Are Bigger Brands Always Better?

by Jake Greski

Alphafly © Picture from Nike Corporation

When it comes to running shoe brands, a few names immediately come to my mind. Whether it's at the professional level or at your local turkey trot, the big ones seem to be everywhere. One brand I would like to focus on is Nike and its plethora of running shoes. Founded in 1964 by Oregon University track coach legend Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, it was originally given the name Blue Ribbon Sports. Bowerman made the first Nike running shoes by pouring rubber into a waffle iron to be used for the shoe’s outsole, a pattern still used today. Looking at Nike today as a multi-billion dollar company, it has left a definitive mark on the world and the millions of runners who lace up their shoes. But this massive growth in a few decades begs the question: does Nike make running shoes that much better than their competitors?

Despite starting out as a running shoe brand, they are known for their involvement in every major sport globally. On top of this fact, the variety of their running shoes is second to none. If you search Nike’s website for running shoes, you get 93 different results. No other brand offers the sheer number of running shoes, making it available and marketable to a larger audience. You will also see several of the world’s best track and field athletes or marathoners wearing a pair of Nikes in competition. Looking at collegiate and high school athletics, a large portion of those on the starting line will be wearing a pair of Nikes.

Do all these things mean all of your running shoes should have the Nike swoosh on them? Certainly not, as the debate of which running shoe brand is the “best” is a highly contested one. Other brands such as Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Saucony and several others were all founded years before Nike and are still prevalent today. Brands like Brooks and Saucony have narrowed their market solely to runners rather than branching out to other sports as Nike did. At the world class level in the marathon, Adidas and On Cloud marathon racing shoes are now being worn just as much as Nike. Sport scientists who have tested these marathon racing shoes have claimed there is a high amount of similarity between Nike and competing brands.

But what about an everyday running shoe for you and me? While Nike has many brands beat in quantity, their quality and performance among everyday trainers is very similar to the smaller brands. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, picking which running shoe to stack up miles in is a personalized choice. As a fit specialist at Fleet Feet Albany, I can see and feel the similarity of these shoes. There have been several instances I have seen where a customer cannot feel any difference between two different brands on their feet. There have been other instances where one puts on a shoe and immediately does not like how it feels whether it be Nike or any other brand. My point is it’s a highly individualized choice of which brand you want to stack up your miles in, not simply which brand is the largest or most popular.


Jake is an elite runner, running shoe specialist, and student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Russell Sage College. His unique background makes him eminently suited to write columns for the Pace Setter that our readers will benefit from greatly.

Click here for Jake’s column and other contributions



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