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Confessions of a Running Shoe Polygamist

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This is a post about love, passion, and the deep and often complex relationships that we runners develop with … our shoes. These relationships come in many forms – some of us are monogamous, choosing a single shoe and sticking with it through the years despite updates and new models. Some of us are polygamous (myself included) – we can’t fathom the idea of settling down with just one shoe for the rest of our lives, and our relationships are constantly in a state of flux. In this post I’ll describe my history with running footwear – a sometimes torrid series of affairs and breakups, relationships that never got off the ground, and some that are still being felt out. It’s a story the will in parts be familiar to many of you, and will convince you that yes, I am hopelessly addicted to athletic footwear and also very likely slightly insane.

My first running shoe relationship began when I first started running in 2007. I went to a “real” running store and bought my first “real” pair of running shoes. They were Nike Air Structure Triax 10′s in red, white, and black, and I fell instantly in love. Not only did the name sound cool, but they had a little pocket for a Nike+ pedometer built into the sole – these babies looked fast, and they liked techie gadgets – what more could a guy want! I grew into a “real” runner in those shoes, and eventually bought a second pair after I wore through the heel on the first. Then, about six months after starting running, my feelings began to change. Those little instep and toe blisters that I used to ignore began to annoy me, and the little pedometer had been lying to me for quite awhile about my speed and distance – how dare it short me 0.012 miles!!!

At this point, like a young boy who realizes that girls don’t really have cooties, I began to notice other shoes. There were some really nice looking ones out there, and my eyes began to stray. I’d glance around at people’s feet at races, not wanting to stare, but admiring a Brooks here, an Asics there. I convinced myself that the Nike’s were betraying me, so I dumped them and began a series of short lived affairs with other shoes that I bought on the cheap. There were the Brooks Adrenalines (not bad, but a little stiff), Asics Kayanos (too much like a boot), Asics 2120′s (nice ride, but not really flashy enough) and Saucony Progrid Guides (kind of plain). I began to notice racing shoes, so I bought a pair of lightweight Saucony Fastwitch’s, which carried me to PR’s in the 5K and half-marathon, but I was never enamored with their looks. These fleeting relationships were getting destructive (to my wallet), and I needed to do something drastic – I bought a pair of shoes designed to feel like I wasn’t wearing shoes. These were Nike Free 3.0′s, and it was love at first wear.

My love of the Nike Free 3.0 came on strong and I fell for them hard. I couldn’t stop wearing them, to the point where I almost hurt myself by running 20 miles on only my third run with them. They were so comfortable and flexible that I’d wear them out and about just so I could spend more time with them on my feet. I ran happily through the summer in the Free’s, but alas, I realized that I was just not a one shoe kind of guy as I began to notice a new shoe around town – the Nike Lunaracer. It was sporty, unique, lightweight, and looked really fast – I had to have it.

Sure enough, the Lunaracer lived up to its name. I flew in these shoes, and I decided to shelve the comfy old Nike Free’s in favor of the flashy Lunaracer for the Hartford Marathon in October – a mistake I regret to this day. You see, despite the speediness of the Lunaracer, they never fit me quite right. I tried to overlook this shortcoming in the hope that things would get better, but they were just too narrow for my foot. A blister developed early on in the race in Hartford, and at the end my toes were a mangled mess. Jamming them into a narrow toebox for 26.2 miles didn’t turn out well, and I haven’t been speaking with them much since. They let me down when I needed them most, and that’s going to be hard to forgive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a little story about an on-and-off relationship that I’ve had with a quirky little character know as the Vibram Fivefingers. These things are like that person that’s just a bit off-the-wall, but strangely irresistible at the same time. The “monster shoes,” as my kids call them, were another of those must haves that I lusted after this summer. After getting them, I ran severl runs in them, only to develop a bit of pain in my forefoot from taking things too fast. I wanted badly for things to work out between us, but it became clear that my initial passion for these shoes would have to be put in check. With the passage of time, our relationship has crystallized, and I’ve reached a point of clarity regarding their role. The VFF’s are a friend that I’ll visit once or twice a week, but we probably aren’t going to steady.

So this leads up to today, where a new shoe has captured my fancy. The Brooks Launch is a beautiful shoe – bright red and orange, a real head turner. It’s also fast – when I’m wearing it, I simply want to run. We’re still feeling each other out, and who knows where we’ll go together (probably to the Disney Marathon in January), but I look forward to the journey. Meanwhile, my Nike Free’s and Vibram Fivefingers are still around, and I’ve been eyeing the Brooks Green Silence, which is due to arrive next year (shh – don’t tell the Launch!).

So, I hope you enjoyed this little jaunt through my series of running shoe relationships. You may think I’m crazy (at least a little), but ask yourself this: How did you feel the last time a package arrived at your doorstep with a new pair of running shoes in it? Butterflies, heart racing a bit, couldn’t wait to take them out on the town? You know it’s true. How did you feel the last time you arrived home expecting said package only to find that it hadn’t arrived yet? A bit sad, possibly like you’d been stood up? C’mon, admit it, we runners are strange creatures when it comes to our shoes, but I guess that’s part of the fun when it comes to this great sport of ours. Hope you enjoyed this post – now hit the road and give your shoes some love!

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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.

Comments

  1. You’ve got some great taste in shoes. :) I’ve wanted to try a pair of Free’s for the longest time…but I’ve got small feet and the women’s versions are hard to come by. Bummer. Love the new Brooks shoes…they DO look fast. :)

    • Pete Larson says:

      Zoe – The Free’s are great, but I agree that they’re hard to find. Nike is
      apparently reworking the line for 2010 – we’ll see if they become more
      available.

      Pete

  2. Great post! I Had the opportunity this summer to test drive a pair from most of the major brands…nothing quite fit as well as my trusty Brooks Adrenalines with Superfeet inserts…Lunar Glides definitely get the looks when I wear them around town. It’s amazing how fit & feel vary from shoe to shoe.

  3. I’ve run in many different shoes too. I haven’t tried the vibrm fiverfingers, but I have been intrigued by them. My history with running shoes is long and tumultuous. They often leave me hurt, and yet I want more. I’ve run in everything from New Balance, to Asics, to Nike, and my newest shoe love is Mizuno. I’m looking for the perfect shoe. Someday I’ll find it.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Katie,

      Sounds like we have a similar shoe history – the eternal search for the
      perfect shoe is part of the fun of running! I came close with the Nike Free
      3.0 version 1, but now they’re doing away with the 3.0 model from what I’ve
      read. Liking the Brooks Launch a lot right now too. The Fivefingers are
      really fun to run in, just take some time to get used to and the risk of
      injury is high if you’re not careful to work in slowly. Thanks for the
      comment!

      Pete

  4. ultrastevep says:

    Great post, Peter….I, too am a running shoe junkie, like we all are and have been for 35 years now. I still lust after my favorite shoe, the Tiger (now Asics) Montreal II). This was a real classic and one that would have been called a minimalist shoe today…I wore these in the late 70′s.
    These days my thoughts center more around less of a shoe, possibly even getting myself to a point where i can go to a local discount store and find a pair of thin and light racing flats for 25 bucks and wear them for 1000 miles! ;-)

    Steve

    • Pete Larson says:

      Steve,

      I’m with you on minimalism – all of my current shoes in rotation are less
      than 10oz. Don’t forsee myself exceeding that limit any time soon, nor does
      paying big $$ for a shoe make sense either.

      Pete

  5. I think, that all those shoes are actually utterly ugly and do not contribute to proper running. Try instead vintage nikes like vortex or vengeance and you will the spirit of running in eighties.

  6. Very funny and interesting read! I read your article aloud to my husband who winced at the part about you running your 20 miler in a racing shoe. He is more of a monogamist having run in the ASICS GT 2100 series for as long as I have known him – as long as he changes the insole he is good to go – I am so jealous. A few years back I had a pair of GT 2110′s that I loved but then they changed the shoe and the heel has never felt quite right since. After ripping my calf doing a speed workout too close to a 22 miler I went to a sport massage therapist/chiropractor. I asked in one of the last sessions if I should get orthotics – she said that if I was going to continue running distance then, yes, I should as preventive care. It didn’t hurt that my health insurance covered them 100% either. So now I am faced with finding the perfect shoe that ALSO fits my orthotics well (which I think are a bit too wide). Sigh. I hear a lot of women like Mizuno’s so that may be the next investment.

  7. Seems we’ve been seeing some of the same shoes! I’ve had good experiences with the Progrids, though I’m wearing a cheap basic version of the Grid right now and it’s okay, but I’m definitely not committed. I really like the looks of those Launches- I may have to try them next.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Kristen,

      The Progrids are my walk-around shoes right now – they’re comfortable, but
      more shoe than I like to run in these days (I’m mostly minimalist – 10oz or
      less now). The Launch are very nice – good compromise between a racing shoe
      and a traditional trainer.

      Pete

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