You know that slightly leathery, slightly rubbery smell when you first traipse through a shoe store? I love that smell. I have loved it since I was a wee Queen, trailing behind my mother in Super Shoes, gazing in awe at the shelves of possibilities around me. I loved it during my Carrie Bradshaw phase, perusing the displays of mile-high stilettos. I love it now when I burst through the entrance of Aardvark Sports Shop in search of new fitness gear.
Because that’s my fevered foot fetish now – athletic footwear. I have been through three pairs of running shoes in the past year: Nike Frees, Brooks Ghosts, and now…now, my friends…I’ve got my long-anticipated first pair of Newtons. They’re everything I dreamed they would be and more. But they were something I had to build up to, because when I started running, I was still buying shoes solely based upon the “pretty factor.”
I was, for the first time, truly running and fairly proud of that fact. I was gettin’ ready for my first Komen Race in Philadelphia and didn’t want to relive the starting line displacement I felt at my first VIA relay (in which I stood awkwardly amongst runners anxious to qualify for the grandaddy of ’em all, the Boston. Their fuel belts and shortie shorts and minimalist running shoes were a far cry from my Old Navy capris, homemade team tshirt, and ratty crosstrainers). So I carted myself off to Foot Locker in search of new kicks. Again – I was new to the game. Not that Foot Locker is a bad store, mind you. If you’ve done your own research, it’s perfectly suitable. Or if you truly don’t care what shoe is best for your stride or activity, or if you just want something pretty – Foot Locker works. I (being a newbie) asked the salesgirl for her opinion. She immediately led me to the Nike Free, resplendent in their purpleness. Her endorsement consisted of “This is a running shoe.” Nothing about my stride, my fitness level, how long I’d been running, or any concerns that I had never tried a minimalist shoe prior. My guess? She had no idea that the Free is something most runners build up to. Lucky for both of us, neither did I. She made the sale and I landed myself a quality pair of running shoes from sheer luck. Also lucky was the fact that I had no issues switching from the crosstrainers I’d been wearing to the minimalism of the Frees. I would not discover until the next year how unusual that actually is. Those sneaks carried me through my Komen, my first half marathon, and the first portion of my marathon training. I still have them in my closet, waiting to be shadowboxed with my bib number from the Rock N Roll Half.
Now, by the time it became apparent that I needed to replace those pretty purple Frees, I knew better than to ask advice of teenagers at the mall. I instead ventured hesitantly into our local runner’s haven, Aardvark Sports Shop. Not only did they have a wider selection, they had the right questions. They watched me run. They examined the wear and tear on my Frees. They asked about my joints and my training. Now, turns out I have a naturally straight stride (born runner – of course) but the increased distance was starting to put a serious hurtin’ on my old lady knees. I loved the lightness of the frees and the cushion of my crosstrainers (which I had also been fitted and quizzed for, I might add. I get the same shoe every six months or so, just in different colors. I am a total fan of the Asics Gel 170-TR). Given my straightness of stride and my preferences, I was led to the Brooks Ghosts. Not the shoes that caught my eye (which were the splashed-paint Asics running shoes), but the shoes that were right for me. And boy howdy, were they ever right. I finished my marathon training and my actual race with those Ghosts and loved ’em every quick step of the way. I was positive that I had found my soulmate sneaker.
Then I read about the Newtons. The science, the testimonials, and – yes – the bright neon colors lured me right in. Pricey? They may sound so at first. But I’ve been assured by my favorite Aardvark guy that he got double the mileage out of his Newtons compared to his last shoe and his joints are pain free. I even took ’em on a test run down the hallway of the shopping center, falling in love with each soft landing of my feet. They made me feel fast. To quote Forrest Gump, “They were my magic shoes.” I was forewarned about easing into the Newtons due to the design (they force a front-foot landing vs a heel strike – feels odd but fabulous) and I promised no long runs until my calves felt ready. Which I determined was the following day.
Just like the Frees way back when, I felt fine. It would seem I am meant for minimalistic shoes of all sorts. I certainly foresee a pair of Vibram Five Fingers in my future, even if only for shorter runs. But I also know that minimals aren’t for everyone. And I also know that the look of the shoe is so secondary to the feel and purpose of the shoe. Running shouldn’t wreak havoc on your joints. I know lots of people will try to tell you it’s just awful for your knees and bones – but they are what I like to gently refer to as “full of shit.” For more info about the benefits of my all-time favorite exercise (as if you need more of an endorsement than that!), refer back to my earlier post This Gal Sure Is A Runnin’ Fool (what can I say? Forrest Gump is an all-time favorite). And that’s all I have to say about that…
My point? I know I had one…Ah, yes! Stop reaching for the most attractive shoe and start researching about the most appropriate shoe. You will get more out of your workouts (and isn’t that something we all want? Why put in the time and not the maximum effort???) and a sweet little thank you from your various joints. You want pretty? Go ahead, slap your cash down and buy a pair. Wear ’em to Wegmans, to football games, to picnics, to the mall. Just don’t wear ’em to exercise. Now, if your soulmate shoe happens to suit your aesthetic tastes as well as you functionality needs – thanks be to the fitness gods. You’re a lucky FitGal/Guy. I’m just sayin’…don’t expect it.
Luckily for me, it happened with my Newtons. I got the splash and the science in one glorious shoe. It’s good to be Queen.
Wanna learn more about Newtons? Go here: http://www.newtonrunning.com/shoes
Wanna visit Aardvark for your very own self? Check out the website here: http://www.aardvarksportsshop.com/