Running Shoes that Feel Like Old Times (Only Better)

Three new models that provide a familiar ride, while subtly improving your experience with new materials and technologies.

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Better Stability Shoes

Many of today’s running shoes have a significantly different ride and feel than shoes did a decade ago. New styles, new materials, new approaches have altered the shape of shoes and how they interact with your feet and the ground. And for many runners, that is a good thing.

But the traditional running shoe shape and ride still works for a lot of runners. Even biomechanical researcher Benno Nigg, whose work was central in proving that “motion control” shoes don’t actually control foot motion, says, “Certain people like those shoes—there is nothing wrong with that. Some people like to have support under the arch, and some people don’t like that. And the group that likes support under the arch is not a small group.” Nigg argues that while we can’t prove that they prevent injury, if they feel right, they are right for your body and stride now.

If you’re one of those people who prefer the feel of “stability shoes,” you’re in luck. Some of today’s models preserve traditional design elements and provide a familiar, comfortable ride, while subtly improving your experience with new materials and technologies. The following shoes feel like old times, only better.

Photo: Brad Kaminski

Mizuno Inspire 15

Weight: 10.3 oz (M); 8.7 oz (W)
Drop: ~12mm
Price: $130

Why it’s the same: The Wave Inspire retains a pre-minimalism 12mm heel-to-toe drop, additional support on the medial (arch) side of the familiar Mizuno wave plate, and a flexible forefoot. The upper is mesh with supportive overlays, a padded ankle collar and straightforward lacing, holding the foot more securely than new knits.

Why it’s better: That upper mesh has engineered zones for breathability and support, and is softer and more flexible than in the past. A combination of responsive U4ic foam directly underfoot and uber-soft U4icX under the wave plate in the rearfoot tune the ride and provide superior performance with less weight.

How They Ride: The mixture of foams, wave plate and geometry create a soft, smooth, supported landing with a surprisingly quick, responsive toe off. Overall, they give the feeling of a smooth-rolling ride, particularly for heel strikers, that insulates you from the harshness of the road and can go the distance. “The shoe never made me feel sluggish, but it doesn’t provide a nimble/agile feel to it either,” said one tester. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing—these Mizunos are very comfortable road cruising shoes.”

Photo: Brad Kaminski

Asics Gel-DS Trainer 24

Weight: 8.7 oz (M); 7.1 oz (W)
Drop: ~8mm
Price: $130

Why it’s the same: The DS Trainer has been providing stable speed since before Y2K. This is a shoe that launched its own category: lightweight stability trainer/racer. Underfoot, the features remain remarkably similar to those worn by 20th-century runners: An 8mm heel-toe drop, a gel pad under the heel, a long, firmer-density, medial post under the arch, and a plastic shank that provides additional support under the midfoot and reaches into the forefoot to enhance the toe-off spring.

Why it’s better: This 24thedition sports Asics first knit upper, which is stretchy, breathable, and, most importantly, no longer too narrow in the forefoot—as many of the preceding DS Trainer models were. On the contrary, testers specifically praised the toebox fit, and “how the midfoot material thinned out really well for a lightweight, breathable and somewhat flexible fit.” The upper is comfortable and accommodating, and the knit also looks cool and modern. Additionally, the Flight Foam midsole reduces weight without losing cushioning or durability.

How They Ride: The DS Trainer makes you feel connected to the ground. The ride is firm and snappy—a welcome change from the mushy cushiness of many of today’s shoes, for those who prefer to dance quickly over the road. One tester raved that the ride was, “One of the best I have ever experienced in terms of propulsion.” Despite having “trainer” in its name, the DS serves as a racing shoe for many. Lot’s of people have run marathons in this shoe, but some testers felt that they’d reserve it for speed training and races shorter than the half marathon.

Photo: Brad Kaminski

361 Strata 3

Weight: 11.1 oz (M); 9.3 oz (W)
Drop: ~8mm
Price: $155

Why it’s the same: 361 still is a relatively new player in the US market, but they’re not trying to make their mark with gimmicks or novelty—one of their recent ad slogans was “Not Trending.” Instead, they’re unabashedly creating shoes with familiar, dependable profiles and rides, using modern materials and know how. The Strata recalls the ubiquitous, early-2000s stability trainer with a multi-density midsole (softer crash pad, firmer medial post), plastic stability shank with vertical pillars under the arch, flexible forefoot, and plush, supportive upper with a traditional heel counter and ankle collar.

 Why it’s better: The early 2000s had nothing like 361’s QU!KFOAM that you’ll find in a full-length top layer of the midsole, in the crash pad on the outside of the heel, and layered into the forefoot. The foam compresses easily for a soft, luxurious feel, then firms up and bounces back to keep your ground contact quick. Tests have shown it also holds up better than traditional EVA over time. The Strata 3’s upper is also state of the art, with a foam-padded tongue that insulates your instep from the laces, an internal webbing that hold the foot securely, and engineered mesh for select areas of breathability or support.

How They Ride: The Strata 3’s ride is all about comfortable, stable cushioning. The oh-so-padded upper holds with a soft, secure grip. The heel cushions on touchdown and quickly anchors the rearfoot. You roll smoothly through the supported midfoot and the toe flexes easily on toe off. It doesn’t try to rocker you forward or provide propulsion. And that’s a good thing for many runners. One tester called them a, “Comfortable, good utility shoe: Did not provide energy, nor feel sluggish. Did not detract from running.” It isn’t the sexiest description, but that’s more than can be said for many shoes, and the Strata 3 will take you through a lot of undistracted miles.