I’ve never been into crazy amounts of shoes. I have pairs that have purpose. Dress shoes, work shoes, safety-toe shoes, sandals, flip flops, walking shoes and running shoes. I don’t go out and buy shoes because they are ‘supercute’ to wear them once and be done. I think of clothing as an investment and I do my best to get a good life out of them and then I try to get rid of them once their life is over.
In the past year and a half, I have tried on so many different pairs of running shoes that I felt like that was all I was doing with my free time. Analyzing running shoes. Trying new ones on. Sending old ones back. New Balance, Saucony, Brooks, Nike, Adidas, Asics, Skechers… Stability. Neutral. I drove over an hour and a half just to get fitted in a pair of shoes that I later wanted desperately to return.
Time. Effort. Energy. Money. All wasted in the quest.
Every pair seemed to lead me to the same problem. Numb toes after about 2 miles of running. The shoe would be comfortable enough at the start. I would put it on and close my eyes and feel it for a while. I would try to identify any place that might be a problem. They all felt amazing during those first few dates! Walking would be fine. Even running around the store was fine. No weird movements, nothing.
Out on the road was an entirely different story. The bottom of my foot would hurt, my toes would slowly go numb, and I was forced to push through the miles on bowling pins of rigid discomfort. In the worst pairs, the numbness would spread above my ankles to my legs.
I found a basic pair of shoes that seemed to work – a pair of cheap Skechers that I wore through quickly. I clung to them, begging them to support me for the duration of training for my marathon, but knew that they were unable.
I was at my wit’s end. No more money. No more time. Months of shoe shopping yielded nothing except that Youtube video of ‘Kelly’ playing on repeat in my mind.
“Shoes. Shoes. Oh my God! Shoes.”
I was given a pair of Hoka One One’s and I thought for sure that my world would be fine. I put them on and they were super comfortable – a good sign, if not conclusive. Unfortunately, when I ran in them, I was ultimately faced with the same result – numbness and discomfort.
I convinced myself that I would get used to it. It wasn’t really that bad, compared to some of the others. I wasn’t in pain, not real pain, anyway. Everybody swore by these shoes. They had to work for me. Had to. It was my problem, not the shoe. I just needed to toughen up and deal with it.
And I did for a couple of months. I got used to the discomfort, most of the time. It wasn’t until an electrical pain from my foot to my face grabbed my attention during my first 16 mile run that I realized that this wasn’t really working.
These shoes that work for everybody in the known world don’t work for you, Bethany. They just don’t work for you.
I felt… bad. I did. I wanted to be done. It shouldn’t be that hard to find shoes.
In a last ditch effort, I packed up the Hoka’s and sent them back. As a replacement, I ordered a pair of Altra’s. Altra’s had been recommended to me about the time I had found the Skechers the first time, but I was reluctant to gamble so much money on something so uncertain when I had found something that was cheaper that I knew worked. Now, though, I thought that I didn’t have much else to lose.
When I got the Altra’s in the mail and put them on, I closed my eyes and listened to my foot sing. It was a perfect fit. I didn’t want to get my hopes up after so many shoe relationship heartbreaks and I calmly told myself that this is always the way that it is.
When we got to our defining moment, I was surprised at how mile 2 slipped away without any numbness at all. Actually, I didn’t believe this to be the case. I had tolerated the discomfort for so long, I thought that maybe I didn’t recognize the fact that I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to say anything positive about these shoes at all. I didn’t want to celebrate them, yet.
A couple of weeks went by of consistent running. Hills, intervals, and long, long runs. I never had any trouble. My knees and hips all felt good and supported. My feet had all the room they needed to expand over time without sliding around like crazy.
Just the other night, I was walking with a friend. I finally realized, as I told her about my shoes and the lack of numbness and pain and discomfort, that I had found them. I had found the pair of running shoes I had been waiting for all my life.
I found them.
No more searching. No more discomfort. No more tolerating things that shouldn’t be tolerated. How long did I run in such terrible pain? I’m not sure. Why do I do that to myself? How could I not know any better?
I guess, sometimes, you just honestly can’t believe that something could be better. This pain isn’t normal. It isn’t right. This discomfort doesn’t have to be. You shouldn’t doubt yourself because somebody else found a perfect fit that was right for them. There could be something perfect out there for you. If it could be better, there is probably something out there that is better. Something worth the wait. Worth the money. Worth the effort and energy.
A perfect fit.
You’ll know when you find it. All those long, hard miles ahead will get easier, not tougher. You’ll forget how difficult things are. You’ll think outside yourself and enjoy the view. You’ll be grateful. You might not even realize you’re running, sometimes, as opposed to feeling every single footstrike.
Hold out. Wait. Don’t give up.
It just might get better.