Spoiler: You’re about to encounter too many pictures of my feet.
I’ve always considered myself a low-maintenance type of runner — and person, at that.
Clothing of choice: old tank tops and my brother’s ratty college shorts.
Sports bra of choice: the same embarrassing ones I’ve owned since high school (thanks, genetics, for making that one possible).
Sneaker of choice: the same pair of Asics Kayanos I’ve been wearing for the last 6 years, purchased a season or two behind to save lots of pocket pennies.
Like I said, I’ve always considered myself a low-maintenance type of runner. But as it turns out, doing so hasn’t done me any favors—at least, not in recent months.
Regular readers might have picked up on a slight little fact that I’ve been on the cusp of injury for a few weeks now. Never truly writhing in pain, yet never quite comfortable in my stride – or how my leg feels afterward – I haven’t known how to handle myself other than to take 2 weeks off and to then slowly integrate running back into my life.
When I reinstated my routine, the pain wasn’t quite as bad, yet it didn’t fully disappear either. And while perhaps more time and a doctor’s appointment are needed (I have one scheduled with the Michael Jordan of sports medicine physicians, so no need to advise on that front), I also decided to go back to basics and consider the small, habitual elements of my runs that could have lended to my current physical state.
Sneakers seemed like a pretty practical place to start.
To be honest, I haven’t really felt like my last pair of Asics have done anything positive, or at least not detrimental, for my running. If you recall, purchasing them was somewhat of an ordeal in itself; I’d been wearing an older model for years and, upon their discontinuation, was forced to concede and buy a slightly modified pair.
From the very beginning, this newer pair didn’t feel the same. What you want, when running in a shoe for miles and miles every day, is for your foot to feel like it’s going home; that it is right where it belongs as you slide your toes into the cushioned space. They never actually conformed though and, although they were prettier than my other pairs, purple or not, there was always something that was just off—something not natural—about the way they felt on pavement.
Flash forward about a month, when my leg started to hurt. Reel the tape forward another 2 weeks, and I was on the sidelines. Still, because I had been wearing that sneaker for so long — and it had been so reliable in the process — I never thought twice about my choice of footwear.
I can’t exactly say that there is a strong correlation with my current injured leg and my last pair of sneakers. I’m obviously not a professional. The timing is, however, suspicious, and as I continued to run out of excuses, I decided that it might just be time to have my foot reassessed. After all, when I began running 6 years ago and purchased my first pair of Asics, I did so with the intention of running 3 miles maximum a day, 20 miles maximum a week. Today, I’ve far exceeded these numbers.
That brings me to Friday afternoon.
Naturally, I went to Jack Rabbit for their input and expertise. I immediately felt at ease upon shaking a running shoe expert’s hand, so much so that, when he asked what I was looking for, I basically spilled my entire life story to him — including my current fear of being unable to run forever. Fortunately, he kindly listened to my verbal rant and suggested that I hop on the treadmill so the official fitting could begin.
In less than 20 minutes, I learned so much about my stride – in slow motion – and felt that, even if I didn’t find the right pair of sneakers on that very day, I was at least doing something proactive for my body and that, eventually, I’d make progress. This is what I found out.
- My right foot is awesome. My left foot is crooked. We analyzed the way my feet struck the ground, and it was incredibly obvious that my right foot was a shining star, and my left foot was, well, just not. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been following WRFG so closely, Stacy, and by now I know that your right leg is the one that hurts. How does that make any sense? Well, I’m so glad you asked, because that makes for the perfect segue into my next point.
- Stability shoes were not the answer. My Asics are meant for stability. At one point during my running career, that might have been totally appropriate, but that point is not right now. What the stability shoe does, I was told, is to correct any imbalances in the way the foot meets the pavement. That’s great for my left, leaning foot. My right foot, on the other hand, is already stable, and so wearing such structured footwear could actually be causing added pressure on various parts of my outer foot, leg and knee.
- All running sneakers are not created equal. It can be easy to take one look at a sneaker and assume that a running shoe is a running shoe is a running shoe. My dad seems to think that’s the case. After wearing the same sneaker for 6 years, I think I had convinced myself of that very wrong, inaccurate statement too — whether or not I actually believed it was true.
It wasn’t until I tried on four different kinds of sneakers, including a neutral shoe, that I really began to understand the difference in cushioning, structure, weight and more. I learned that I really do have preferences (besides the color of the logo) and that, despite my former assumptions, the amount of stability that a running sneaker provides really can affect your overall performance and, more notably, your state of physical well-being.
The final result? A pair of Brooks Ghosts.
All that was left was to see if these puppies could perform.
That brings us to Saturday morning, when I would complete my first 5-mile run — if all went well — since that dreaded injury took me off the streets.
The plan: Head to Long Island and spend the weekend at my parent’s place, where I grew up. I’d feast on lobster and scallops (you know, fuel)…
…and meet up with my best friend from childhood (and now), Robyn, who is training for her very first long race herself.
After doing about 30 minutes of push-ups, yoga and Pilates in front of the TV…
…Robyn pulled up in front of my house with her sister. The 3 of us set off into the muggy morning air, trotting slowly along flat suburban streets.
As it turns out, Robyn wears the Ghosts as well.
I’m not quite sure whether it was the company, the flat roads, the quiet space or the fact that I was incredibly happy to be running more than 3 miles at once, but by the time Robyn’s armband shouted at us that we had completed a total of 5 miles, I began to realize that I hadn’t felt any pain.
Wait, let me say that again: I hadn’t felt any pain.
I don’t want to make any definitive statements. I know this isn’t the end and that, even though I went home and iced my leg and knee, while I wanted so badly to run on Sunday morning, I didn’t. I promised myself and you that I wouldn’t run back to back days, and that I’d make a genuine effort to do my body good.
Instead, I sat by Robyn’s pool and worked on my pre-Miami tan.
On this week’s schedule? Well, I’d like to be able to say that I ran 7 miles by this weekend, mainly because, you know, I have a half marathon to finish without breathing issues on September 16th. I know I won’t complete those 7 miles in Miami, where I’m off to next weekend for Labor Day, and so my “training” schedule will hopefully look something like this.
Monday: 3 miles, 15 minutes of core and arm work
Tuesday: Strength train and yoga in the living room
Wednesday: 1 mile shakeout and yoga or strength train
Thursday: 7 miles through Central Park (fingers crossed I can finally go home!)
Friday: Dance my face off (that counts as a workout, right?)
Saturday: Dance my face off (round 2)
Sunday: Rest (because Friday and Saturday obviously don’t count as rest days)
- What does that first successful run after an injury feel like to you?
- How were your weekends? Tell me about your best run!