Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Shoe Fetish

I have a bit of a shoe fetish.  I’m just in love with shoes.  And I don’t mean Sex and the City’s-Carrie Bradshaw-kind-of-shoes.  I’m talking about running shoes.  I just love running shoes.  Specifically, New Balance running shoes.  Sure there are other brands worn more frequently  by the serious runners, but I’ve always had luck with New Balance and never dared to stray. 
Today I went to a local running specialty store in search of socks.  I know it sounds silly to drive 15 miles to a specialty store for socks, but any avid runner will tell you that socks are one of the most important pieces of equipment, second only to running shoes and sports bras.  Entering the running store is like coming home.  The staffers aren’t teenagers enduring painful weekend work.  These are the owners, the highly evolved running machines that eat 18 miles for breakfast, that are genuinely thrilled to talk to people about running.  Five minutes in that store and I felt like I had new friends.  We swapped stories about the perils of running outside in this extreme winter weather, and compared training plans.  (At which point I noticed a distinct wince when I confided that my long run is only 7 miles right now, with Hyannis looming 4 weeks away).  Not only did I pick out an uber-fancy pair of running socks, I also picked up a pair of Saucony running pants, and yes, perused the shoe section.  The owner offered to conduct a gait analysis on me, and 20 seconds later I was out in the parking lot running up and down the sidewalk in my old retired pair of New Balance 1063’s.  He commented that I had done well with selecting my 1063’s (which is great, since I have four pairs of them).  Back inside, he asked if I’d like to try any specific brands.  Having no experience with anything other than New Balance (except for once when I tried to squeeze my feet into Nike’s and let’s just say Mr. Nike didn’t get my number), I didn’t even know where to begin.  He brought out a pair of Asics, New Balance, and Saucony.  I felt like Goldie Locks as I slipped into each pair of shoes and hopped and marched around the parking lot.  The Saucony was too stiff, the New Balance was too narrow, but the Asics were just right (pronounced with Goldie Locks inflection).  I was in awe of these shoes.  Oh Asics, where have you been all my life?  I was positively smitten with these shoes.  I loved them so much that I was sad seeing them placed back in the box.  Silently I whispered to them, we will reunite soon my loves, I promise. 
On the way home I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved the shoes.  I just couldn’t contain my excitement.  An hour earlier I was contemplating taking a nap and skipping the gym.  With my new shoes and socks, I was reenergized and absolutely jumping out of my skin to go hop on that treadmill.  After a quick change at home, I was back on the road and heading to the gym.  The gym was pretty dull and empty tonight.  It was, after all, a Sunday night.  In the locker room I slipped on my new socks and shoes with meticulous care.  I marched to the treadmills with a new level of confidence, furtively glancing to see if anyone noticed my amazing new super-shoes.  Sadly, no one else seemed to notice.  Give it time, wait ‘til they see them in action.  I hopped on the treadmill and faced the moment of truth.  Would the shoes live up to the hype and make it to a second date, or would I abruptly lose interest in this love affair?  One mile into the run, I knew these shoes had passed the test.  If this were a real first date, I’d say it passed the appetizer test.  I continuously increased the pace to test it out at different speeds and was impressed for the next 4.5 miles, most of which was run at an 8:00 pace.  I was so focused on my super-shoes that I almost couldn’t spy on anyone.  Almost.  Except for the pirate, a grizzly man with a long beard, an eye patch, and a Bruin’s hat.  And the Marine.  I know he was a Marine because he had short hair, and a shirt that said, “MARINES”.  I marveled at how tall the Marine was.  His head was bobbing above the TV that was attached to his treadmill, while I had to actually look up to mine.  And then there was the group of girls walking on adjacent treadmills occasionally glancing over to me.  I’m pretty certain they were admiring my shoes.  My incredibly comfortable super-shoes.  My magical shoes.  My shoes that made me sprout little wings and fly over the treadmill with ease. 
Tonight, I’m home and giddy after my first date with the Asics.  If I had the choice, I would slip them back on and go running again.  Like any girl after a great first date, my heart’s aflutter and my head’s abuzz visualizing my next encounter with my new loves.  Carrie Bradshaw may have Prada’s, but good luck clocking a PR in those.  Real girls wear running shoes. J

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