For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved getting new shoes. Whether it was a new pair of basketball high tops or a pair of football cleats, I loved the process of shopping for shoes growing up. The older I get, the more I like finding great deals on shoes!
For the runner, shoes are perhaps the most important piece of equipment we buy. If you’re like me, once you find a pair of running shoes that fit and perform well, you keep coming back to them again and again.
Several years ago, I bought a pair of Nike XC Waffle Racers that weigh less than 5 ounces each. I had worn them for only a couple training runs before deciding to wear them for the rugged Lead King Loop 25k trail race in Marble, Colorado. The race begins with ½ mile of flat dirt road before climbing 2900 ft. over the next 5 miles. Once at the top of the climb, runners begin a brutal 10 mile descent on a rough jeep road filled with scree, bowling ball-sized rocks and tough footing en route to the finish.
The shoes felt great on the climb to the top. In fact, the only real experimenting I’ve done with them was primarily uphill. Unfortunately, I learned one of the most painful lessons in my running career on that mean descent. I began feeling some blisters forming at around the 8 mile mark. This is a dreadful feeling when you still have over 7 miles of rough terrain ahead of you.
By the 10 mile mark, my feet were in shear agony. These shoes were made for tame, soft and grassy surfaces which I was reminded of with every painful step. By the 11 mile mark, I was tip-toeing over and around the rocks. Not only were new blisters forming, but my heels felt like iron rods were being driven into them as they absorbed the impact of the crushing descent.
I began running through every cool puddle of water I came across in order to gain some short-lived relief. Creek crossings were a glorious sight indeed! Somewhere in the last couple miles I think my feet went numb and I just tried to push as hard as I could to get the torture over with. With only 200 yards to the finish, I glanced down and noticed blood oozing out my left shoe near my pinky toe. Not good.
Upon finishing, I proceeded straight over to the nearby Beaver Lake where I soaked my battered feet for about fifteen minutes in the ice cold mountain water. When it was all said and done, I ended up with 7 blisters, 2 badly bruised heels and a humbled spirit. I wouldn’t run another step for over a week as I hobbled around.
Not only is it important to buy properly fitting shoes, it’s also important to test those shoes on a variety of training runs and specifically on the type of terrain you’ll encounter in upcoming races. I failed on both accounts as I bought the shoes online without trying them on (a great deal, I might add) and didn’t test them out like I should have. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way…dang!
One year later, I returned to the Lead King Loop with more cushioned trail running shoes and a built in rock plate for added protection. I ended up 3rd overall and my feet were in great shape post-race!
May you learn from my mistake and have more bliss than blisters!
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How can any reasonable human sift through all that and find the ones that work? Or which ones are bogus?
I did a deep dive into the truth about “increasing your energy”...