What’s a Girl to Do?

All good things must come to an end…

It’s 9pm on a Tuesday night and I’m crying to my best friend via text message as I eat lukewarm takeout straight from the Styrofoam.

“I just… Why’d they have to play me like that?”

“What are you looking for? Good for distance, not too heavy, not ugly as hell?”

“Basically. Won’t hurt any part of me…”

It’s a classic tale. Girl meets perfect running shoe, runs 400 miles, buys the same shoe, same size, same faithful model, over and over again; 3 pairs, 4 pairs, new color waves…. Until the shoe company decides the current model isn’t good enough, introducing a newer model that’s supposedly better and just different enough for you take notice, but not so much to justify complaining (out loud). We put up with it, reiteration after reiteration of the same shoe gradually changing with each subsequent new model until the essence of the very shoe you once loved becomes so far gone it’s hardly recognizable. The shoelaces don’t seem to tie right. The toe box feels a millimeter too roomy. When did the sole get so thick? Am I really stopping to retie my shoes, again? Seriously, it’s only been a mile and a half…

As athletic shoe companies throw our beloved perfect shoe to the wind in an effort to maximize profits and drive demand, I reminisce about the perfect shoes that once were…

Mizuno (unknown model) circa 2001-2003

My first love, such a long-distance memory. You might not even be real. Coach Tony said Nike is some bull, and you don’t buy running shoes based on their looks. So we took a team field trip to Universal Sole (the original location), and I had my first experience with a proper running shoe fitting, complete with gait analysis. I need a stability shoe? Moderate overpronation, you say? I honestly can’t say if you were really that great, or if I was just young, inexperienced, enamored with your exotic name. Let’s be honest, I just hadn’t run that many miles. But I talked you up to anyone who asked me about running shoes. “Yeah, I wear Mizunos. Nike just isn’t for serious runners.” A running shoe snob is born.

Saucony Omni 8-11

We had such a good run. So many miles, so many stolen race photos with “PROOF” boldly splattered across the low pixel images in the most inconvenient way; so much pun intended. You saw me through my comeback. Those early morning treadmill sessions during grad school. A full 60 minutes trotting at a steady 5.5MPH pace; sub-7 minute miles of a foggy running past taunting me, trying to get all up in my psyche. It didn’t matter to you. A solid shoe you were. Every time a new model was introduced I went through the same song and dance. Try on comparable shoes from other brands, throw Omni in the bag. 11 was truly special. Saucony finally got it right with the arch lock midsole technology. No more arch slipping and rubbing, I could finally ditch my travel sized tub of Vaseline! And then 12 happened. There are no words. No. Words.

divas race

Oh, the races and places we’ve run! San Juan, PR 2012.

Puma Faas 800

You were there for me. When I thought I wasn’t fast anymore, it was you who set me free. Lightweight, soft, bouncy, but so strong. And low maintenance. Lace up once and go. Just go. Run a 5k PR, over, and over. And over. You never put on airs, pretended to be something else. A training shoe, you weren’t. You were in it for the glory. Race day, 10k or less, sub-9 minute miles FTW. That’s who you were, and how I’ll always remember you.

nyd5k_ugly

The day we almost medaled in my age group

Nike LunarGlide 4

It was love at first fitting. I remember, it was the heel. The way you slipped right on and then pulled me into your cushioned embrace. How simple, a heel clip. I was in awe. Made some lame comment to the fitting specialist at Fleet Feet. Apparently you were designed to understand my womanly foot, the subtle femininity of my Achilles tendon. Nike has improved its inventory over the last decade. But like Faas, I know you’re not taking me on an 18 mile training run; you show up on race day with your Flywire secure fit. I’m a little neurotic about the way I tie my shoes, but you accept me, flaws and all. That’s why I love you.

flaws-1

Brooks Trance 12

The perfect rebound shoe. I should’ve known better. Rebounds never last. When Omni got all weird on me, you swooped right in with your perfect fit and lightweight ride. Not to mention your hefty price tag. But none of that mattered. You were the one. A shoe never felt so… effortless. Not a single blister, nor shin splint, no knee pain to boot. Three pairs. Three $150 pairs. Two in the same color! I paid full price for you. I would’ve kept paying full price for you. But you left without a warning. Before I realized my aching shins were the result of too many miles (has it really been six months?). Before I had the wherewithal to stockpile multiple pairs. Not even a closeout sale. I’m so lost without you. Every now and then, I get hopeful and Google search to no avail, “Women’s Brooks Trance 12 size 9.5.” Size 6, you’re dead to me! If only I’d inherited my mother’s small feet.

The writing on the running path. A gamble, indeed, Trance 12. A gamble, indeed..

The writing on the running path. A gamble, indeed, Trance 12. A gamble, indeed..

You left me out there in the hot August sun, hundreds of miles from Fleet Feet, and back at square one. I found my way to Marathon Sports, tried to explain my situation, waxing poetic on Trance 12 as I tested several shoes that just didn’t cut it. I even took home a pair of Mizunos hoping to feel something magical, only to return them after a rather uncomfortable 3 miler. The second time around I tried on six more pairs of shoes, some for the second time. Laces not long enough. Too much slipping in the back. Can’t get them tight enough. Why, Trance 12, why?!?!

Back to Reality

I finally settled on Saucony Guide 7, a shoe for mild pronators, both supportive and cushioned, yet lightweight and flexible. Seemed promising enough, but this is coming from someone who didn’t know the Guide 6. Someone who can only compare this latest model to other shoes. My first run with Guide 7 was much like a successful first date; a little hesitant at first, then nice and steady, ending on a high enough note to leave me giddy, eager to go out again. But I’m spoiled goods. Waiting for something to go wrong. Trying real hard not to get too attached, because let’s face it, we’ve all been here before. Borderline saboteur. I’m caught in running shoe limbo, toeing the line between what could be the best run ever, and… wait a second, is that a blister??? Sigh. Maybe it’s time for some new socks.

We'll see.

We’ll see.

6 thoughts on “What’s a Girl to Do?

  1. I found you on yelp and would like to ask few questions about relocating in Chicago. I tried to send a message on this website but it went to Facebook acct and did not let me send one (I dont do facebook…) so I am going to leave a message here. I love somerville and would love to find somewhere like that in Chicago. Where would you recommend? I am just looking for a nice neighborhood like somerville, where not many college kids are around. I also prefer to live close to the airport since my job will be around there. Hope you can answer my questions. Thank you. -Mamiko

    • Two neighborhoods immediately come to mind: Lincoln Square and Jefferson Park. Lincoln Square reminds me more of Somerville in terms of community feel, lots of restaurants and culture, but is a little bit further from the airport (but not too far, the airport is straight west down Lawrence or Foster). Jefferson Park is on the northwest side of the city right by the Blue Line train which gets you to downtown in about half an hour and is only a few stops away from the airport (or 10 minutes driving). Both neighborhoods are worth exploring. Good luck!

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