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The Running Shoes We Won’t Travel Without

Our editor’s picks for footwear that marries form and function, so you can put in the miles.

A photograph of Moncler’s Trailgrip Light Sneakers Shop at Moncler

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IN THE LIMBER, carefree, early running days of my youth, I believed that all running shoes were essentially created equal, their differences exaggerated by shoe companies to sell more shoes. I didn’t give much thought to footwear and wore the same shoes whether I was pounding the sidewalks of Bangkok or trail running in the Swiss Alps. I certainly ignored the industry suggestion to replace them every 300 to 500 miles.

Suffice it to say, those days are over. After giving birth to a child and tackling longer distances for a decade and a half, I feel more conscious than ever of the fragility of the human body. Recently, when I ran the Napa Valley Marathon, the only thing standing between a career-ending IT-band injury and me was a pair of Sauconys. Even running less-ambitious distances (my preferred race distance is the 10K, and my favorite place to run is a rocky, slip-prone 4-mile stretch through the Berkeley Hills), I now know that the joy of running begins and ends with your feet. Different terrain requires different footwear. Running in the right shoes, I am Jackie Joyner-Kersee, bounding across finish lines, real and imagined. In the wrong shoes, I might as well have dried cement on my feet.

You get older, sometimes you get wiser. Here are the running shoes I’ve loved along the way.

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Shop at Moncler

For Urban Exploration: Moncler’s Trailgrip Light Sneakers

For me, the only way to see a destination is on foot. I’ve put some of the most mileage on my sneakers just walking around cities. Every time I visit New York City, I make the pilgrimage down the length of Manhattan’s East Side, starting in the Bronx and ending at Battery Park, entirely on foot. It’s about 10 miles, so adequate footwear is required. But the best parts of this kind of walk (and all things in life) are the places you stop along the way — the coffee shops, the bakeries, the lunch spots, and finally cocktails and dinner. These Moncler sneakers allow you to look chic in a variety of establishments, and they can handle strenuous activity. I like to pack light when I travel, and shoes take up a lot of suitcase real estate, but a versatile pair like this will have you covered for everything from a morning jog to a nice lunch. With the grip provided by their Vibram soles, I would even hit the trails. SHOP NOW

Shop at Dior

For Making a Tight Connection: Dior’s B31 Runner Sneakers

If you’re traveling by plane, you’re about to be herded like cattle through security, then launched 30,000 feet into the air in a metal tube surrounded by cranky strangers. Why not dignify the experience with a pair of Dior sneakers? My mother often laments that no one dresses up for flights anymore, but I think this shoe is a perfectly luxurious compromise between her pantsuits and my sweatpants. (Do you think you’re going to make that tight connection in stilettos or dress shoes?) The B31s have a contemporary lattice design on the body, so you’ll look posh in the lounge, but they also have tread like a hiking shoe, so you can wear them on a trail once you escape the airport. My single worst fear while traveling, other than plummeting to my death in an airplane, is that the airline will lose my luggage, and I won’t be able to jog or hike when I get to my destination. If you have the sneakers on your feet, that possibility is eliminated. SHOP NOW

Shop at Hoka

For Trails: Hoka Speedgoat 5

I got into running during the frenzy started by Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run,” which criticized overly cushioned shoes, creating a minimalist backlash in the industry. This made me skeptical of Hokas, a brand known for its maximal cushioning. But then something happened: Two years ago, I wore an earlier version of this shoe out of the box to climb Mount Whitney — the highest peak in the continental United States. As all experienced hikers know, you never wear new shoes on a long hike, but 22 miles, 18 hours, and 6,000 feet of elevation gain later, my feet were the only part of my body that didn’t hurt. The cushy soles saved me during the interminable slog, and the Vibram treads, with their unparalleled grip, were essential on the trail’s ice-covered “99 switchbacks.” The Speedgoat 5, Hoka’s latest iteration, is also their lightest. Because of them, I don’t buy traditional hiking shoes anymore. Whether I’m running the trail, just walking, or even backpacking, Speedgoats are my pick. SHOP NOW


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For Speed: Nike’s Vaporfly 3

These are arguably the most talked-about running shoes of the last decade. A version of this shoe was worn by the marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge and the New York Marathon winner Evans Chebet. They are purported to take 3% off your race time. How they come up with these numbers, I do not know, but on the feet, the shoes certainly feel fast. When I wore the Vaporfly on a recent road run, I felt propulsive, each bound linking to the next. This effect is caused by the shoe’s drop, which is the height difference between heel and forefoot. More drop, more forward motion, and this shoe’s got drop in spades. The body is very minimalist and breathable, which is ideal for long races when your feet get hot. I wear these on short and long road runs — and as their name suggests, they make me feel like I’m flying. SHOP NOW

Shop at Saucony

For Distance: Saucony Triumph 20

I wore this shoe while training for a marathon road race, but with a fair amount of cushioning and excellent tongue padding, it’s a dependable daily training shoe for any distance. It’s also the silhouette’s 20th iteration, so Saucony has really worked out the kinks. The Triumph’s drop is smaller than that of the Nike Vaporfly, so the Triumph is less for speed and more for just banging out the miles. Long-distance runners become zealots about gear because things that might not bother you on a quick 5-miler become excruciating when you pass the 15-mile mark. SHOP NOW

Shop at New Balance

For Beach Runs: New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 Lounge Around

I got into beach running while living on the Oaxaca coast of Mexico. This type of exercise has challenges — namely, it’s just harder to run on sand and there’s no shade, but there are also many things to recommend it: The scenery is gorgeous, and the terrain is easy on the joints. My main criteria for a beach running shoe is that it be light, both in color and weight, with a breathable body. The Lounge Around hits all of these marks. Like the Moncler and the Dior, this is an incredibly versatile shoe, but more understated. I wear these on road runs as well as knocking about town in a pair of jeans, which means it’s also an ideal travel shoe. SHOP NOW

Our Contributors

Laura Smith Writer

Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.
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