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Running to or from the void? Sneaker special

Updated: Jan 9, 2023


I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.

- David Lee Roth


Running has become a sort of meditation. When I run, I can block out the external world. When I run, I do not have to talk or listen to anyone. When I run, I can escape life’s void.


For me, the essence of running, as Murakami poignantly wrote, helps me “exert [myself] to the fullest within [my] individual limits.” Although it felt like a chore in the first few months, running now serves as a driving force and a comfortable means of escape. I do not run from a desire to live longer, rather because it has become a mechanism of clarity. A meditation, which helps in a Thoreau-esque way, to dwindle the marrow out of my life, corner it and expel it so that it eventually becomes irrelevant.


The clothes I choose to run in is a topic in itself. When I started, I opted for ‘caveman-style’, wearing a random assortment of running shoes, band t-shirts and board shorts. The more I ran and roamed around the globe, facing all kinds of climates, the gear got a tad more sophisticated.


Over the 12,800 km I have run in the past decade, I have ground through a great selection of gear from established brands and no-name cheap labels. Whilst some looked better than others, none performed well and all failed to last.


A brand that consistently delivered and became a stable producer of durable and high-performing activewear, especially in relation to trail running, happened to be The North Face.


Since its inception in the late 1960s, The North Face has provided high-performing gear for the modern day explorer. Although I have always noted the power of The North Face’s Yosemite logo, especially when it featured in a Method Man music video in the early 1990s, it was not until they broadened their scope to include weatherproof dry vent running gear that it seemed more relevant. Their recycled, breathable-waterproof, and lightweight Futurelight shells became a perfect choice for fast-paced wet-weather movement.

The NorthFace, Men's Flight VECTIV. Courtesy of The North Face


In more recent times, The North Face has entered urban streetwear territory, with regular collaborations between Supreme and projects with local hip hop artists Yo! Mafia, B.Wise and Barkaa. The brand has also established themselves as a tour de force on the forefront of trail and running shoes, with the release of their Flight VECTIV shoe collection, which includes the first carbon-plated shoe for trail runners. Featuring midsole technology, combining carbon plate and dual-density cushioning foam, the lines cater for a speedy, responsive, comfortable shoe that, with its excellent grip, can help propel a runner through technical and lighter trails by maximising energy.


Another reliable sports brand that has firmly established itself as a go-to when it comes to running gear is Brooks. With its optimistic “run happy” credo, the brand reinforces its belief that there is no good or bad running shoe and that each individual can pick the correct shoe for their respective outdoor preferences.


Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to Brooks. With durability and cushioning at the forefront of their design process, the shoes is a stable platform to withstand long and short distance. A current favourite of mine is the Glycerin GTS 19, with its surefooted smooth heel helping me through dozens of 20km runs.

Brooks, Glycerin GTS. Courtesy of Brooks


Brooks Beast '20 push the game to even greater heights. The name is telling, given the shoes’ BioMoGo DNA midsole for enhanced comfort and a support system to keep excess movements to a minimum. The shoe is ideal for severe over-pronators and flat-footed runners looking for a pair of daily trainers. Despite the name Beast evoking connotations of heaviness, the shoe is surprisingly lightweight. The updated Guide Rail System makes support less, if not totally, unobtrusive when your feet flail too far to the edge. In the shoe, fluidity is provided with deep-cut flex grooves, which accentuate the natural movement of your feet. Full-length engineered mesh also provides breathability and moisture wicking technology, preventing the shoe from overheating.

Brooks, Beast 20. Courtesy of Brooks


Needless to say, the generous plush cushioning enhanced by the foot cradling midsole foam, and a large accommodating toe box (favouring the natural splay of the toes while keeping your arch centred) makes the Beast a serious hard-wear running option. With an abrasion-resistant outer shell, the shoe is built to withstand severe hammering. Mine are yet to show any scratches even after hundreds of kilometres of movement. All in all, Beast’20 offers great control, absorption of impact, and allows for softer runs, seeing it shine brightest on welcomed recovery days.

Asics, Gel Kinsei. Courtesy of Asics


Another frontrunner, that anyone remotely into running would be familiar with, is Asics’ patented GEL™ technology, which supports both the rear-foot (reducing impact during heel strike) and forefoot (by enhancing shock reduction during forward movement). Over the last ten years, the Asics Gel Kinseiseries has elevated the running game, featuring an exorbitant amount of Gel, boosting its fabled position as the most cushioned and advanced shoe. Given the glowing reviews the Asics Gel Kinsei series received, I was intrigued when a complete overhaul in design was announced in late 2021. Subsequent features included a new maximal stack and rockered design, a Pebax plate, more Gel and a FF Blast.


Asics, GEL-KINSEI BLAST LE. Courtesy of Asics


Not unlike Brooks’ Beast’20, Asics’ Blast LE provides a narrow fit. Taking inspiration from maximalist designs and ancient plated footwear, the shoe is the ultimate heavy-duty daily trainer for high mileage goals. Although the shoe is fit with a cushioned heel collar and thick internal padding, I would recommend sizing up - unless you prefer the forefoot being tightly fit. The tongue on the other hand is gusseted farther down in the shoe, which works well with the upper engineered knit mesh. The shoes’ trademark cushioned landing is reinforced with the lateral pad of gel strategically placed at the front of the shoe. The two split gel sections placed vertically at the arch also provide solid heel support. The only gripe I can share is that the full-length Pebax plate unfortunately runs through the midsole, which slightly hinders flexibility and at times feels rather stiff.


Overall, the Asics Gel Kinsei's reign highly in the realm of running gear. The shoe offers a sleek high end option for neutral daily exercise with a tour-de-force outsole, stable mechanics and a bio-mechanical design pushing you through the most treacherous mental and physical times.


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T - 09 September 2022

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