Running Shoes and Gender Roles

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I’m a lot of things, but I am not a stereotypical guy. I mean, the only oil I want on my hands is for my cuticles. When people buy my wife lotion and candles as gifts, guess who ends up using them?

With that in mind, you can probably guess how I react to brightly colored running clothes–especially shoes.

Giddy Captain Picard
Unfortunately, men’s running shoes tend to be plain and subdued (read: dull and boring). Women’s shoes, on the other hand are brightly colored and fluorescent (read: awesome and wonderful).

After reading a few reviews online for running shoes, I got pretty irritated at what I read. I hope they’re the vocal minority, but from the current state of men’s activewear, I think there’s a lot of stereotyping going on about what men want to buy and wear.

Problem The First

While looking for a good deal on some Nimbus 15s, I read a lot of reviews. A lot of them were from guys who complained about the colors, which I totally get. Asics are kind of ugly no matter what, but these guys were complaining about them being too flashy.

One in particular claimed this shoe was too flashy and drew too much attention to his feet:

Asics Nimbus 16 Red
That’s absurd. It’s stupid. In person, the colors on that shoe aren’t even as bright as that picture. It’s one of the dullest and generic shoes I’ve seen Asics make. Yet this particular reviewer said it was too garish and ridiculous to wear. He said he wanted black, red, and grey with no fluorescents.

Now, that’s just one guy. But reviews on Zappos, Running Warehouse, Holabird, Amazon, and other retailers echoed what this guy said–many male runners complained that the colors on running shoes were too bright and too busy. They just wanted a shoe that covered their feet and did its job, not be pretty.

Which is why guys like me can’t find a damn shoe to wear. I want to be pretty when I want. I want to peacock my way across the finish line. And those kinds of boring, plain, grey-loving guys ruin it for me.

Because running shoe companies obviously listen to them. Because I can’t find any shoes I adore that aren’t in women’s styles, which I can’t wear because of sizing issues.

Problem The Second

I wear wide shoes. Extra wide, actually. (That’s what 4E means, if you’re unaware.) Most shoe manufacturers only make a single color scheme in 4E, and which one does that tend to be? The most generic one, of course!

For the past three years, this is what my shoes have looked like because they are the only versions of the Asics Nimbus that comes in 4E:

Asics Gel Nimbus 13 Running Shoes

Asics Nimbus 13

Asics Nimbus 14 and Albuterol Inhaler

Asics Nimbus 14 and my handy-dandy Albuterol Inhaler

Asics Nimbus 15

Asics Nimbus 15

As you can see, the Nimbus 15s are the prettiest of my shoes yet, but they’re still pretty plain. They don’t really call attention to my feet or make me feel bright and special, like I want a running shoe to do.

It’s irritating that I can’t find bright shoes to fit me. If I wanted to (or could) wear women’s shoes, I’d be fine. They tend to come in bright pinks and purples and greens–exactly what I want, by the way–because running shoe companies think only women want pretty shoes that function well, while men only care about function.

That’s a bunch of stereotypical crap.


Stop stereotyping guys as being nothing but a bunch of non-smiling, personality-missing brutes who only care about performance, beast-mode, and “getting swole.” We’re not all a part of gymrat culture, and I wish running shoe and activewear manufacturers would see that.

I realize that in the scheme of things, this is a seriously non-important issue. It’s a #firstworldproblem at its finest. But the underlying issue is what gets me.

I don’t like being lumped in with other guys. I don’t like the pervasive cultural idea of what constitutes masculinity.

I don’t like how when a man takes care of his own kid for a night, some people call it “babysitting”–that’s being a father, end of story. I don’t like seeing on Facebook about how my friends are amazed their husbands or boyfriends can do their own laundry or cook their own dinner–that’s just being a freaking adult. It’s not something to be applauded anymore than being able to tie my own shoes or put on my own pants is.

And on a smaller level, I don’t like being lumped in with other guys who only want to blend in, who won’t smile for pictures, who want to wear the plainest clothing because they’re there for function only. I want to enjoy life and express myself, and part of how I do that is through my clothes. I love wearing bright colors. It makes me happy.

But it’s incredibly hard for a guy like me to actually find stuff that fits my style. Because of reviewers and consumers like I mentioned earlier, who basically tell the clothing companies to perpetuate those same manly-man stereotypes.

I am certain that if more men’s running shoes and activewear were available in bright colors, men would buy them. We don’t buy them right now because they’re not available. Does anyone else see a bit of circular logic there, a bit of a Catch-22?

I think guys like me should raise our voices, make ourselves heard, and tell these companies that we want to run in pinks and purples and greens and yellows. We want to run across that finish line looking like we just finished the Willy Wonka Marathon.


I think we need to let them know that the boring, mirror-staring, swole-as-hell gymrats aren’t even close to the same demographic as a lot of guys who buy activewear and running shoes. Some of us actually feel confident in colors other than dark blue, grey, and black. Some of us want to be seen. Some of us want to feel pretty.

Let us give you our money for that. Please.

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