The story of my shoes

March 11, 2008

March Runners Fit Newsletter article. Recently, I was talking to a friend about shoes. He couldn’t understand spending a lot of money for shoes when he could go to the local budget sports store and buy a pair for $25. It reminded me of when I thought the same thing, and the events that led to my change of heart.

It was the summer of ’02 when I decided to run my first marathon. My big adventure was starting. Seattle Marathon 2002, here I come! After telling my wife about my brilliant idea, I drove down to the local sports store to get shoes. Lucky me, they were having a sale.

I spent an hour or more grabbing whatever was on the shelf in my size -trying them on and pacing a back and forth in them. I focused on the $15 – $20 shoes (I did say they were having a sale). I had to find shoes that fit OK and were a good color (because I am so well known for my fashion sense). Finally, I found the perfect pair, or so I thought. Off I went, $26.93 poorer, thinking I was a great bargain shopper.

Immediately, I laced up and headed off for my first run. Almost immediately, I realized that wasn’t going to make it to the end of the block. My feet hurt, but my lungs hurt worse! Gradually, as the weeks turned into months, I was putting in some pretty good miles. My lungs stopped hurting, but my foot pain persisted. I had regular blisters and hot spots. But, I assumed that was just part of running.

Three months before the marathon, I decided to run a local half-marathon. By this time, my long Sunday runs were 14-15 miles, so 13.1 miles should be a breeze. The first few miles were fine. It was interesting to have all those people running with me. After those first few miles, my foot pain was getting really bad. Ugh, it was awful. I managed to finished the race, but when I took off my shoes, I saw that my left foot was one big blister – from my big toe all the way to my heel – and the toes on my right foot were all blistered. At that point, I decided that enough was enough.

A few days later, when I could finally walk again, I headed to a local running store to buy new shoes. I was smart enough to take my old ones with me. The beauty of a running store is that, even when they are busy, someone is usually able to able to spend a bit of time helping you out. The salesperson who helped me looked at the soles of my used shoes to see the wear pattern and then put me on a treadmill with a video camera to watch my form. He listened to my woes and helped me pick out some shoes that worked – I mean really worked. And, thankfully, he never laughed at me for buying the bargain shoes in the first place. In addition to helping me find the right shoes, he taught me several other things, including how to pick out the right socks, what to put on my feet to prevent blisters, and how different lacing patterns can help make shoes fit even better. He spoke, I listened, and it changed my perspective entirely.

As with my bargain shoes, I immediately laced up my new shoes and went running. It was heavenly. It took a mile or two to adjust to the shoes and the fact that they forced me to use better form. Other than that, they were amazing. I went on to finish the marathon, and as far as I recall, I haven’t had any serious blisters in the years since – not even while training for the NY marathon or any of the other half marathons I’ve run. No more bargain shoes for me – except maybe for doing yard work.