Running Shoe Tier System

20 Jun

I’m not going to lie. I have an unhealthy, obnoxious attachment to running shoes. While I love 5″ stilettos too (I AM a girl, after all!), walking into a a running store and seeing the great big wall of squeaky clean running shoes is my equivalent to the heavens opening up and hearing angels start singing!

The number of pairs of running shoes I have could easily enter double digits. I hang on to running shoes far longer than I should ever admit. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a little bit of a sentimental thing going on, or maybe I’m just nuts. (Probably the latter.) Don’t get me wrong, I am not like a shoe hoarder like the doll lady on the latest episode of Hoarders. I just like unique shoes, that’s all.

But of course, no matter how many shoes I amass, I can’t keep all of them as my primary runners…materials degrade, soles wear thin, and eventually it just gets time for a new pair.

Here are my top five pairs and a little bit more about my “Running Shoe Tier System.” Whenever I get a new pair of running shoes, all of the current shoes get pushed down a tier. Once a pair gets pushed past Tier 5, they get cleaned up and donated to a worthy cause like Soles 4 Souls. (By the way, my husband thinks the fact that I rank my running shoes is a little weird. I can not possibly be the only one that does this, right??)

Tier 1 - Tier 4

Tier 5

From left to right and then below…

These shoes are Saucony Women’s Grid Fastwitch 5 in Blue/White/Citron. They are my newest pair and I have grown to love them. They have more stability than my last two pairs and I can totally feel the difference. While I love the citron laces, I have recently been considering trading them out for Yankz! locking laces.

These shoes are Saucony Men’s ProGrid Kinvara in Citron/Black. Yes, I know they are men’s shoes. My previous pair of Kinvaras (see Tier 3) were amazing so I knew I wanted another pair. I could not pass up the awesome color! In the future, however, I would not buy men’s neutral running shoes again. From the very beginning, the arch of the shoe never hit my arch in quite the right spot and they definitely were not as perfect of a fit as my previous pair of Kinvaras. They got me through my first marathon, though, so I might hang on to these for a while! In Tier 2, these shoes will be mixed in on short runs and worn when I go out on my bike (I don’t clip in).


These shoes are Saucony Women’s ProGrid Kinvara in White/Pink. This was my first delve into a neutral running shoe and I have no idea why I didn’t try them sooner! They are so light and it made running so much more enjoyable! Tier 3 shoes are shoes that, while they have more than enough running miles on them, are still cute and clean enough to be worn to the grocery store, mall, etc.


These are Saucony Men’s ProGrid Ride 3 in Gray/Blue (model obsolete). In Tier 4, running shoes become “shoes I’ll allow to be seen on my feet at work.” Working in a chemical plant, I don’t want anything too fancy (as they are likely to get dusty, muddy, etc.) but I need something comfortable enough to get me through the ½-mile walk from the parking lot to my office. Once I get to my office, I change into my steel toe boots for the rest of my work day.

These are Saucony Men’s ProGrid Ride 2 in White/Silver/Red (model obsolete). I can not even begin to date these shoes. Once a pair of shoes makes it to Tier 5, they are literally one foot out of the door. Theses are the shoes I will wear to traipse around in my yard, wash my car, or take my dog for a walk. Or even more fun…these are the shoes that get worn on mud runs! I can not do mud runs right now because I can’t risk falling, but next year, when I am back in action, its ON!

Okay, so please tell me I am not the only one that ranks her running shoes? Please tell me you do this too! (You DO, don’t you!) How many tiers are in your ranking system?

16 Responses to “Running Shoe Tier System”

  1. Jeremy L Wells June 20, 2011 at 10:26 AM #

    This is awesome! Maybe someday I will have run enough to have five tiers of my own! And I love that you donate the old ones. Everyone needs a chance to have some comfortable feet when running.

    • katieRUNSthis June 20, 2011 at 10:29 AM #

      I make sure to donate them only if they are still wearable. If I’ve really put them through the wringer and they’ve got holes and stuff, they just get thrown a way or recycled.

      You will totally have enough shoes to have a tier system! You just wait!!

  2. Tim Ragones June 20, 2011 at 10:30 AM #

    Interesting system, Katie. I tend to rotate two pairs of shoes I use for the bulk of my training miles. Then at the beginning of the year, I added a pair of Kinvara for speedwork, shorter runs, gym workouts and as my “travel” shoes. Recently, I’ve noticed the Kinvara are losing cushioning so I’ll probably use them just for the gym and as you say, “errand runners.” I’m now thinking of adding some racing shoes or trying out the NB Minimus. I suppose I have a system but until reading this, never thought of defining it in tiers.

    • katieRUNSthis June 20, 2011 at 10:38 AM #

      Aha! So I am not the only one who has specific shoes for specific reasons! 🙂 Those NB Minimus shoes look AWESOME and I hear they are really comfortable too. Usually I find NB shoes to be bulky and heavy, but I think they really hit the nail on the head with the Minimus. If you get some, let me know how they work out for you!

  3. Karen June 20, 2011 at 10:38 AM #

    Although I don’t have 5 tiers, I do have an unofficial 3 tiers of running shoes. I have my top pair that I generally run in, followed by pair 2 that acts as a back up if they are wet or I just feel like a change. Then there is tier 3 that are my old tier 1, but are still in good enough condition to be worn around town. I don’t officially rate them, but your post made me realize that I do have a tier system as well.

    Keep on runnin’!

  4. Twisted Runner June 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    I’m lucky I can afford 2 pair let alone 4, 5, 6 … I wear mine way longer than I should but so far haven’t had any injuries because of it/

    • katieRUNSthis June 20, 2011 at 10:47 AM #

      I try my best to get all of the mileage I possibly can out of my shoes and I tend to wear them longer than I “should” also. Unfortunately, I have had some almost injuries as a result of doing so and I just have to break down and keep my feet in good shoes. I give up other things so that I can keep wearing shoes that I love.

  5. Stephen June 20, 2011 at 12:22 PM #

    I never thought of ranking my old running shoes, but I do use the shoes similar to your rankings. And I am about to donate about 6-7 pairs of old running shoes. The sad part is I have 2 pairs of trail running shoes, and 1 pair of road shoes, and about to buy a second to put into the rotation!

  6. katie June 20, 2011 at 4:11 PM #

    yes, i rank mine, but steel toed boots! whoa girl!

  7. Rebecca June 20, 2011 at 4:20 PM #

    I definitely have tiers: Mizuno Wave Riders 14 (2 pairs), Wave Rider 13, all for running followed by Brooks Switch for coaching, Nike Frees for errands and Saucony ProGrid Rides for yardwork. Plus, I have tons of old worn-out shoes that I need to get rid of!

  8. MKDR June 20, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

    I love it! I didn’t have an official “tier” system, but I do now 🙂 and I do the same thing for my steel toe boots. I have the everyday pair, the pair for “dirty trial” days, and then the pair that gets relegated to cutting the grass (I take safety a little too seriously for some people).

  9. Michelle June 20, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

    I never thought of my shoe arrangement as a “tier” system, but it seems I have one in place as well. My oldest shoes have become my hash shoes, typically covered in shiggy. Then tier 3 is my indoor/gym workout shoe, they rarely see the outside world. Tier 1 and 2 are both Brooks Ravenna (different years) and I love them. I typically alternate between the pairs, but the younger ones get to see race day more frequently. Pretty soon I’ll have to suck it up and buy a new pair, then all of the shoes will get shifted down (but I don’t think I can donate my hash shoes, they are pretty nasty).

  10. keyalus June 21, 2011 at 7:45 AM #

    Hmm… I don’t really have tiers but I do have different shoes for different reasons. My Nike Frees are my around the town shoes. I have some Asics crosstrainers that I use for CrossFit or step class. I don’t consider any of those my running shoes. I tend to wear one pair of my trusty Asics GT21xx’s until they start making stuff hurt and then I donate them and pull out a fresh pair. I have a pair of Brooks Cascadias for the trails and a new pair of Montrail Mashochists for the trail. This will be the first time I’ve tried two different brands out for running.

  11. trumpdabeast June 21, 2011 at 9:49 AM #

    I don’t think my rankings is quite this organized, or organized at all. I have my regular running shoes (which don’t get much use now that I’m going barefoot), my recent pairs of running shoes (work shoes!), my really old running shoes (mowing shoes!), and my running shoes that I tried to run in but they hurt my feet but they still look nice (times when I want really clean/shiny shoes!).

    My collection is definitely not as colorful though. I tend to buy 3 or 4 of the same model before moving on.

  12. Cristopher Pell July 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM #

    When it comes to running shoes, i always use those running shoes that are made of synthetic silicone rubber because they are sturdier. `,..’ Kindest regards vitamins & minerals resources


  1. To wash or not to wash…THAT is the question! « - October 6, 2011

    […] is how I decide when and if to wash my shoes. First, it depends on which level of my Tier System into which they fall. Yes, I have a totally neurotic Tier System for my running shoes. If the shoes […]

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