Friday, March 15, 2013

My 2009 Hot Pink Marathon Shoes

The closer I get to Saturday (ooh, that would be tomorrow!), the more I realize I'm not just running a marathon; I'm entering an Amusement Park/Marketing Plaza/Shopping Extravaganza.   Not only did I pay a highly-unMiserly race fee and transportation expenses, but  I've been getting increasingly jazzy emails touting even  more ways I can spend my money.  There's going to be a huge "Expo" full of salespeople hawking their wares.  I could pay extra to have the organizers text my updated location to my loved ones.  If I buy $150 worth of marathon-themed merchandise, I can get into the VIP PortaPotties (designed for those flush with cash?)

As you might imagine, I find all this commercialization a little alarming -- I thought I was doing a race, not going to DisneyLand.  So I'm doing my best to hold down costs:  Yes, I paid the race fees.  Yes, we'll drive the 100+ miles from here to the race.  But I'm staying with my frugal dad, not in a hotel.  And I'm not buying access to VIPotties, or text messages, or photographs.  And I'm not, gosh darn it, going to buy ANY new clothes.

When I told my students about the No-New-Clothes mantra, they were horrified.  "But you need new shoes every year, or you'll get injured!" they said.  They were genuinely worried, bless them.  I love my students . . . but still, hearing this, Miser Mom had to respond.

Are my students correct?  Do we really need to buy NEW shoes EVERY YEAR if we want to exercise?  Or is there a reason that these lovely kids are still students, whereas I (wearing 6-year-old shoes) am the professor?
[I'm being tongue-in-cheek here; there are actually lots of times when I learn something important from my students.]

The shoes I will be wearing come Marathon Day are these beauties, purchased at a yard sale in 2009 for exactly $1.   I love these shoes; they've carried me through three half-marathons and a couple of shorter races, and they've been my support (so to speak) on more training miles than I can count, including a few recent 20- and 15-mile runs.  They fit me well and they still show hardly any wear.

I claim that it's those two things  -- fit and wear -- that really matter in deciding when to replace shoes.  There's not a secret little timer inside a shoe that goes "bing!" when two years have passed that suddenly turns a perfectly fine shoe into a knee-mauling monster.  Shoes don't need grocery-store-style expiration dates that warn you when they might turn sour.  If the shoe feels good, and if you feel good while you wear it and afterwords, then it's a good shoe.
(In fact, I've noticed over my very long runs these past few months that it's laces that matter to me most of all:  don't lace your shoes too tight!  Loosening up my laces made a surprisingly huge difference between aches and comfort.)
I've blathered on before about all the lack of data to support the "used shoes are bad shoes" fears; I've also written a bit more on the positive side, showing that cheap shoes are actually better than expensive ones.  If you want convincing --- or if you agree with me but want some arguments to convince others around you --- you can go read those posts.

But what if I'm completely wrong?  What if a runner really does imperil life-and-limb by wearing a (gasp) 3-year-old shoe?  Or even, like me, a 6-year-old shoe?

Let's look at the students who were so worried about me.  One of them was a football player -- hardly a safety-first pastime.  Several of them were women who wear high heels -- a well-documented way to risk knee health.  Still other of my students clearly spend part of their weekends engaged in what I might delicately call Unhealthy Beverage Activities Typical of College Students.   And in spite of all these risky behaviors, we're all still miraculously okay.

What football, high heels, and Saturday beverage activities all have in common --- and what makes them different from wearing 6-year-old running shoes --- is not just that I claim that the running shoes aren't risky.  It's that the first three are socially acceptable, even socially promoted, ways to risk health.  Even more, they all cost money --- so my students are risking damage to their bodies and they're paying to do so!  

Taken in that context, you can see that my students' exhortation to be careful with my old shoes isn't really about safety or health; it's really about conformity.  It's really about fitting in.

But I'll say it again: for me, it's not fitting in with the crowd; it's fitting into my shoes that matters.  And I'm really looking forward to taking these trusty old hot pink babies down to DC with me tomorrow.


  1. Plus those shoes are cute! I'm guilty of nearly yearly (ha!) shoe replacement. But, I do feel it makes a difference. I push it out because I do a lot of my miles on a treadmill. Lower impact, knee and shoe saver, and as I understand it the actual concern is a break down/compression of the soles. I'm rocking 9 month old shoes right now that are making me a little twitchy, but I'll keep 'em until I start to feel it in the balls of my feet, which is usually my indicator that its time. Buck the propaganda.

    I was also shocked at the consumerism of my 1/2 last year. An expo?! really!? Worse, they forced me to attend because I had to pick up my number there. I did score some lovely free samples of energy bars, nuun, and grocery coupons, and spent $0. They didnt know who they were dealing with.

    Best of luck tomorrow! I'll be thinking of you! 26.2!! Woot Woot!

    1. Thanks much! The weather report says steady rain all morning, high of 44 degrees. We're in for some rather chilly, damp running, I'm afraid! My hot pink shoes are going to get wet . . . -MM

    2. . . . but the rain never actually came. Perfect running weather! Dang, but even so, that was a long run. Back in the day when I was a young and perky 21-year-old, I did a marathon in just seconds under 4:15:00. Now that I'm older and more sedate, I slowed down . . . to 4:21:51. I'll take that! Yay! -- MM

  2. I thought of you when I bought new shoes last weekend. The previous pair had lasted me 2 years, but during my dance-fitness class they were putting me in danger of twisted knees or outright falls because they had no traction anymmore. (It's kind of ironic - when I bought them new, I was hurting my knees because they had too much traction on the carpeted floor at the ASFC. Now they have no traction and I'm taking classes in a room with waxed wood floors.) I think it also depends on your feet - I have to wear prescription orthotic inserts, and finding a supportive pair of shoes that fits my orthotics always winds up meaning a visit to a specific shoe-store near my parents. If you have normal feet/ankles though, and your shoes feel supportive enough, I don't see why you shouldn't use your hot pink shoes!

    Woot Woot on your marathon time, too!