Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the shoe investment

If I could pass on one tip to those aspiring to be runners, it would be this:

Find the right shoes.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

I am not sure if I have always been so flat-footed, or if years of wearing unsupportive flats made me this way. Since I was incredibly active through high school and never had one problem, I blame my Tom’s, which never left my feet freshman year of college and have holes in the toes to prove it.

Either way, here I am, with feet flatter than a paper stack. And sometime during sophomore year, I decided it would be a good idea to purchase some Nike Frees. They were cute, colorful and so lightweight you could bend them in half. With all that extra weight off my feet, I could run so much faster, right? My legs would never feel like lead, right?

Man, I was so wrong.

It took less than a month for me to develop shin splints. Not long after that I started feeling a sharp pain in the heel of my right foot. It hurt so bad, it stopped many weekly runs right in their tracks. Eventually, I started feeling the sharp pain all the time, not just when I ran.

My legs perpetually felt heavy.

About this time, I paid a visit to the local podiatrist. He took one look at my ratty Tom’s and shook his head in disappointment. Then, he described the cause of plantar fasciitis – something you never, ever want to experience. He prescribed me one good pair of tennis shoes with lots of arch support and particular type of sole insert.

The next day I dropped nearly $150 on an ugly pair of black and blue Nikes with special insoles. I’ve never spent so much on a pair of shoes in my life.

And the best part? I got to wear those tennis shoes 24/7 – or at least all the times that shoes were required. I never wear tennis shoes unless I am working out or playing a sport, so this was incredibly difficult for me. Tennis shoes are not meant to be worn with jeans in my closet.

Surprisingly enough, I got more compliments on those shoes than any other pair I’ve ever worn.

I went on my last run with these shoes Saturday. 10 miles. It was a sad day. These are the shoes I ran my fastest 5k, 10k and half marathon in. They are also the shoes I ran in on my wedding day.
Even today, I am still learning new things about wearing the right running shoes. Lately, my legs have been hurting during runs. I knew it must be time to buy new shoes.

I decided to go to Fleet Feet down the street and let them use their expert knowledge to pick the right shoes for my feet. They measured my feet, examined my stance and then gave me several options, which I had to test out by running through the store.

It turns out that I needed a whole size larger than the shoe I had been wearing. The guy at the store explained that your feet expand during physical activity, and if they have no room to expand, they start to hurt. Who knew?

My new shoes on the left, size 8 1/2. My old shoes on the right, size 7 1/2 or maybe even size 7.

So, I left the store with some Electric Melon Asics GT-20002. It’s only been a couple of days, but my feet are already thanking me.

So my advice?
1. Go to the experts. Go to a store that
specializes in running shoes, knows their stuff, and is willing to help you out.

2. Choose comfort over style. These were not the cutest shoes I tried on this weekend, but they were the most comfortable.

3. Pay the big bucks. My running shoes are the only pair I can justify dropping $150 on. They are the only ones I wear every day.

Are your workout shoes about style or comfort or both?


  1. I wear Vibram FiveFingers KMDs. Love the minimalist design and my new gait has completely eliminated joint pain. Adventure is out there!

  2. I am giving you a BIG "ditto" on the Nike Frees! Orthopedic surgeon said they were inadequate footwear for even my pathetic attempts at running. In fact, my Achilles is still hurting after ten weeks of a boot, physical therapy & daily exercises a year later. I know you hear me complain about the Achilles a bunch, but since you are a pretty big deal blogger, I'm letting everyone know my experience as a tag a long to your words.

  3. The summer before last I read "Born to Run," where Christopher McDougall spends time with and interviews ultra-marathoners as he attempts to become a better runner himself. Absolutely fascinating. The book completely advocated minimalist shoes, but I don't think a gait change will fix my flat feet. Plus, I am not near cool enough to pull off FiveFingers, haha.

  4. No improvement for the Achilles yet? I would be beyond frustrated if I were you, so I think you have done a great job of not complaining!

  5. Good advice! the comfort part is KEY and so is going to the experts! there are some things that you cannot go cheap with!!

  6. Running shoes, purses and jeans - the only three things I'm willing to spend the big bucks on. Oh, and maybe my hair. ;)