Intro to "Some Shoes Have Souls. . ."

Some Shoes Have Souls, Not Just Soles

On a rack outside the door to the garage are more than a half dozen pairs of (mostly) trail running shoes of various brands, ages and condition. Some of them are just beginning to fall apart. One pair is only a few months old.

I hang on to several pairs of shoes for lots of reasons. That they are still on the rack means they are good shoes and have some miles left in them. I'm attached to them because they have carried me through beautiful places or protected my feet on hard trails. Until they are totally shot, I won't toss them into the trash. They are like friends to me, with personalities, strengths and weaknesses. They are your soulmates out there and take a lot of abuse so your feet don't have to.

I've never found a perfect shoe for all trail and weather conditions, but I've found shoes that, for me, are perfect in certain conditions. My North Face give a great ride on trails with an even mix of dirt and rock and have lots of grip in all conditions. The Vasques, with Goretex uppers and and a high cuff, are good in snow. The New Balance are great on pavement, which I try to avoid (except for the Bolder Boulder) because asphalt is hard on by two scoped knees. The Montrails are great in the rocks because of the sturdy underfoot padding. When I buy a new pair of running shoes, which is a couple times a year, I usually let one of the other pair go. But I still have one pair of battered Adidas I won't let go, even though the rubber toe protectors are peeling off, because I've had some great runs in those shoes. We are like soulmates.

I bought some of the earliest Adidas and Nike shoes. My first pair of true running shoes were leather topped green and white Adidas Cross Country's. First time I ran on them, I felt a dramatic improvement over the black canvas topped Converse sneakers I had worn throughout my early youth. Running shoes have gotten better and better ever since. Although the shoe business epitomizes planned obsolescence and fashion mania with all the garish designs and lacing gimmicks, the materials, comfort and durability have steadily improved each year.

I figure I save lots of money by not playing games like golf, so I can spend a lot on good shoes for what a set of golf clubs, golf spikes, lost balls and green fees would cost. And I see good shoes as an investment in fun and injury prevention. When you run distance, your feet take a beating. As Gretchen Reynolds pointed out in the New York Times: "The foot is at such high risk of injury largely because it has so many small, frangible parts - 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 tendons, ligaments and muscles, any of which can fail." (Experts in her article even recommend stretching your foot to prevent injury. Go to to learn how.)

If you run very far, say more than a couple miles, the damage can be pretty impressive. Ever wonder why your feet feel sore after a run? Her experts say it's because they have been damaged: "small cracks in the bones, tiny broken capillaries, and fluid build up in bone marrow." Even young, strong runners often suffer stress fractures. Well, as you age, your feet will take even more of a beating because the padding under your foot starts to thin.

All my shoes are snug, comfortable, laterally stable, offer good underfoot protection over the full length of my foot, and they grip the surface I am running on. You want to be able to run for a long time, not just over a few miles, but over many years of your life, for as long as you are able. A smart TOJ needs good shoes.

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