My 14 year old went to the pantomime on Boxing Day, a celeb-packed theatrical extravaganza. Her verdict? “The whole plot is flawed.” Was it that now she’s pubescent the whole magic fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a carriage thing doesn’t add up? No. “Why does the glass slipper only fit Cinderella? Loads of people are the same size.” Having just bought identical pom pom slippers for her and her sister, (or rather Santa did,) in exactly the same size, it was hard not to agree.
So, let’s talk running shoes. (Here I pause because let’s face it you never start a conversation about trainers with a runner unless you have a few hours to spare; they each have their favourite and will fight to the death if you question it.) I have bought shoes from eBay, off the shelf in TKMaxx because they were cheap and various pairs that looked the job and were in snazzy club colours. All have served me in exactly the manner I would expect, ie. I have not got gravel and dog poo all over the soles of my feet.
That’s pretty much what I look for in a shoe. I was taught by my parents to walk around the shop to check they fit, (and due respect to them, I never lost a grotty black toenail from my light-up Clarks school shoes, so it seems a good system,) and if they are cheap as chips and look half decent, that’ll do.
But Nike, Adidas (*insert any brand here*) etc don’t want you to do that! They want you to spend the big bucks. And to justify the big bucks, you’ve got to think you want, nay, need, something special.
Annoyingly, perhaps they have a bit of a point. (*Insert angry riposte of your choice from a barefoot running evangelist here.*) When it comes to the trails you basically only look at the sole of the shoe; it’s varying degrees of grippiness that matter here. On the road, however, we need to factor in the repetitive pounding of our considerably increased flubber, (*insert relative science bit here*) on our poor feathery, brittle joints and bones. It was my knees that got me sucked in…
Despite the boom of running that is plainly evident should you wander unawares into a park at 9am on a Saturday morning, buying running shoes has got very specialist. (*Insert diatribe against Sports Direct/Mike Ashley here.*) Before you know it you’re on a treadmill in a shop window wearing your jeans and very clearly NOT your sports bra.
An enthusiastic sales “expert” will stand behind you, sometimes even filming your uncomfortable, embarrassed strides, (which are completely un-natural as you want to convince this guy that you’re a proper athlete despite carrying a Cath Kidston handbag today.)
Gait analysed you are then led to a display of about 50 shoes, half of which are entirely unsuited to your clunky, clodhopper shuffle. Blinded by tech talk about micro-beads, guiding rails and cushioning vs flexibility, (heck one pair even had Continental soles like the tyres on my bike!) you will leave the shop with a considerably lighter purse but with a dynamic these-shoes-will-change-my-life skip to your step. (In a horrible colour because the nice ones weren’t in stock.)
Let’s be honest we like to spend money on ourselves. Buying new kit is a treat. However, I’d gone through all that rigmarole a few years back and found my perfect shoe. I had 4 pairs of those beauties and after the first, a simple click online and they appeared by magic at my door. Convenient and cheap. But they don’t want you to do that! So the brands change things infintessimally sucking you back to the stores and newer/better/more expensive shoes.
I know I over-pronate, I know I have wide feet and need a spacious toe box but could I just walk in and grab a nice pair off the shelf? Oh no! I tried! One pair made my feet tingle uncomfortably, (too narrow?) another I found made my right foot roll inwards, (too minimalist?)
So it turns out I am Cinderella when it comes to road shoes. I made Prince Charming work blooming hard to find me the right glass slippers (I was in store so long I re-wrote his marathon training plan for him!) and I could have bought the castle with what they cost. I can think of much better ways to spend both my time and my money. Here’s hoping they are magic after all.