The (Below) Average Runner

Might as well start here. I need new running shoes. My current shoes look perfectly fine. They’re bright blue Mizunos that my wife bought me for my birthday three years back. Yes, three years. That seems like a long time, long enough that I should be buying new shoes right now. That’s what logic tells me, though upon quick inspection of the shoes one might not thing that. There are no visible tears. The soles are still firmly attached. The color hasn’t even faded. It’s as bright fluorescent blue as the day I got them (it might’ve been four years ago, come to think of it).

Shouldn’t one buy new running shoes every five years? (Might’ve been five.) I run about once or twice a week these days, a little more in the spring and summer when the hours are longer and I can get home from work in time for a lap around the park. It’s 3.36 miles around Prospect Park, and longer if you count the two avenues I run to get to the park entrance. So, maybe four to eight miles each week — let’s average it to 600 miles a year and hence, up to 3,000 miles in the lifetime of the shoes. I should get new shoes.

I’ve been on the hunt for a few weeks. I don’t think I’ll go back to Mizuno. I don’t run seriously enough to understand the performance difference, but the Mizunos feel too wide at the toes. Prior to Mizuno, I ran on New Balance, exclusively. There was no real reason for this, except they were well-priced on Zappos, and I remember from my childhood that they used to be the only brand that sold in a variety widths. I have flat feet. And wide feet. I have slabs of meat on the ends of my ankles. I’m very conscious about them, ever since a coach at tennis camp when I was 17 told me I had the ugliest feet he’d ever seen. It didn’t seem cruel at the time. I was taking a break from six hours of practice. It was in the middle of summer in western Massachusetts, and so very hot and humid. I had blisters. My toenails were probably in the process of coming off. And the way I served dragged the tips of my Nikes fiercely on the blue clay, grinding a hole in my right shoe after a week and then clay would turn my sock blue and sift into my big toe. It for sure wasn’t pretty.

Imagine sweaty, flat and fleshy feet discolored by blisters, bruises and blue clay. Those were what my coach was aiming his critique. These days, my feet are rarely blistered, though when I run, my toes push into the tips of my shoes and turn my toenails black and thicken them so they’re very hard to clip, and the clippers I use are comparable to garden shears. (Does anyone else have this problem?) So now, I’m on the hunt for running shoes that are not clownishly wide but also are kind to my toes. There also seems to be all sorts of new foam technology emerging. Need to figure that out.

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