Sole Searching

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The time has come. It’s time to say goodbye. We sit hopelessly on the floor, toe to toe, lodged in the bedroom corner between the closet door and dusty shelf. Talking it over is useless. Our foundations are tired, beaten down, and weathered. It’s only been four months, but it was a heck of a time while it lasted. We’ve traveled all over the Americas together and covered endless miles of every terrain imaginable. We’ve withstood brutally humid climates, endless rains, and freezing wind chills. We’ve powered up snow capped mountains, muddy bridle trails, and rocky cliffs.

But now, the inevitable dreaded time has come. Out with the dearest old and in with the entitled new.

It’s time for new running shoes.

My running shoes, no matter how expensive or high tech, can never endure a relationship longer than four months. Just after two months, I usually notice the typical wear and tear signs: sun bleached tongues, ratted and frayed topline collars and back tabs that once supported the heels, and holes in the toe box burrowed by my big toes.

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At this point, I am so attached, I want to prolong the inevitable. It truly is an unhealthy reoccurring cycle. The warning signs are there, visible, obvious to anyone. But I run on, in denial, until the swelling pain strikes a blow to the tendons in my left hip. Worse, I keep going, trying to ignore the sharp aches, until the aching becomes so fierce, that it begins bothering me in sedentary states. Then there’s the callous that forms on the ball of my foot, which hardens and causes unpleasant pressure with every step on the trail. It isn’t until I reach this point of stubbornness and stupidity, that I’m forced to break up, yet again, with another pair of running shoes.

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I’m not one to get excited about new shoes or having to go shopping. It’s like being forced into a bar to find a rebound at the end of every short and intense relationship. The whole ordeal is a huge hassle in fact. I never find the same exact shoe because companies change their makes and models so frequently. If I do happen to find the same pair, I can’t find my size. The other dilemma is figuring out which running shoes will be best for my feet, type of training, and how I can just order them online without having to go into a store. Besides all that, running shoes are expensive. I usually pay between $100-$150 for a good pair- and they don’t even last half the year! In order to feel comfortable, I have to literally break them in. And one more thing: The styles and colors. I’m not a rock star runner and don’t necessarily want attention drawn to my feet by flashing crazy neon multicolored patterns that clash with everything about me. Peach and neon green do not go together, no matter what the current trend in fashion is.

After reminiscing and ranting (above), I start researching shoes online. Runner’s World Shoe Advisor and Road Runners Sports Shoe Dog. The questionnaires never end up with the same results and I’m often recommended the newest space age looking kicks fit for none other than Ziggy Stardust. Luckily I know my brand, and certain models within that brand that suit my feet and running style. This is necessary pre-requisite knowledge before shopping online for a pair of running shoes. The best approach to knowing which shoes work best is physically visiting a running store. South Bay’s Village Runner, a small local iconic shop, teems with running experts who, well, actually run. The employees are kind, honest, and able to answer all questions running related from the novice to the ultra marathoner. Their shoe recommendations definitely lessened the severity of my hobbling through finish lines with sore knees and blistered toes.   When I’m near the store, and they have my shoes, my size, and an affordable price, I’ll just buy them there. But realistically, like with most of my purchases, I’m more apt to buy them online.

From an experienced runner to a beginner, my best advice is: Don’t skimp on running shoes, don’t go for looks, and do go a half size up from your true shoe size. Good running shoes are expensive, but worth every penny when it comes to a runner’s health. Joints and muscles take a beating from the harsh impact of running. Finding the right cushioning, support, and comfort is vital to a runner’s overall well-being in the long run. Running shoes should be fairly comfortable when tried on. Any pinching at the creases will get worse. At the store, it’s important to try on an array of brands and styles, even if the clerk sighs while bringing out the umpteenth box. Beware of cute running shoes, as they are often not the ones (sound familiar?). Even when changing old pairs every 300 to 500 miles, very rarely does a runner end up with perfectly fitted, attractive, trendy, and color coordinated running shoes. A few shoes back, I almost lucked out with the coolest looking pair, but I couldn’t find my size in the colors I wanted. So, being a size 9 in running shoes, I ended up with large bright green and purple feet that resembled Barney the Dinosaur.   Whether running shoes look ridiculous or not, the important thing is getting the right pair and owning them!

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Alas, there is sadness in parting with my old shoes. There’s nothing that special or flashy about them. They’re rather dull and boring as a matter of fact. And although they stood by and supported me for hundreds of miles, it’s time for me to let go and re-continue my search for new sole mates.

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Click here for more advice on how to buy the right running shoes.

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