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Posts Tagged ‘shoes’

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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grey flats cobblestones

Snapped on a lunchtime walk in my Cambridge neighborhood. I’m really liking my new Rothys flats. (That’s a referral link, but this post isn’t sponsored: I’m just happy to have found a comfy, stylish shoe I can walk in. Bonus: they match the cobblestones.)

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green flats porch

We’re tunneling through a sea of boxes at the new place, and my morning routine (read: commute) is shifting a bit.

Under my feet today: new porch steps, new timing. Finding my way.

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boots pine needles amherst ma

Boots and pine needles in Amherst

I had a pair of boots re-soled recently, after both heels and one sole developed cracks (a result, no doubt, of my pounding the Boston pavement in them several times a week this winter). These are the black riding boots I bought in the fall – good quality, though still on the inexpensive end of the boot spectrum. I am used to buying cheap shoes at Payless, wearing them to death within a year or two and repeating the cycle, which is unsatisfying, not to mention wasteful. (I also hang onto worn-out shoes for a long time. A few years ago, my dad offered to buy me a new pair of black dressy boots if I would just let him throw the old pair – cracked, broken-heeled, beat-up faux leather – in the Dumpster.) So I splurged on these, feeling both grown-up and virtuous, hoping they would – will – last me for years.

Needless to say, I was disillusioned when the heels and then the sole developed wounds, and after the cracked sole left me with a soggy sock from walking on damp pavement, I bit the bullet and paid to have them re-soled. I was shocked at the price tag (more than half what the boots cost), but I want to keep wearing these boots, and I did not want to simply go buy another pair (I can’t afford it, and also Micha’s post about shopping responsibly and wearing our clothes humbly is still pricking at me after a whole month).

I got them back last week, still feeling virtuous, and put them on Thursday morning to wear to work. And before I had gone five steps I noticed: these soles are not the same.

Well, of course they’re not, said the voice in my head. What did you expect?

The new soles are thicker, of a slightly different material (which will probably hold up better as I continue to walk my daily miles in them). They feel heavier, which made my ankles ache a little as I lifted my feet; they give the toe box a slightly different shape, though probably no one but me will notice the change. They are the same boots, with new soles – which means they are not the same boots at all.

I was expecting, subconsciously, to pick up the same boots from the repair shop, minus the cracks and fissures. I was expecting them to be repaired, but not changed, by the process. This is disingenuous, maybe, but it occurs to me: I often expect the same thing from my life.

We have been in Boston nearly two years, and I keep expecting, subconsciously, for something to shift and click into place, for a life similar to my life in Abilene to spread out before my eyes. I keep expecting, despite all evidence to the contrary, the same life in a new city – the same kind of relationships, the same way of being, the same assurance that I am right where I’m supposed to be. As you may have guessed, I’m not getting any of that.

This new life still feels like a worn-in boot with a stiff, slightly clunky new sole. I am the same person who moved here from Texas, and yet I am not at all. I live and move through Boston in different ways than I lived and moved through Abilene, or Oxford, or Midland, where I grew up. I cannot expect the new life to look like the old, though it is made from similar material and occasionally feels the same.

This new life, and these semi-new boots, often leave me uncomfortable, standing in my stocking feet wondering how to wear them. Sometimes I’d rather opt out of wearing either one. But in the end, I put on both of them and head out the door into this still-unfamiliar world, because both the boots and the life are mine. They are the ones I chose, and the only ones I have.

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