If you were to ask a casual sports fan to name a marathon, there’s a better than none chance that they’d name Boston and with good reason. It’s the oldest marathon in the United States and takes place in one of the country’s oldest cities. Its strict qualification standards and deep elite fields serve to ensure that being one of The Select Many to Toe the Line is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Similar to the Olympics or World Championships, the only way into the race is to earn it, but the democratization created by the ensured diversity of the field in both age, ability, and gender, makes Boston truly unique in the world of sp- yaddah yaddah yaddah blah blah blah.
Listen, you’re sitting on CITIUS MAG DOT COM, one of the top 10 athletics websites in the world if ranked by articles about shitting your pants (there’s a website that’s a message board for marathon runners who eat sugar-free gummy bears instead of gels ranked just ahead of us. Don’t ask for the link, just Google it.). Chances are you know what the Boston Marathon is and why it matters. You know it’s important. You also probably know that it’s a prime opportunity for BRANDS to make money off of people willing to spend a seemingly infinite amount of money letting people know that they are one of The Select Many to Toe the Line. The most famous of gear in this grift is the Boston Jacket from Adidas. Basically, it’s a windbreaker in the official colors of the race. One year the jacket was purple with a weird orange. People still bought it in droves. Yeah, that’s the game.
The biggest highlight of all of this gear grift is the special Boston edition shoes, a plot that reminds one of Taco Bell. Similar to Taco Bell, the shoe companies repackage the same bullshit they’ve always been pushing in a new package and sell it to you as the new hotness. They push up the hype higher and higher until you make a purchase sure to fill you with regret as you shit your brains out the next morning (Taco Bell Running Club is number 4 in the rankings).
The shoes are generally a way for running shoe designers to celebrate the hallmarks of Boston (think more lobster and revolutionaries and less so overt racism) to create shoe designs that are for the most part as unique as they are appalling. There are a few designs this year and as the resident fashion expert (read: the only CITIUS MAG member not to own a pair light wash jeans) I’m going to rank them for you.
7) Altra Escalante Racer
I’m going to avoid picking on the fact that this shoe is an Altra, which immediately discounts it from ever being considered “good-looking” or “not ugly as fuck” but more so that this is a pretty boring shoe. The colors are a yellow and blue similar to the official yellow and blue of the marathon but not quite. Nothing about this shoe screams “Boston” which is weird for a Boston commemorative shoe. This is like giving someone a Hershey bar on Valentine’s Day. Yeah, it’s chocolate, but this is chocolate for every other day of the year except one. It’s not special. It’s just there. The only Boston specific piece of the shoe is a liner inside the shoe, but unless you are friends with weird foot people who just like to take their shoes off, pass them around in a circle, sniff them real hard and then pass out, no one is going to see that. This could be a shoe for any occasion and the giant highlighter 18 on the side would only ever be appropriate in a situation in which you needed to quickly identify who in the room was 18 years old. I don’t think that you should ever be in a situation where that is necessary.
6) Asics Gel-Nimbus 20 Boston
This shoe SCREAMS Boston. Literally. But not in a good way. I don’t think there’s a good way anything can scream anything, unless you’re a 12 year old kid in 2004 and whatever Warped Tour band you’re listening to is screaming “exactly how you feel all the time.” The blue color is a little too tropical for my tastes and probably a bit on the brighter side. I think my first thought if I was illiterate and saw this shoe would be that I think it’s for prostate cancer awareness. Prostate cancer and Asics shoes aren’t generally a winning combination, as the history of that association includes a shoe that looks like the private area of a woman growing out her hair before a wax. This shoe is a pretty lazy, but I do appreciate Asics at least making somewhat of an effort to have a shoe that identifies as a “Boston” shoe, even if it has to scream in your face to do it.
5) Brooks Boston Launch 5
Brooks continues with a similar color scheme to what we saw in the Altra, but realistically this is the same blue and green combination that Brooks has been pumping out ever since Nike introduced their Volt colorway. I’m not sure why Brooks insists on these colors as the only thing it screams to me is “cheap” and “tacky” but they’re owned by Warren Buffet and he’s got more money than God, so what do I know? Anyways, they’ve chosen the blue lobster as their inspiration, making them the thing on the shoe second most likely to prevent you from buying it (next to the Brooks logo). They’ve got a “Run Happy” on the back which is nice, but generally this shoe is way too busy to be good.
4) Adidas Adizeo Boston 7
On the other end of the spectrum from the Brooks is the Adidas entry. Adidas, as the official sponsor of the Boston marathon, is able to get as close to the official colors as possible, but this really doesn’t look too distinctive as a Boston shoe. It features unicorns on the back which are either taken from the race logo or representative of the mythical time where runners in something other than Nike Vaporfly 4%’s won races. What really works on this shoe is the white contrasts on the sides which really pop well. Overall, it’s a solid looking shoe, but really when looking at this category, it’s hard to say that is good enough. I’ll give them points for taking it easy on the design, but maybe they should let loose a little next time. Most people who see someone wearing this shoe won’t think Boston Marathon and that’s an issue. People need to see the shoes and in a moment think “This is a Boston Marathon shoe” similar to how people see an Instagram profile with something about traveling in the headline and think “this is an asshole.”
3) Newton Special Edition Boston Fate 3
I’m going to come right out and say that this is the shoe I’ve struggled with the most on this ranking and after looking things through, I’m just as surprised as you that it ended up ranked third. It’s a very, very, very ugly shoe. It’s loud, tacky, and also a Newton. But the more I look at the shoe, the more excuses I make for it. None of the colors are that bad, they’re just placed into an odd design. It pays tribute to an American revolutionary that as far as I can tell was too poor to own slaves. I think it’s a fun shoe, but one that would be hard to match to an outfit. Most likely the only way to pull this off is neutral colors, preferably all black, as to not clash with the shoes. Oh, also a giant sign on your chest that says, “I run in Newtons because I’m bad with money.” That’s really the only outfit I could see this working with.
2) New Balance 890v6 Boston
This is by far the most subdued of all of the entries, and it comes from the most Boston of all of them. Even the trademark “N” on the side of the shoe (stands for “Not A Nike”) blends into the rest of the shoe. I may be really biased here, but I think I just generally like the look of the shoe. The touches of Boston are subtle (Boston on the logo, a Strava heatmap in the sole) which help it stand out from just being any other shoe, rather than a Boston one. The tongue and the heel are call outs to the Charles River and that’s a small touch that I appreciate. I think overall it’s a well-executed shoe but I do wish that there was a bit more of a risk taken, but honestly I’m just happy that New Balance is making shoes runners actually want to wear so maybe I should keep quite.
1) Saucony X Dunkin’ Kinvara 9
This was never in doubt. This is a great fucking shoe. From the sprinkles on the heel to the design of the box the shoes come in, Saucony nailed a tribute to Boston by honoring one of its most well-known contributions to society: shitty donuts and weak coffee. By avoiding the blue and yellow used by other brands, Saucony has created a shoe that screams Boston in a way that people who aren’t familiar with the race will understand, which scores major points with people at an expo trying to bring something home to show off at their weekly run club. My only knock on this shoe is the over the top Dunkin’ Donuts branding including the slogan “America Runs on Dunkin’” on the back heel. While the slogan fits in well in the context of the shoe, wearing a company’s logo and branding to celebrate your individual accomplishment that probably involved zero to none of that company’s product feels like peak capitalism. This might make the people who bought the shoes feel upset, but let me offer you this: being upset about a problem, but being entirely complicit in it is as close to our Founding Fathers as you can get.