Running shoes

I just broke out a new pair of training flats. Big news, huh?

I used to use up a pair of these every six or seven weeks, when they wore down and out after about 400 miles. Now I just wear them and wear them and wear them, since mileage is hardly an issue. I left a pair in Minnesota, though, so I could use them when I go back in a few weeks, and I had to break out some new ones.

For a long time, I’ve been running in Asics GTs. (The numbers change—I think they’re up to GT-2130s now—but the shoe, thankfully, remains essentially the same. Slightly clunky, but not too heavy, not overly “controlled,” not overly “stable,” not overly cushioned.) I buy them by the half-dozen pairs (old models when the new models are introduced) in the certain knowledge that they will be, as I heard it put lately, “obsoleted” some day when I’m not looking. I ritualistically pull out the cheap supplied innersoles, slip in a set of simple green Spencos and my own inserts, and there we are.

I began running cross-country in Puma racing flats (size 8-1/2), which would now be seen as closer to running barefoot than to any modern shoe, before switching to the original red-and-white, ripple-soled New Balances (size 7-1/2). I raced on the track in the blue Adidas Tokyos (size 9-1/2) that were probably the most popular spikes of that late-cinder-track era. And I trained mostly in green-striped white Adidas Italias (size 9). (Or were they Romas? How odd I can’t be sure.) [Much later: Italias.] These shoes, all of them among the best available in the mid-to-late ’60s, were necessary evils for me, and I spent a lot of time not running. Our trainer labored heroically on arch cookies and all sorts of tape jobs, but in vain. I was eventually diagnosed with anterior compartment syndrome.

(Time out: This reminds me of something amusing. I had to shave my legs below the knees to be taped, and the trainer would spray on Cramer Tuf-Skin to make the tape really adhere. Tuf-Skin over time would turn your leg green unless you scrubbed it off with rubbing alcohol (surgical meths), which I naturally considered a waste of time. So I spent my late teens and early twenties with stubbly green legs. I looked like a diseased tomato vine.)

For a few years I puttered around in very light Tigers (now Asics), which were cheap and not bad. In the mid-’70s, I discovered orthotics and Lydiard-style long-distance training. I also discovered that shoes were vastly improved. And vastly more expensive. Why, some cost more than $30!

Starting with some blue New Balance 320s, I moved to yellow waffle-soled Nike LDVs for training, and Nike Elites for road racing (all size 9—amazing standardization!). Nike design and my needs diverged somewhere back in the ’80s, and I’ve been in Asics ever since (though I still sometimes call them Tigers). My racing shoes these days? Surely you jest.

Last year, I was given several sets of Lock Laces, which you might be able to make out in the photo. I never would have bought these for myself, because they seemed like gimmicks. But I love them. Essentially, they are small-diameter shock cord and special two-hole cord locks. They let you lever yourself quickly into the shoe, which I really like, but best, their stretchy nature keeps pressure off my very high instep while keeping the shoe on snugly. Nifty.


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