Converse shoes have been around for decades now. Originally designed for sportspeople, casual wearers, and hikers, they are limited in their applications today, especially with the development of more technologically efficient pair of shoes.
And so, the question stands – can you use Converse for running?
In the 1950s, you would see many athletes wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors on the track while training for long marathons. However, we have come leaps and bounds since then.
Nowadays, running shoes come with enhancements and innovative design features to provide your feet with some additional support. Since there are options available that make running more efficient and less prone to injuries, picking good running shoes is now more important than ever.
According to research, an ideal pair of running shoes will accompany you for up to 600 miles. That is a lot of distance. So, if you are wearing a pair of incompatible shoes for this duration, it will hurt your feet a lot.
This brings us back to the main question – is running in Converse a good idea? Let’s find out.
Is Converse an Athletic Shoe?
Yes, Converse shoes are considered athletic because they were originally designed for sportspeople, particularly basketball players. However, they lack the functional features that modern-day sports require, making them ideal for casual and everyday wearing only.
The name Converse is still the most recognizable athletic footwear brand. The shoes have been around since 1917 when the first All-Star sneakers were introduced primarily for basketball and skateboarding shoes.
Professional basketball star, Charles ‘Chuck’ Taylor, became the first ambassador-cum-salesman of Converse shoes in the athletic industry, giving rise to the popular Converse Chuck Taylors.
After that, Converse became the go-to shoe brand for players, soldiers, and fashion enthusiasts alike. But now, they are no longer as popular and versatile as they used to be.
Professional athletes and sportspeople require additional cushioning and arch support offered by modern shoes. Since Converse models are relatively flat-soled and lack specialized features, they are no longer used primarily for athletic purposes.
Are Converse Good for Running?
No, Converse shoes are not good for running as they lack the cushioning, arch support, and heel support required for providing maximum shock absorption and stability. Wearing them while running over long distances can cause blisters, pain, or misalignments.
Converse shoes were originally designed for wearing in various types of sports courts. They feature textured gum rubber soles with decent anti-skid patterns to provide traction on flat and smooth surfaces.
With these features, you would think that you could run in Converse as easily as in any other running shoe. But that is far from the case.
Running shoes come with some special features. For example, the Adidas Ultra Boost, one of the most popular functional shoes, comes with the BOOST technology to provide excessive cushioning. That’s because studies have determined that runners who wear hard shoes instead of cushioned shoes have a higher risk of injuries while training.
Unfortunately, Converse shoes have traditionally flat midsoles with absolutely no cushioning. Since running requires us to strike the ground with almost twice the amount of force when compared to walking, the lack of a cushioned sole is a huge problem for runners.
Similarly, Converse models also don’t come with heel flares, which is the outward flare or widening of the heel area. Because of that, runners lack the stability and pronation control which they need at ground contact while running.
Apart from these specific problems, there are some other details that make Converse shoes unfit for running. For example, they lack breathability, traction, and high-quality materials needed to support athletes during intense cardiovascular activities.
To give you a more detailed insight into how streamlined modern-day shoes have become compared to popular Converse models, let’s compare All-Star Chuck Taylors with Nike Vaporfly 3.
The popular Converse shoes (male, size-10 model) weigh around 1-1.2 pounds. On the other hand, a pair of Nike Vaporflys only weighs around 0.8 pounds. Similarly, they offer a heel drop of 8 mm, which is ideal for runners compared to the 0 mm drop provided by Converse Chuck Taylors.
Both of these models are top-of-the-line for their respective brands. But while Nike Vaporfly 3 offers exceptional features for running, the Converse alternatives are lagging behind severely.
What Makes Converse a Good Running Shoe? 5 Benefits
Despite having some major shortcomings, there are some benefits of using Converse for running.
Let’s talk about a few of them:
Good for Barefoot Training
Converse shoes are pretty minimalistic with flat midsoles and no added support or cushioning. So, they can be worn for performing any kind of activity that you would normally do barefoot.
As such, wearing Converse can be a good option if you want to train your feet to run barefoot while giving them a layer of protection. Many podiatrists recommend running barefoot as doing so can reduce loading on your joints.
Barefoot strides are also more efficient as they are shorter and more compact. The resulting gait aligns with the runner’s center of gravity and bends the knee to a greater degree, allowing your joints to absorb the pounding better and prevent injuries.
Moreover, barefoot running also promotes landing on the ball of one’s foot instead of heel striking, which is more efficient.
We have already seen that Converse shoes can be pretty lightweight. For example, standard-sized Chuck Taylors weigh anywhere around 1-1.2 pounds, which is comparable with some of the top running shoes on the market.
Running shoes should be lightweight as they need to minimize energy expenditure while running. Similarly, lightweight shoes are also shown to improve one’s biomechanics and stride rate while running.
Optimal Use of Ground Reaction Forces
Because of minimal cushioning, Converse shoes maximize the effect of ground reaction forces (GRF) on your running efficiency.
When your foot strikes the ground, the GRF generates a push-off force that propels your body in the opposite direction, pushing the runner forward more efficiently. This process is called ground reaction force impulse and is good for athletic training.
Running shoes tend to be on the more expensive side of the footwear spectrum. Top models like Nike Jordans or Vaporflys can cost anywhere between $200 and $250.
On the other hand, you can easily get a pair of Chuck Taylor classics for less than $100.
So, Converse shoes can be good for occasionally using them for low-mileage runs and low-impact cardiovascular activities.
There is no denying that Converse shoes are extremely attractive. That is why they are more popular as lifestyle sneakers than as functional sports shoes.
A single pair of Chuck Taylors, for example, can be suitable for wearing in diverse situations and will go well with different outfits.
Why Converse Might Not Be the Best for Running? 7 Drawbacks
Despite the handful of benefits of wearing Converse for running, there are many reasons why you should not do so.
Here are the primary drawbacks of using Converse shoes for running:
Made From Unsuitable Materials
Converse shoes are primarily made out of canvas. This particular material is not very suitable for running.
That’s because canvas is prone to rubbing when there is excessive motion. So, the material might break after a while.
As such, it’s not suitable for running outside on rough terrains like dirt paths, as the mud and debris can deteriorate the shoe outsole and cause blisters on your feet.
Lack of Cushioning and Arch Support
All running shoes require some amount of cushioning and arch support. Converse shoes fall short heavily in these categories.
Their soles are flat with absolutely no cushioning. This might be problematic while running as the lack of shock-absorbing midsoles can lead to injuries or discomfort over time.
Similarly, the shoes lack arch support as well. However, you can get some insoles added to your Converse models to improve the arch support if needed.
While Converse shoes are lightweight, they are severely restricted in terms of breathability. That’s because their uppers are made of tightly woven fabrics.
So, there isn’t enough room to let air pass through the material.
Unfortunately, this is a major downside for runners. There are more than 125,000 sweat glands on each foot.
So, without proper breathability and moisture-wicking properties, wearing Converse shoes while running can make your feet feel sweaty and swampy, resulting in loss of grip, discomfort, and even blisters.
Lack of Flexibility
Running shoes need to be flexible and bendable. Their sole should be able to support a smooth heel-to-toe transition each time the runner pushes off the ground contact.
Unfortunately, Converse models lack bendability, especially in comparison to top running shoes.
As such, they cannot support long runs on uneven terrains without increasing the risk of injuries and discomfort.
Absence of Built-Up Heels
Running shoes need to have increased heel stack heights to provide more stability for professional runners.
However, Converse shoes have a heel drop of 0 millimetres. In other words, they have no heel stack height at all.
When runners strike the ground, the brunt of the impact is absorbed by different parts of the foot, depending on individual runners and their techniques. The point of initial contact can either be their heels, the midfoot, or the ball of the foot.
These different points of contact require different heel-to-toe drops to provide maximum cushioning and support. By offering a heel stack height of 0 mm, Converse shoes are suitable for none of them.
Inadequate Ankle Support
Ankle support is crucial for supporting high-impact activities like running. The ankle joint is mainly responsible for the transmission of forces between the foot and the lower leg while running.
When you are running, the hinge joint is under significant stress, especially when you are landing or pushing off the ground. As such, most running shoes come with added ankle support in the form of collars or braces to stabilize the joint.
Unfortunately, Converse shoes do not come with such a feature. While some high-top Chuck Taylors do cover the wearer’s ankles, the canvas material is too soft and thin to provide any additional support.
Lack of Heel Security
Running shoes often provide a curved and snug fit at the back of the shoe to provide extra support and comfort to the wearer’s heel while running.
Converse shoes, on the other hand, have a vertical heel which is not good for supporting heavy activities like running.
This is in stark contrast to top running shoes on the market like the New Balance 880 and 890 that come with their own specialized heel cups to secure the wearer’s heels in place while running.
Is It Okay to Run in Converse?
Running in Converse is not recommended by most experts. They lack many specialized features offered by most modern running shoes for providing additional support and stability to the wearer’s feet.
The anatomy of a running shoe is quite rigid in the sense that it requires proper cushioning, arch support, heel support, and thicker midsoles for maximizing the efficiency of a runner and keeping their feet protected from injuries.
Unfortunately, Converse shoes lack in many of these departments.
If you do not have any alternatives and need to run in your Converse shoes, it will be okay if you cover a short distance of no more than 2 miles at a time at a moderate pace.
Anything more than that, and you could be risking potential injuries.
Converse shoes started as the most popular sensations in the sportswear category. However, as time passed, newer shoes with increased functionalities and design features were introduced.
Now, running shoes come with exceptional technologies to support and optimize heavy-duty cardiovascular activities. Unfortunately, Converse shoes failed to adapt and continue to offer the minimalist solutions that they did in the 1900s.
That is why they cannot work as good running shoes now, especially with so many other alternatives available.