Posts Tagged ‘gear’

heart sneakers trail

One of the (many) intimidating aspects of starting to run was the gear. I’d been to enough yoga classes (and seen enough Athleta and Lululemon ads) to know that there’s a whole industry out there, with enough variations on the high-tech theme to make your head spin. I wanted to eschew all that, so – as previously noted – I started running in my old New Balance sneakers (and a sports bra that had definitely seen better days).

I still believe you can get out there and run in whatever you’ve got, but I have since replaced both those shoes and that sports bra (and the ancient navy shorts whose elastic was gone). In response to a reader request, here’s what I know and like about shoes:

Brand loyalty isn’t everything, but it can be helpful. It’s true that some brands/shoes fit different foot shapes differently. I’m a size 6 1/2 to 7, with “normal” arches (i.e. not particularly high or low). I’d worn New Balance on and off for years, because I liked the way they fit my feet. So the first (and second) pair of new running shoes I bought were New Balance. They are cushy and light, and not too expensive. Plus: fun colors.

Don’t be afraid to try on shoes, or try something new. My blue-and-white NBs were fine, but the toe box was a little big, and I wondered if the folks at a running store might be able to help me find a shoe I liked. I went to Marathon Sports (this was over a year ago, pre-pandemic) and tried on shoes from several brands: Brooks, Adidas, On Running. I was surprised that the Ons – with their super-deep treads – were my favorite, but I just ordered my fourth pair, so here we are. They’re lightweight and they cushion my feet well, and I like the bright colors.

Replace your shoes regularly. I have been astonished to find how my knees tell me, like clockwork, when I’ve been running in a pair of shoes for about six months/the equivalent number of miles. I have tried to stretch it a week or two here and there, but if I want to keep running and I want healthy knees (and oh, I do), it’s worth it to me to buy a new pair about every six months. (I do keep the old ones for walking/knocking around.)

There’s lots of advice out there: how to find shoes for your gait/stride, foot shape, etc. I was super intimidated to walk into a running store, so I recommend experimenting a bit on your own first, then going in once you have a decent idea of what you’re looking for. Or – if you’d rather talk to the pros first – go for it! There really isn’t much mystery to it: it’s about finding what works for your feet.

If you’re a runner, do you swear by certain shoes?

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heart sneakers trail

Around the time I started running, I also started a series of boot camp workshops with my friend Erin Madore (who now owns and operates Savin Hill Fitness Studio in Dorchester). We met on Monday nights in the basement of a spa in Quincy, and that initial six-week series spawned a year and a half of working out together. I’d never done anything like a boot camp before (see also: convinced I was not a gym rat), but I came to love that group of women, and the strength, flexibility and joy we found in sweating together.

About a month into the first boot camp series, I noticed some occasional twinges in my knees, both when I was running (still very slowly) on the river trail and when I was doing squats and lunges in boot camp. I hadn’t injured myself, that I knew of, so I asked Erin about it. She listened patiently, then turned her keen blue eyes on my ancient New Balance sneakers. “Honey, how old are those shoes?”

I was embarrassed to tell her – and frankly, I’m not even sure I knew how old they were (multiple years, for sure). I still wasn’t sure this running-and-workout thing would stick, but I knew I couldn’t keep doing it in broken-down shoes. So I took myself to Nordstrom Rack (and the attendant overwhelm) the following week, and came away with a new pair of shoes. And – most of you know what I’m going to say next – it made such a difference.

Since then, I’ve gone through a few more pairs of shoes; I buy new ones about every six months. I’ve switched from Nordstrom to the helpful folks down the street at Marathon Sports (shop local!), and from New Balance to On Running. As I write this, a new pair is on its way, and the violet ones I’ve been wearing since April will become my walking shoes.

One reason I love running in general is that it helps me pay attention: to the sky, the light, and how I feel in my own body. Wearing down a pair of shoes, and knowing when it’s time to order new ones, is a part of that attention. It’s fun to pick out a new color and I love the feeling of springy new sneakers on that first run. But mostly it’s a reminder: running is one way among many that I take care of my body. And keeping my feet (and knees) happy is definitely critical.

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selfie gray hat river trail

True story: when I started running three years ago, I wasn’t sure my newfound passion would survive the winter.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes: I grew up in Texas. We do not typically have snow – at least, not very much of it – in my hometown. The winters, with their short, dark, cold days, are one of the hardest parts of living in Boston for me.

So, when I started my running career outside in late fall, I wondered if I’d get too cold and give up come January or so.

To my own surprise, I came to love the invigoration of running in the cold: the sting of the wind on my cheeks, the equally sharp sensation of drawing in a frigid breath, the satisfaction of starting out shivering and running until I was warm all the way to my fingertips. I came to see it as part battle, part symbiosis: part of me relished taking on the cold, refusing to be bested by 20-degree temperatures (or, later, by snow and ice on the trail). But part of me simply loved being out there, even when it was freezing: an element of the landscape, moving with it and through it instead of only fighting against it the way we do when we bundle up in puffer jackets and hop from heated car to heated house.

I began digging out long-forgotten layers to keep me from frostbite on my winter runs: knee socks, fingerless gloves, handknit hats, a short puffer jacket I rarely wore. An old black fleece scarf of my husband’s, worn double-looped (chosen mostly because it was washable). Eventually, I’d splurge on fleece-lined leggings and insulated gloves. But that first winter, I was simply determined to keep going, and make do with whatever gear I could find.

With the exception of pouring rain (not my favorite), I still love running in all weather and all seasons. I’ll slather sunscreen on my face and chest in the summertime, pull on two or three top layers and my warmest leggings to get out there on the coldest days. For the months in between, I relish calibrating my running outfit to the season and the temperature. The gear is important, but it’s in the service of a larger goal: being able to get out there in the fresh air, and run no matter what the weather.

More #run31 stories and photos to come.

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