The Retro Running Shoes We Won't Ever Give Up

Every year, leading brands introduce the latest and greatest in running-shoe technology. Adidas’ $180 Ultra Boost, allegedly the company’s best running shoe ever, comes with 3,000 microcapsules in the sole (up from a paltry 2,000 in previous models). Nike’s LunarTempo includes fancy, must-have materials like Flymesh, Lunarlon and Flywire. And hot brand Hoka’s “maximalist” cushioning should come with an elevator button. Like it or not, Men’s Fitness declares, “The new golden age of the running shoe is upon us.”

Only … not for all of us. Some runners out there swear by the classics. Contents: rubber, magic, maybe a little asbestos. While the cool kids prance around in the newest and next in running-shoe tech, there’s a contingent of runners out there that have been ordering and then reordering the same kicks since the ’70s. (We’re looking at you, Asics Legacy fans. You too, Puma Easy Riders, Brooks Vanguarders, Nike Daybreakers.) For these runners, too much newfangledness is too much. While the rest of the world chases the newest and greatest and spends hundreds of dollars on it, a whole subworld of runners madly in love with their old faithfuls spend sleepless nights scanning eBay under glowing sheets, hunting to feed their addiction when stocks run out.


Martinus Evans knows what we’re talking about. He is behind the blog 300 Pounds and Running, and with that much man muscle on the road, he has paid close attention to what’s cushioning his stride. Evans stands firm: He only runs in Nike Pegasus, a kick designed 32 years ago. “It’s a pretty legendary shoe,” he testifies, before suggesting the original pegs should be in a museum.

Why would you buy a shoe that was designed in the ’80s and hasn’t benefited from the huge technology learning curve since?

Obviously, the consumer psychology of staying true to the same old shoe doesn’t stick to typical market macroeconomics, which assume rational behavior. In fact, this behavior doesn’t make sense in a myriad of ways. A lot of that new technology with fancy names came about to address common runner injuries like twisted ankles and brittle knees. So why would you buy a shoe that was designed in the ’80s and hasn’t benefited from the huge technology learning curve since that time? Why would you forgo all that design savvy? And structure aside, why would you forgo the style points you get with a new pair of kicks? After all, the addicts’ sneakers look exactly the same as their old ones, and the ones before those.

But addiction defies logic. And there’s a certain group of runners who remain obsessed with their old standbys, ordering a new pair every once in a while that differs, at most, in color only. My fix of choice? Saucony Jazz Original (designed in 1981 and also worn by ’83 NYC marathon winner Rod Dixon). They’re cushioned, lightweight and look slick even with a skirt. Surprisingly, and like many of the old shoes some runners continue to lust after, they’re still available from the company’s own website, and at a remarkably reasonable price (sometimes for less than $50!). And if you’re one of these retro running shoe addicts you’re in good company — Steve Jobs certainly loved his gray 99X New Balances. Scan any photo of him, down past the black-T-shirt-and-jeans uniform, and you’ll notice it’s pretty much the only shoe he ever wore.

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