I didn't realize how a properly fitting and functioning pair of shoes would make such a difference. Let me take you back to when I first started running. I went to my local shoe store and got on a machine called the Shoe Dog. It takes a look at how a person runs and tells the operator which type of shoes to recommend to the runner. I was told I needed stability shoes. Apparently my foot roles in when I step, which is not a good thing. It is called overpronation, and you can read more about it here: Overpronation explained by Runnersworld. I was sold a pair of stability shoes, and I set off for my first run on the treadmill.
It only took 15 minutes to leave me in tears. I HATED those shoes! I hated every minute of running in them, and I wanted my cheap pair of shoes from the department store back. We headed back to the running store, and I told the employee that I didn't want to see another motion control shoe. I just wanted a "normal" pair. He agreed that perhaps the motion control was a bit too much for me and got me set up with a pair of neutral shoes that would just let my foot do whatever it did naturally without any help from the shoe. I've been running in those shoes ever since.
Along the way I've experienced some foot pain, but I thought it was normal. I've also experienced some knee and hip pain, again thinking this was all just part of the sport. I don't have the best knees and ankles to begin with, so I suffered through the pain and frustration. I never considered that the shoes could be an issue. They FELT like they fit alright, and they felt fine for the most part. My biggest complaint was that I would "drag" my left foot from time to time and squeak as I tried to push off that foot. I figured I was just being lazy and tried to pick up my foot a bit more when that would happen.
A couple of weeks ago Daniel asked if I wanted to go to a shoe store to have my gait checked again. I was hesitant because I "knew" they were going to tell me I needed stability shoes, and I couldn't stand the stability shoes. But, I kind of wanted a second opinion, and I have almost a year of running experience under my belt, so I felt a little more prepared for the experience this time around. Besides, this was actually being done by a Brooks representative, and Daniel has had good experience with their shoes. Ok, I'll give it a try.
We headed down to the shoe store, and sure enough the running expert said I needed stability shoes. I hesitated to try some on, but in the end I felt bad if I wasted this guy's time. He, of course, started me in a pair of Brooks running shoes. They didn't feel quite right, and when I said so I was surprised that the representative brought out another brand. The pair of New Balance 760 he slipped on my feet felt like they were made for me. I was the Cinderella of running shoes. They were not tight on my feet, but they didn't feel like they were going to fall off. Although they did feel different, they were not painful or frustrating to walk in. These shoes, while correcting my gait, did not try to overpower me or force me off balance.
The big test was to hop on the treadmill again. I really wanted to give them a real chance to prove they weren't right for me, so I kept raising the speed higher and higher, knowing at some point the shoes would throw me off and become uncomfortable. I finally stopped when the treadmill display showed 6 miles per hour. "Um," I said, "your treadmill is broken." Daniel and the representative both looked at me like I had lost my mind. "It says I'm running 6 miles per hour, but I don't run that fast." Daniel looked at me, said "You do now," and turned to the representative. "We'll take that pair."
It was another couple of weeks before I really got into my shoes. One thing after another delayed me from going out for a run. Last week, however, I got in 10 miles. That doesn't sound like much, but that is my personal goal for the week. Why was Saturday the best run EVER you ask? I beat my personal record, and I did it OUTSIDE! I've always found it more difficult to run outside, and my treadmill record was a 5K (3.1 miles) in 40 minutes, 12 seconds. I was stuck in the 42 minute range for MONTHS, and I recently set this new record. I wanted those 12 seconds to disappear, though!
Saturday afternoon the weather was beautiful, and my family decided to go for a run together. I strapped on my shoes and set out. At one and a half miles I was feeling good, so I decided to keep going instead of turning toward home. At two miles my husband grinned and held up two fingers to indicate our distance. There have only been three times I've run longer than two miles outside, so this was amazing. At two and a half miles, I had to give in. My lungs were burning, and I was starting to feel my legs getting heavy. I walked for what seemed like forever, but it was really only the length of one song. I didn't realize how much power that walk would give me.
Once I started to jog again, Daniel told me we were at 2.8 miles and 36 minutes. Wait a minute, I thought to myself, that means I'm on track for a 40 minute 5K. I picked up the pace a little bit. 2.9 miles and 38 minutes. "You're at 3 miles, Karen. Go, run!," Daniel was cheering me on, knowing that I was about to do something I didn't think possible. As I was running harder than I have since I was a child, I shouted, "I can't!"
"You can," he said. "And you did. 3.1 miles. Final time: 39:55. You did it!"
I finally broke the 40 minute mark running a 5K. No, it wasn't an officially measured and marked race, but I'm going to take it. Running really isn't about the race for me, it's about showing myself that I CAN do what I set out to do. It was really exciting to find that I had been on track for that time from the beginning of that run. I just didn't know it. Sometimes it's easier not seeing the watch. What I thought was going to be a nice, easy Saturday afternoon turned into my best run ever. I really must be getting stronger. And faster.
So, why am I so sore? For the first time ever I am feeling all the muscles in my legs. My shoes are taking the pressure off just my feet, and I can finally see why running is called a full-body sport. I am able to use every muscle meant to be engaged while running. I no longer feel the pain in my hip, knee, and ankle. I will gladly take the soreness I feel in my calves, quads, and back, knowing that in a couple of months I will be able to break 35 minutes because those muscles are finally helping me do what I love.
Thank you, New Balance 760 stability shoes.