A couple times each year I break down and buy a new set of running shoes. Inevitably, I have the following conversation:
Person – Hey, are those new shoes?
Me – Yes they are.
Person – What are they?
Me – They’re shoes…
Person – Do you like them? Maybe I’ll try a pair out.
On the surface, it’s a pretty normal conversation. I understand that some people really get into shoes. Personally, I view running shoes as a consumable tool. Part of that has to do with the fact that my runs almost always include trying – and usually failing – to avoid that big pile of elk poo spread out all over the trail. It’s really hard to care too much about something covered in poo.
But with running shoes it’s different. On the odd occasion I get to actually speak with someone about running shoes the discussion is much different. The discussion usually starts about the same. But I get to ask some important questions. Things like, what kind of running do you do? What complaints do you have about your current shoes? What sort of distances do you run when you train? Where do you run?
Do you know why there are so many different kinds of running shoes on the market? Because the answers to all those questions are different for each of us. Add in the various stride correcting shoes and the different combinations of choices are simply astounding.
Thus, when people ask what the best shoe for them might be, my answer is simple – the one that works best for your foot, your stride, and your environment. Frankly, I have a funny stride, I run “crazy” terrain and distances, and I have no real concept of looking good while working out. If my shoes happen to fit you and what you do we should probably submit to a DNA test to see if we are related.
But people are lazy. They hope to find the perfect shoe. The shoe that will enable them to meet their goals without putting in the miles, the sweat, the hard work.
But I’m here to tell you that isn’t going to happen.
Some of the “best” runners in the world do it barefoot. Or nearly barefoot. It’s the new craze you see – barefoot running while wearing shoes. All the major brands make “barefoot like” shoes. Vibram and Fila even make a slipper thing that makes it look like you don’t have shoes on at all.
The conclusion? It isn’t the shoes. It’s the person filling the shoes.
Now that isn’t to say a good pair of shoes won’t help you along. A good pair of shoes will help keep you healthy while you train. (Yes, there are a lot of assumptions there. Let’s not get too deep for the moment.) A good shoe will protect your foot. A good shoe will make it easier for you to get to your goals faster. A good shoe won’t hurt your knees or other body parts.
But, it’s the brain hovering a few feet above the shoes, and heart a foot or so lower than the brain that really drives the shoes and makes them work. It’s the brain and heart that move the legs. The brain and heart that decided to buy the shoes. The brain and heart that decided to go for a run today. The brain and heart that decide to push longer. The brain and heart that decide to push harder up that hill…
I encourage everyone to find “their” shoe. A trip to a true running shoe store is a wonderful thing. There are treadmills. Other runners. People to speak with that know more about shoes than you and I could ever hope to remember. And you get to try them on. And you get to run. (Sure, it’s usually on a treadmill, but it beats not running, right?)
And if you want to try the barefoot thing – go for it! Just go for it slowly and do the research and know what you’re in for.
What are my current shoes you may ask? Since this is the end of the post and not the beginning, I’m happy to share.
I wear these newtons. How I got to those shoes is a fairly long and drawn out story. It involves several hundred miles of running. Several “mistake shoes”. At least one lost toe nail. And visiting multiple shoe stores, talking to multiple people, having people evaluate my stride, evaluating my own stride, and simply learning about my body.
Tomorrow I go to look for new shoes. There’s a good chance I’ll end up in a pair just like the ones linked above. My only complaint is – after about 500 miles they’re pretty beat up and broke down. But I’ll be going to a good shop with staff that understand running, and will understand my stride when they see it. Maybe something new has hit the market that will fit what I’m doing. If so, I’ll consider it. I’ll try it on. I’ll hit the treadmill. And I’ll make a decision based on what feels good.
Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.