I grew up in the home of a shoe magnate. My father was Vice President of Canada’s largest footwear retail chain, Agnew Shoes, now defunct but in its hey day, had over 500 stores nation-wide. Every year I had new snowboots when other kids had to make theirs last from the year before if they still fit. I had new shoes to start off the school year in September, and I had nice shoes for special occasions too. In the gold ‘ol days when clothing wasn’t made in China and couldn’t be purchased for a quid for a tshirt like at Primart in the UK, that was flash! Always leather because my father taught me about the importance of quality. I have never worn a polyurethane pair in my life, I am a shoe snob. Not a brand name snob, just a purveyor of fine leather. So I know all about shoes, how they’re made, I even have almost 75 pairs in my closet, mostly sandal types because that’s what I where every day in the Caribbean.
My running shoes though were really special. Being a fledgling running star, I got a new pair every year at the spring sidewalk sale from Dave’s Sports Shop downtown Brockville in Ontario. I don’t remember the brand name, oddly enough, but they too were flash and expensive but always on sale. In 1981, expensive running shoes cost about $20 I think. Things don’t change much though as an adult, I always buy Asics on sale, never the latest model but always the model being retired. They cost more than $20, sadly. Long distance runners know that shoes will look nearly brand new and pristine by the time that you can bend the toe back so far that it can touch the laces, signalling that the midsole has died a few miles back, only a few months from when they were first pulled out of the box & tissue.
Whilst training for an offroad marathon distance run lately, my lower joints started to ache all over. I rarely get injured and if I do, it doesn’t last for long. This time my knees, my ankles, even the bottom of my right foot were sore. My left LCL became pulled, my ACL started to be inflamed, my right knee started to follow, I was a mess. I didn’t remember jarring it on a run, I hadn’t had any sudden twists that I could remember. I trotted off quickly to the doc, who gave me a prescription for oral steroid tablets after not being able to figure out which ligament was problematic. He said that the problem was THE KNEE. Well I knew that, and I knew which ligament it was too with just a bit of training through my Sports Medicine course. “F minus” my daughter would say! The diminishing of the pain within a few days was inversely related to the increase in my body weight, not only did the steroids cause massive water retention but stomach distention as well. Joy of joys I looked pregnant.
So I trotted off next to the Sports Med doc, who confirmed the stretched LCL and gave me a protocol for heat/cold/heat/Biofreeze 3x that had me smelling like a Camphor addict. Plus some expensive ultrasound therapy for breaking down scar tissue with the promise of a cortisteroid shot in the ligament at the end, like a treat or a bonus for following the protocol. Eeks!
I’d been running on it gingerly, at a slow enough pace so that the Runner’s Knee didn’t flare up and hurt like a banshee during a run. Then one morning at 3am, seated on the toilet seat in the dark whilst thinking of how I would get through a 16 miler run, the epiphany came——THE SHOES HADN’T BEEN CHANGED SINCE LAST SUMMER’S ULTRAMARATHON! When did I develop runner’s amnesia? I have a running journal, I should have realised that I needed a new pair ages and ages ago. Miles and miles back, I should have bent back that toe and realised that the midsoles were shot. When I could put the running shoes on & off without bothering to unlace them, it should have been an obvious sign that they were too loose all over. When the Jeep mechanic berated me the other day for not practicing proper preventative car care, I berated him for running long distances in, gasp, cross trainers from the 90s (akin to running with a really thick hardbound book on each foot, if you remember the shoes with the great big white wedges in odd places like the outside midsole). Was I really that much better than Stuart? After all, I was running with a pair of brand new looking, but clearly dysfunctional shoes. Like a badly Botoxed elderly lady they were beautiful to look at but broken up on the inside! They were killing my lower body at a rate.
Putting on a brand new pair of Asics that morning, they felt like manna from heaven. Comfortable but rigid, those new Nimbus felt like clouds on my two feet. The long slow run (LSR) was great albeit at a slower pace than I would have liked, the ligaments are back feeling not too inflamed now, I’m not heading into early debilitating knee arthritis complete with hugely ugly knees like my mother (not yet). It simply was a case of “Recession-itis Cheapish Maketh Your Shoeseth Lastest Too Longeth”. Some things you can’t cut corners on, when you are a long distance runner the shoes are the most important thing. Not the running skirt, not the latest Pod contraption that will count your steps and match your mood to your music, etc. So all that money wasted on the doc’s visits, the steroids, the time missed from running etc, when the answer to my Runner’s Knee was only a brand new pair of Asics away….