If you’ve been a runner long enough you’ll hear runners talk about what shoes are in their rotation for training. When I was running back in High School I didn’t have a running shoe rotation. I was fortunate to have one decent pair of shoes at a time let alone two, three, four, or five pairs. Is a running shoe rotation necessary?
I would recommend a running shoe rotation of at least two pairs if you run four or more days a week or your days are all back to back with no off days in between. If you are running just a few miles every other day then one pair of shoes is more than adequate. A lot of runners have multiple pairs of shoes because they want to allow their shoes to “rest” between days. This means everything from allowing the upper to air out and dry from sweat or water to allowing the cushioning technology of the shoe to rest. For runners who also run a lot, having different types of running shoes might help extend the life of the shoes overall. For example, if it is a rainy day or if you are going to run on mainly trails then having a waterproof or trail type of shoe will not only help you stay dry but also give you better traction if heading off road. A road shoe might get really wet, dirty, and the traction will not do well back on the trails.
I find that a lot of max cushioning road running shoes are designed to run best on straight roads with slight turns. The stack height of these shoes leaves the shoe unstable. Stack height means these shoes have a lot of foam or rubber cushioning under the heel and forefoot. Therefore, these shoes are not good for lots of turns. Max cushion shoes also weight a little more than your lower stack height shoes but the lower stack height shoes do give you more stability for tight turns. This is why die hard runners will often times have “lighter and less cushioned” shoes with lower stack heights to use on fast running days. They mentally and physically like the idea of lighter shoes that are more responsive to their faster paces. For their recovery days (which means slower paces) or long runs they might use a shoe with more cushioning to help their legs with the pounding and mileage.
So does this mean most runners need a max cushioned shoe for recovery days and long runs and a different shoe for those interval or tempo training days? No, not necessarily. You are entitled to do what works best for you. Most of us runners are not “elite” runners nor do we have an endless budget to go buy all kinds of pairs of shoes. I personally have shoes that fit in both categories of cushioned but still fairly stable and light. My shoes are the more do it all type. I can go on long runs with them and not feel like my feet or legs are getting beat up while also taking them on shorter faster runs. In fact, I usually have at least two pairs of running shoes that I rotate every other day. Most of my shoes are considered your all purpose trainer that can be worn for any type of run.
If you are wondering what I run in it is the Hoka Cliftons. I do own lighter shoes with lower stack heights but they sit on my shelf for the most part. I just love the comfort and dependability I can get out of my Cliftons. My max cushioned shoe is the Saucony Triumph Iso 5 but I don’t think it is any more cushioned than the Cliftons and it weights more. I did an interval workout in my Triumph Iso 5’s and they did just fine. This to say that I sometimes think marketing puts too much into convincing consumers that they need a shoe for every type of workout. Not true! Most runners do not need a different shoe for every distance, pace, and event! Instead, I think it’s good to have a couple of pairs if you can afford it so that your shoes can recover and your feet and leg muscles also experience something different.
I do have racing shoes. Racing shoes are usually the lightest of all the running shoes you can get. They tend to be built with minimal uppers and less cushioning so that they can be light. Some racing shoes are low to the ground and have great stability while some of the newer racing shoes have more cushioning and stack height than ever before. I have a pair of the Nike VaporFly Next Percent’s. They have a tall stack height and a lot of cushion (which I like) but they are unstable in tight turns. Some people like to train in racing shoes so that they can go faster and also be familiar with their shoe for race day. I for the most part only run in my racing shoes on race day. Once my racing shoes are broken in ( I do train in new racing shoes for a few miles to get them broken in) I don’t train in them. I suppose if I had a lot more money to spend on running shoes I might mess around with training in lighter shoes but honestly I am still a pretty fast runner without having to do so. For me, I like cushioning and support. I am getting older and would prefer to not get injuries associated with minimal shoes.
Do you need a shoe rotation? I really depends on how much running you do and how serious of a runner you are. If you run a decent amount of mileage and at least four days a week then I would at least consider having a couple of pairs in your rotation. If you are running a lot of mileage, serious about racing, or training for events like the marathon then you might want to have a few pairs you can go to. Remember, your shoes are there to help prevent injury but to also aid you in your runs so that you can achieve your goals. Not all shoes are the same and sometimes having different kinds of running shoes can help your running experience be a better one.