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Lace Up, Level Up

May 20, 2021

Greg Lehman is the Lead Ambassador of the Chaski Pride Program and works as a Field Experience Representative at HOKA ONE ONE. He’s also a competitive runner and enjoys exploring and racing a variety of distances and terrains. He shared some thoughts on all things running shoes below.

I’m lucky enough to get to help people find shoes that fit them best for running, working out, and really doing anything comfortably. It’s a privilege and a lot of fun for me to share what I can with everyone from newcomers to experts on this topic. This has been especially true as sports in general, and running in particular, has bloomed in a time that has driven people to find activity and empowerment whenever and however possible.

The running shoe industry has its own language, and the conversations go to all kinds of places. I enjoy pursuing any number of topics and controversies within this world, but at top of mind recently is when people will say things like since they’re new to running, or consider their skills unremarkable, they somehow don’t deserve shoes that make them feel good.

This umbrella can cover holding onto old shoes too long, working out in low-quality shoes, or shoes that aren’t necessarily good for running. But they are what the person has, and they don’t see a reason to make a change.

Another lane on the same road has people who will compare themselves to world-class talent pools and, since they’re not there, choose to stay on what amounts to bald tires if they’re old, or a beach cruiser when a mountain bike is needed.

It’s a myth with one important glimmer of truth: Some gear is prohibitively expensive. It’s an issue brands have to balance for  themselves as quality can wane with lower prices. Payment plans help, but there isn’t a good answer yet for underprivileged or marginalized communities, and we all give many thanks to brands that work to level the playing field and invite everyone to run.

But, if possible, the journey is worth it. One of my favorite bits of advice came from a coach who said he told his team that everything between them and the Earth (shoes, tires, mattresses, etc.) deserves premium choices.

Personally, I’ve found one of the best parts of my running is getting to try lots of different types of equipment and finding out what works for me. This definitely applies to shoes, and really goes for any area of running, from nutrition to hydro packs. That said, the aesthetics, experience, and value keep shoe selection as the most important priority in my book.

The unpredictability of shoe preference keeps the game interesting as well. Few things can be as nuanced as a runner’s taste in shoes. I’ve seen people pushing baby strollers in carbon-plated models. Some of the fastest people I know can’t be without some of the heaviest shoes on the market. People crush vert in road shoes and road marathons in trail shoes.

There’s a lot to this world. And retailers want to help. The brands with the right intentions do, too. The community will have no shortage of opinions to share, either, ever.

I recently started a conversation in the Chaski Team Room about what people’s favorite shoes have been less than halfway into the new year. The responses were lively and spanned the spectrum: trail shoes to carbon-plated racers, established brands with lengthy histories, as well as newer entries by companies that have decided to put real effort into their run-specialty products. Heel-to-toe drops, professional recommendations, and quality of support all popped up, and the conversation demonstrated a great cross-section of the types of opinions and guidance any runner, new or established, can find in any number of online communities, teams, clubs, or post-race hangouts.

If you’ve got questions about all things shoe and shoe choice, feel free to reach out on social, email, or in the Chaski Team Room. I’m happy to help!

— Greg Lehman

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