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Are Cole Haan’s New Running Shoes Worth Ditching Your Asics?

Cole Haan has launched a newly revamped line of running shoes for men. In theory, it makes sense to have the brand behind the most comfortable dress shoes address the running category. But would somebody really trade in their Asics in favor of a dress shoe brand? The 5.Zerogrand Embrostitch might woo a few with its sustainable materials.

Many runners hold their shoe styles sacred the way Yankees fans do pinstripes — loyal until death but not without a chafing conversation about going the distance. But with fast fashion under a microscope, and the men’s world taking note, factors like sustainable materials might be enough to hit with some runners. 

Jonathan Zavaleta, Anthony Mastracci | SPY
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The brand recently announced they’d try to do things better, and that’s what Senior Product Manager, Annie Kawasaki, said was at the forefront for this new collection.

“Our team has seen the trend throughout the footwear industry to prioritize sustainable materials to create footwear that uses less petroleum-based products, in favor of more plant-based or renewable resources to produce midsole foams, and more recycled or reclaimed materials in uppers,” Kawasaki said. 

The 5.Zerogrand Embrostitch is crafted from 25% naturally derived or recycled content by weight. Jonathan Zavaleta, Anthony Mastracci | SPY

Though the sustainable fashion gig is not a perfect science in 2023, it’s the duty of large brands to try. But in terms of running shoes, it remains to be seen if sustainably-sourced materials can perform as well as the bad materials we love. Kawasaki explained that for Cole Haan running shoes, the midsole tech is leading the charge. 

“Superfeel Lite, made from 30% bio-based content derived from sugar cane, provides measurably more rebound than its predecessor, which utilized a traditional petroleum-based foam,” she said.

Cole Haan 5.Zerogrand Embrostitch Review

Jonathan Zavaleta, Anthony Mastracci | SPY

I put Cole Haan’s Embrostitch running shoe to the test, comparing it to other runners in my shoe collection. I wore it through an entire weekend of exercising, running errands, and shopping, paying careful attention to its cushioning, traction, and durability.

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Why It Stands Out: This is Tony Stark’s version of the Nike Monarch, less the sustainability tech of the Arc Reactor.

Made For: Guys who take morning neighborhood jogs and guys who speedwalk with their Frenchies.

ROI: These will last for 3-5 years if you use them for lightweight workouts. Invest in a soft-bristled toothbrush and some Fabuloso because you’ll need to clean these periodically.

Jonathan Zavaleta, Anthony Mastracci | SPY

My Hot Take: The Cole Haan Embrostitch is futuristically cool. It’s an intricately designed neutral runner with great shock absorbency upon strike. This model is heading in the right direction by interweaving some sustainable materials into the design.

I might not be passing on my go-to long-distance runners for these. But I will absolutely pick these as a better-looking alternative to, say, a pair of Allbirds runners, whose soles wear down faster and are just a little more exciting than filling out TPS reports. 


  • The reverse waffle sole provides amazing traction. When running, the Earth moves under you, not the other way around. 
  • Stays true to the Zerogrand logic with the flexible articulating outsole — very well done.
  • Cushioned foot strike thanks to Superfeel NRG Foam.
  • 25% naturally derived or recycled content by weight. This is a step in the right direction. 
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • There’s a bumper on the heel for kicking them off at the end of the day. 


  • The width doesn’t play well with the balls of feet. It could use rounding out for those bones.
  • I’d like to see 1-2 more colors.
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