I’m Addicted to Running Shoes

WASHINGTON - JULY 02:  A chain of 10,512 sneak...

I have a confession to make – I am completely and utterly addicted to shoes. Not just any kind of shoes, mind you. Fancy work shoes do very little for me. Ditto sandals – I’m perfectly content owning a pair of Tevas, Crocs, or Birks that I can wear until the sole starts to wear through. Running shoes, however, are a different story, and I can’t seem to get enough of them. Asics, Saucony, Nike, Brooks – in two years of serious running, I’ve tried them all (Mizuno and New Balance – we have to get together soon). I like to think that my need to buy new shoes is driven by necessity – I run a lot, therefore I need to frequently buy fresh shoes. There is a hint of truth in this (I’m a hard heel-striker, so I trash the back end of shoes quickly), but the reality is that I can’t resist trying out the next new thing – MoGo, Phylite, Flywire – you name it, and I want to try it. I suppose there are worse addictions to have, at least mine keeps me somewhat healthy and on the move.

My biggest fear is that this addiction may drive a wedge into my marriage. My poor, exasperated wife may complain about the money I “waste” on running shoes, but rarely do I buy new models I tell her, and it is even rarer that I pay list price (on-line coupons and sales help to ease my shopaholic guilt). She also likes to point out that I have more running shoes laying around the house than she probably has shoes total – unfortunately, my feeble attempt to point out that I wear them all doesn’t seem to hold much sway. I try to explain that some are for trails, some are for long runs, some are for racing, etc. She likes to point out that I have some in my closet that are so beaten up that they’d be hazardous to run in (touché). For me, throwing away a pair of beaten up shoes is hard, and she doesn’t seem to understand the bond I have with them (this is getting really sad…). She’s also a runner, but she can fling an old pair of shoes away like a crumpled piece of paper. It just seems so callous to me.

Perhaps the worst part of this shoe addiction is that it appears that I’ve passed it on to my 3-year old daughter Emma (although my shoe preferences generally don’t tend toward the pink and sparkly). She can spend an hour in the kid’s shoe aisle in Target just trying on different pairs (many of which she already has). Quite honestly, I think she’d much prefer to get a new pair of princess slippers or flowery sandals than a new doll or toy, and I can’t tell you the number of times that store employees or other shoppers have told me that I’m going to be in deep “you know what” in about 12 years if her shoe habit is already this bad (and I’m not even going to start on the clothes). Reading books with her is another endeavor – she notices the shoes on every character in books, and god-forbid some princess should be dancing in the forest without any shoes on – that’s grounds for instant interrogation (where are her shoes daddy???). Why, just this afternoon we were at a store and saw a stuffed Minnie Mouse. Sure enough, Emma pointed out that this Minnie had brown shoes, but that they were supposed to be red (must have been a cheap knock-off I guess). I guess I’m now convinced that there is a gene somewhere in the depths of our DNA that directs our shared love of shoes, and I’m thankful that I’m not the sole member of the family to carry it.

So how do I conquer this addiction? Perhaps if I find the perfect shoe, my need to continually search and try out will go away. My Asics 2120’s came darned close to being the perfect shoe for me, but they didn’t keep my eyes from straying to other brands/models. My shoe research has recently led me into the literature on barefoot and minimalist running, and a number of recent articles and books have questioned the true value of high-tech running shoes. I’m reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall right now (update: incredibly good book – my review is here), and he makes a compelling case for ditching the fancy shoes, and there seems to be some good science to back it up. So, am I ready to ditch my shoes and be done with this addiction? Probably not yet – my feet have been shod for far too long to be able to handle full-on barefoot running right now. Would I try it? Sure, I’d try anything once, and our species did evolve without cushioned insoles under our feet, so it does seem natural. So how do I get there? Well, Nike makes this shoe called the Free 3.0…(another review coming soon!).

Update 6/10/09: Here’s a link to my initial review of the Nike Free 3.0.

Happy Running!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

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