A Love Affair

Posted by Filed Under: Gear & Apparel, Shoes

I love running shoes.

There’s something great about the life-cycle of a good pair of shoes.

It starts with the hydrocarbon smell and the crinkle of paper in a new shoe box. It ends with memories of miles and races, and a new pair of sneakers for bumming around and mowing the yard. Between, there’s the quiet assurance that the shoes are going to be there when you want them—no blisters, no pain, nada.

Once in a while, it’s possible to hit a great streak—find a model that is just right, that fits out of the box. If you find such a model, latch onto them, and don’t let go.
In my case, I’ve been addicted to Asics’ Gel Cumulus for YEARS.

It started back in the mid-90’s, when a pair of GC’s got me through Navy Officer Candidate School. The shoes kept me just ahead of the Marines yelling at me to “Drop on your face and push the ground!” I hurt for three months, but none of it was related to poor footware. Thirty-five pounds later, I walked out of Pensacola, Florida, and a couple of months later, I picked up a new pair of GCs.

Playing the Field

I dallied with other running shoes in the intervening years, but none of them did more for me than the Asics. However, this year I’ve been struggling with leg and joint pain. Reading back through my blog, I’ve tried about everything to eliminate it with the exception of a new pair of shoes. So, bowing to the obvious, and being near (but not quite at) the point where I needed a pair of shoes, I headed down to my local running shop for some advice.
For the record, it’s kind of cool to be able to get fitted by a Boston winner. He looked at my old shoes briefly, asked a couple of questions, and recommended a new pair with a little bit more mid-foot support. I tried them on, and went and took a quick jog around the shopping center. When I came back, he had a couple more suggestions.

Ultimately, I went with the first pair he’d recommended. The jury is out as to the change’s effectiveness—I’ll check back in a couple months.

But I’m sold on the specialty store experience. Within a couple of minutes, the staff at the store had talked to me about my running habits, watched me walk and take a couple of strides without seeing any major structural flaws, and recommended a shoe I never would have considered. I paid a little bit more than I would have in a big sports store or online, but the shop sponsors a bunch of the races I love. And the experience was great.

I’ve only run a couple of times in the new shoes, but the aftermath has been great—pain continues to decrease, and I’m getting some flexibility back in my ankles. Good stuff.

About Bill Jankowski

Jank is the nom-de-plume (alias) of Bill Jankowski. Jank is a runner (defined as “one who runs”, without any necessary claims of athleticism). More accurate would be to say that he enjoys the company of his iPod, and goes to great lengths to get long periods of time alone with his thoughts. Plus, running is a wonderful way to keep his ego in check. He’s been physically active since he was a kid (assuming that, for the years 1995-1999 and 2001-2003, drinking counts as “active”), playing Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball while in college (for his fraternity’s B-team)(Actually, add 1990-1994 to the years of inactivity). In addition to running, Jank swims (controlled drowning), bikes (’cause his mom suggested he play in traffic as a kid), and kayaks (see swimming, but with sharks and props). An engineer by the grace of God, a (recovering) submariner by the graces of the taxpayers of the United States, and an MBA by mistake, Bill enjoys gear (oooh, shiny!), cycling (oooh, shiny bikes and clothes!), and poking at accepted ideas with a pointy stick. In 2004, Jank decided he didn’t want to go full-over to being fat, and took up running (instead of stopping eating). In 2005, he finished his first marathon (WooHoo!) in October, and his second two weeks later (dumb idea). He is still recovering. Bill lives in Connecticut (the poorer, eastern part) with his lovely wife Melissa (who is far more fit than he is and way less navel-gazing about it), and their two sons, Jake and Nate, who, in addition to having deliberately cool names, are the finest children to grace the Earth (clear proof that “evolution through natural selection” is bunk; although he still questions the monthly bill for “Pool Boy” despite not having a swimming pool). His rants can be found at; his best stuff is found here at CRN.

  1. Amanda on July 18th at 8:32 am

    I have to say, that I too had a style of shoe that I loved and was convinced was the best. A speciality running store steared me in a different direction and it took my foot awhile to adjust to having more support, but in the long run I think it’s been better on my body to have my foot hitting the ground in the proper shoe… though I do still dream of my old pair.

  2. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on July 18th at 9:32 am

    Amanda, why not buy both and swap between them?

    I currently rotate between 4 or 5 pairs of shoes every run, which means that I can 3 to 5 days between wearing the same pair of shoes. Of the four main pairs that I rotate between, there are two different brands (Nike and Asics) and all four shoes are different styles.

  3. jank on July 18th at 10:10 am

    In my case, design changes had made the old shoe one that wasn’t suited to my foot at all – which was a tough thing to accept.

    Kind of like getting out of the drive-thru and finding you’ve got someone else’s order, ‘cept physically painful.

    The shoe rotation is an interesting idea – wonder if that might decrease the tendency for repetitive stress injuries, especially if you’re using a treadmill.

  4. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on July 18th at 12:05 pm


    Last year I wrote a series about shoes that was published at Run to Win while I was on my honeymoon. Specifically, you should check out the article about rotating your shoes.

  5. david on July 18th at 7:46 pm

    You get crinkly paper in your running shoe boxes? I feel gyped. I paid premium price and all I got were two shoes …. but they were the best two shoes!
    I tried on every shoe in the store. When the shoe fits like a glove that’s the one. Don’t go any further. You will know. It’s like true love.

  6. Amanda on July 19th at 9:13 am

    I do actually rotate between 3 or 4 pairs at a time, which is one of the best tricks I ever learned! The old kind are no longer made, sniff and really probably were awful on my feet as they had no support…it was probably more the sentimenatal attachment than anything else.

  7. Marci G on July 19th at 7:56 pm

    Agreed, there is nothing like a specialty store when it comes to running shoes. I was still having ball-of-the-foot pain 4 months after foot surgery, so I thought I’d see if a different style of shoe would help. The staff analyzed my gait on a treadmill and informed me I’m no longer a pronator (thank you, surgery!) My shoes were correcting for pronation that I no longer had, hence the pain. The staff made suggestions that all fit and felt amazing, and I’ve been pain free ever since — in my foot, at least. Try getting THAT kind of service at a regular shoe store!