Imagine this: you are one month out from your goal race. Training is going perfectly. You’re hitting your paces and your mileage targets like never before. A quick glance at your training log and you realize you’re a few miles over the limit on your current pair of kicks. No problem, right?
Since you were fitted at your local running store last time, and knowing there’s no time in the schedule to head back in, you take a late-night hop onto your favorite shoe site and excitedly order the latest version of your tried and true shoe, drooling over the latest color choices. Days later, that familiar shoe-shaped package arrives at your doorstep and you tear that box open before the UPS driver has even returned to his truck. Ahh, the sweet aroma of new shoe fills your nose. You tear the tag off and cast aside the paper and cardboard holding its curves in place. You slide your foot in, like you have so many times before and go for a celebratory jog through your living room. A quick Instagram pic celebrates your new arrival and soon you’re headed out the door for the inaugural run.
Just a few minutes into the run, you have a sinking feeling. Something is … off. Alarms start to sound in your mind as you try to ignore the growing cramp in your arches. What is this feeling? This has never happened before. You stop, assess your shoe, looking for something different. You realize you really don’t know anything about the anatomy of a running shoe and staring at your foot is about as fruitless as looking under the hood of your car when the check engine light turns on. You tell yourself that maybe the shoe just needs to be worn in, knowing full well “wearing shoes in” is a myth. You massage your feet upon returning home. You try two more runs with the same results: foot pain that cannot be ignored and the realization that your shoe- YOUR SHOE- the beloved, trustworthy shoe, has been replaced by an imposter.
This sounds like a runners worst nightmare, right? I wish this tale were fiction, but sadly, this is my reality. From the time I began seriously running, I have been running in the Asics Kayano- a stability shoe that supports my flat feet with enough cushion to get me through miles of training. Kayano 14 was my first love, and as the years have passed, I’ve been happy with each revision. The shoe just always worked. It felt familiar from the first wearing and held up well as the miles piled on. When I ordered the Kayano 22 in April, I had no reason to doubt this shoe would be as amazing as its predecessors. After those few stubborn runs and the foot cramps that led to pains in other places, I had to come to terms with what was about to happen: the shoes were getting sent back.
What happens next is a series of follies, high hopes, and repeated disappointments. This all took place at a time when the checkbook was suffering, so when my online retailer offered me a store credit on my returned shoes, I decided to order a new pair with the credit, rather than searching other online retailers who still carried the Kayano 21 or heading to the local store to try on alternatives. Running can be expensive, right? I was trying to be fiscally responsible!
I took this as a sign to play the field and see what other shoes were out there. I had thoughts over the years of trying a new shoe, just for the sake of variety, but always reminded myself: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But this time it was BROKEN and a fix was needed fast. I scoured the interwebs, reading shoe review after shoe review and settled on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline. Long ago, before I became a serious runner, I had owned a pair of Adrenalines, and in my faded memory of them, didn’t recall them being a bad shoe. With just a few weeks left before Fargo Marathon, I needed these shoes … stat!
Repeat above scenario of package arrival, tag ripping, living room jogging, and Instagram documentation. Repeat excitement of the inaugural run, and repeat that quiet voice of doubt in the back of my mind growing ever louder. Repeat pains, but this time in new and exciting locations! Repeat several stubborn runs, and repeat waving the white flag. These, too, were going back from whence they came.
How could this be??? The reviews were so positive, but my legs screamed in anger! As race day quickly approached, I abandoned the search temporarily because I couldn’t risk injury with another new shoe. I dug out an old pair of Kayano 21’s from storage, figuring they had at least a few miles left in them and they would be better than nothing.
The marathon came and went, and the old shoes did their job. The injuries that started to appear with the two failed shoe attempts lingered, as did the feelings of betrayal and resentment. I know this sounds incredibly dramatic, but I was feeling so lost. Could I order another pair of 21’s from another retailer? Sure, but soon those shoes would disappear, and I’d have to go through the search process all over again. I don’t have a lot of money lying around to stockpile shoes, so the practical thing to do was to just keep searching online for my sole-mate. The right shoe had to be out there somewhere, right?
Mizuno Wave Paradox arrived and I couldn’t even allow myself to feel hopeful. The shoe felt alright when I first slipped them on, but a three mile run left eight out of 10 toes completely numb and re-aggravated my nearly healed tendinitis. I sheepishly tossed them back in their box, ignored the eye rolls and deep sighs from my husband, and prayed to the gods of running that the internet shoe store would accept a third shoe return in just as many months.
Here’s where you are probably thinking: What’s wrong with you, Pumpkin? Why wouldn’t you go to your local running store when this mess started? Why wouldn’t you try on the shoes you were purchasing? Why would you trust the internet reviews? Why wouldn’t you go see the experts for their help? These are all really great points. And … I’m stubborn. And I wanted to use that store credit online. I figured enough research would get me the results I needed, and it’s not like I would really know if a shoe was a dud until I went for a run in them, which I wouldn’t be able to do inside my local running store either. I also felt like a schmuck going into the store to try on a shoe, knowing full well I would leave there and buy them online with the credit I had from the online retailer, because by now I couldn’t afford not to.
I finally caved. I did a little more research and narrowed down the next choices to the Nike Structure 19 and the Asics GT 2000-4. I went to the store and tried both on. The Nikes felt good and I ran around the store a bit, trying to gauge as best I could whether they would work for me. I did the same with the Asics and felt that both were promising. I left the store and debated for a few more days. Would I let my anger towards Asics push me to Nike out of spite, or would I let bygones be bygones and go with the shoe that many of my friends have given glowing reviews? Luckily I read one more review of the Nike and when that shoe was compared to the Kayano 22, I knew that GT 2000’s were the winners by default.
So, does this story have a happy ending? I am cautiously optimistic. I’ve run several times in the new shoes and think I can safely say these will work. They aren’t the loves of my life, but they will do. I know my next sole-mate is out there somewhere, but for now, I’ll play it safe and bide my time in these. Who knows, maybe Asics took my strongly worded email into consideration and they’ll return the Kayano to its former glory for next year’s revision? A girl can dream.
Have you ever experienced shoe woes?