes.

Looking Forward

Under the tree, I know there are a pair of Skechers Forza 4s and Brooks Hyperion Tempos, both of which I really wanted to try this year. In 2022 the shoes that I want to try more than any other are the Brooks Aurora and Brook Hyperion Pro 2. There is something about those Brooks running shoes that makes me want to try them more than other brands now??? 
Although, I do see another pair of Endorphin Speed 2s coming into the house at some point. Plus, I am sure there will be a few others that I will suddenly find on the doorstep from one of those impulse buys that TheWife loves so much.
2022 looks to be an interesting year, and I have a feeling that many of the shoes that are in my rotation now, and under the Christmas tree might be in contention for next year’s award if the supply chain doesn’t get up to speed sooner than later.

Come with me now — the best is yet to be.

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