Finding the Right Fit

A couple weeks ago I found myself feeling pretty good about my 9-week, marathon-training regimen. I had just completed my longest run yet – 18.5 miles – and for the first time I felt sure I could complete the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon May 15.

Then I took my roommate’s advice and hit up Run Away Shoes in Green Bay to get some new shoes for the race, at that time less than a month away. At Run Away, they’ll analyze your gait to fit you for the right shoe; something I’d never done before.

My shoe selection methods have always been rather crude. I’m not much of a shopper for anything; I get antsy in stores and usually don’t even bother trying things on (which has resulted in some awful clothing choices). So when I bought a pair of running shoes three months ago, I simply grabbed the cheapest pair on the shelf.

When I walked into Run Away Shoes and stared aimlessly at the selection on the wall, a saleswoman asked me if I needed help. For a moment I contemplated saying no and acting cool, as if I knew what I was looking for, then I realized that my ignorance was probably pretty obvious already.

I told her I was running a marathon in a few weeks and wanted to get a new pair to break in before the race. She asked me what shoes I currently run in, a question that should bring an easy answer from someone training for a marathon, but I actually didn’t even know what brand I had.

Okay, she said, looking at me blankly. Then I asked if they would, indeed, analyze my gait, and she said of course.

She watched me walk back and forth without saying much, but on my second pass she asked, almost rhetorically, “Do you have foot problems?”

Ah, no actually, I told her, none at all.

“Really?” she replied in surprise. “Because you have, well, really no arch at all.” I wasn’t encouraged. “Do you have any pain in your ankles or elsewhere?”

Well, my knees hurt, I told her, and my Achilles is swollen, but I wasn’t too concerned because one should expect that when you go from 0 to 35 miles a week in a blitz of marathon training. She nodded in agreement, then pressed further.

“No pain at all with your feet or ankles?”

No, not really, I repeated, a little worried now. Am I that unnatural?

“Well, with your shape…” she was trying to make a motion with her hands, starting at the hips, spreading her hands as she brought them to the knees, then narrowing at the bottom. I figured I could stop her form tip-toeing around it.

“Yeah, I’m a little bowlegged,” I said, saving her. She chuckled in agreement, “which I assume is part of the reason for the pain at the outside of my knee.”

It’s my first marathon, I explained. I’ve been training for six weeks or so.

“Really, and you’re running the Green Bay Marathon?”

Yeah, my brother-in-law kind of challenged me to do it. So I only started putting real miles in around March 10. I got up to my 18.5-mile run a little over a month later. I said it with a bit of a boast, feeling pretty proud of myself, like I’m nearly part of the club.

“How many miles are you putting in?” she asked, a bit of “you’re an idiot” coming out in each of her questions. Not in a mean way, but in a, shocked, what are you trying to do to yourself kind of way.

Well, I did 43 the first week, which probably wasn’t smart, but I don’t have much time. I’ve been between 27 and 43 each week though.

“And you don’t have any foot or ankle problems?”

The look on her face and the tone of her questions had me worried. I started to bend my knees, and started to think a lot about my feet, almost probing my nerves for pain. I began to feel afraid that I had simply repressed it, that my feet were actually in agony and my mind had blocked it out. I began to hope that she wasn’t about to awaken my nerve endings.

She suggested shoes with arch support, and they felt good. I paid $100 for a new pair of Brooks shoes, and left feeling a little proud of myself for making a thorough, informed shopping selection. Obviously, I have low standards for shopping success.

I honestly didn’t think my Achilles and knee pain was out of the ordinary, but then I began running with the new shoes. They definitely felt better on my feet, but I really noticed the difference after a week and another long run. My Achilles wasn’t healed, but it felt a lot better, and I didn’t even notice my left knee, which had sort of locked up at times a couple weeks earlier. The shoes – and taking the time to find the right fit – had made a tremendous difference. I guess that should have been astoundingly obvious considering the thousands upon thousands of times my feet have pounded the pavement in this effort.

Nearly nine weeks into training for this marathon, I still can’t tell you much about running or how to train. But I can tell you where to start. Find the right pair of shoes; your feet will thank you.