The Existential Dread of Local Running Stores

“Support your local running store!”

What a complicated statement. Be prepared for a heavy dose of emotional hand-wringing and navel-gazing! And also some privileged whining from a cis white lady of average size who can’t get out of her own head.

I have needed a new pair of road shoes for awhile now. I put a lot of miles on my shoes despite advice (propaganda?) to replace them at 250-300 miles. I meant to replace them at 450 mi or so, but I went over the 500 mile mark last week and had to draw a line in the sand.

I hate going into running stores. I just hate it. The very things that make them unique and valuable are also what fill me with existential dread. Knowledgeable, passionate, talented runners – I feel like they can smell my amateurness and my double-digit minute mile pace and think I don’t belong in their store.

This is stupid because I have never actually received overt discrimination from a running store employee. I feel pretty fortunate because I know there are others out there who have been given the once-over by some young, fit, 18 minute 5Ker and been ignored, patronized, or straight up insulted. And here I am unable to get out of my own head and accept that I belong in these spaces.

I had a couple running stores in Duluth that I liked (Austin Jarrow and Duluth Running Company), and if I’m in Duluth when I need new shoes, I will shop there. Out of sheer laziness or cheapness I have purchased shoes online, but I try to avoid shopping online for a variety of reasons (packaging waste, pollution, big box stores that don’t support my running community) and I made a point that I was not going to give in to my laziness this time around. I was going to buy from a Twin Cities-based store and do it in person.

The running stores that are the most involved in the events that I do (trail races, especially) are also the least convenient for me to get to, so I decided to try a different one last weekend, one that I’d never really heard of and didn’t know much about, because it was significantly more convenient. Unfortunately, the experience wasn’t that great, even though it was really no fault of the store or its employees and more my own neurotic reaction to perfectly normal circumstances.

I walked in to the store (with my non-runner spouse) and there were quite a few people in there for such a small store. Probably half the people in there were teen boys, most of whom appeared to be employees, milling about and talking to each other. When I worked in retail, managers would always tell us not to stand in groups and talk, partially because they wanted us to be busy doing stupid stuff like cleaning or trying to open credit cards, and partially because it was poor customer service. It puts the customer in a position where they feel like they are interrupting. Of course I often stood in groups and talked to people, because you can only stand in silence, cleaning the same glass countertop over and over again, for so long before you go insane.

I had a moment of panic where I thought they didn’t have the shoe brand I wanted, and I would have to endure the awkwardness of either leaving right away, or listening to a sales pitch of how I would like this other brand (usually Brooks, it’s always Brooks, or New Balance) and then I’d have to say “No, I do not want to switch shoe models in the middle of marathon training” and then imagine them internally saying “You are running a marathon? Let me guess, Disney in a tutu with your mom friends,” and externally saying “Oh, is this your first marathon?” and then I’d die a little inside because I like pizza and bagels too much to ever look like I’ve run a marathon before. Also there’s nothing wrong with running Disney in a tutu with mom friends, beyond the conspicuous consumption that accompanies the Disney races. Tutus, mom friends, they are cool with me. We don’t all have to wear XXXS singlets with our track club on them in order to be considered runners.

To the store’s credit, one of the teens peeled off from the group right away to approach me politely and ask if he could help me, and then pointed me to the correct spot on the wall where the Mizunos were. I had a moment of disappointment when I saw that the shoes were the exact same color pattern as the pair I had just run into the ground. Boring! He went and grabbed a box, which took approximately one eon to find, while I stood there feeling like I was in everyone’s way, looking around and pondering why Ryan Hall felt the need to write a Bible verse on the signed photo displayed near the register.

The guy handed over the box and I told him I didn’t even need to try them on, which he was cool with. I got in line and that’s when things just got really weird for me. This customer ahead of me was being so strange. He was some kind of running coach, either for high schoolers or for a running club or something, and he was talking loudly with one of the employees about various races that his team had participated in. This woman was also some kind of coach and this guy just seemed like he was… posturing? Trying to appear dominant? Just bragging? I don’t know. It was very weird and he was extremely annoying and his constant talking was slowing down his transaction and prolonging my time in this uncomfortable situation. He filled up the room with his loud talking about how his club beat her club or he would have put together a team for some event but it was age-graded or something. I don’t even know, it was just weird competitive team running stuff that I don’t understand. I mean, I was the SLPHS cross country team manager (boys and girls, mind you) for one season in 2001, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this subject, but I couldn’t follow much of what he was talking about. All I knew is if this guy was a dog, he would have been peeing all over this store to mark his territory.

I realize this is unfair to the store, because it’s not their fault they had a weirdly insecure customer loudly talking and practically shouting across the room at their employee. But I really don’t want to go back there because it was such a weird experience, despite it being a relatively convenient store for me to patronize.

This whole experience is part of a larger question for me; I wonder if there will ever come a time when I feel like I belong in running-related spaces. I mean, I generally feel comfortable at trail races now that I’ve met so many people and volunteered and participated. But will there ever be a time when I show up to a race, or walk into a store, or pick up a packet, or wander an expo, and not feel like every person in the place thinks I don’t belong?

And if such a time comes, when will that be? When I reach a certain time in a 5K? When I lose a certain amount of weight? When I wake up one day and get the eff over myself? That last one sounds pretty appealing. Because intellectually I know that if I run, I am a runner, and I belong in a running store, buying running shoes to run in as a runner. Emotionally, I need to catch up. I’ve got 215.2 more miles on my trail shoes to figure that out!

New Shoes: Mizuno Wave Prophecy 4

I am loath to give free advertising to a product, but I guess since we all do it inadvertently on social media by talking about movies we like, music we listen to, hobbies, food, etc., it doesn’t really matter if I post about some shoes.

This spring, I wrote about problems with my shoes. A reader recommended I contact the manufacturer, Mizuno, to see what they could do, and it turned out the shoes were under warranty. After I got the return approved, I finally got around to mailing them back in. I don’t know why going to the post office is something I put off the way most people put off the dentist, but it is.

I was given a choice of color for the Wave Prophecy 4s (I got such a great deal on the 3s because they were closing out the model, so they didn’t have them in stock), so I chose these:

When I got them, they looked like this:


So, they’re a bit brighter than I thought. I expected more of a minty green. I like them, but I prefer the color in the photo.

When I first started running in them a few weeks ago, my feet cramped a bit during the first few miles, especially on softer trails. Pain like that led me to use inserts in my shoes before, but I knew I’d run in a similar model of shoe without this pain, so I decided to run through it until the shoes were broken in more, and I don’t have the foot pain anymore.

These shoes are really heavy. They weigh 10.2 oz, making them Mizuno’s heaviest shoe (they actually have a shoe that only weighs 2.2 oz. I can’t even fathom that. It would be like wearing a flip-flop.) It doesn’t feel like I’m clomping around with cement shoes or anything like that, but when I switched over from my old shoes, I noticed a difference at first. The extra weight is from the cushion and the shock-absorbing sole. They really do absorb the pounding of the pavement nicely. Sometimes clods of mud or other debris get stuck in the shock-absorbing bottom of the shoe and rattle around a bit, but I have also noticed my feet don’t get as wet or as cold because the bottom of my foot isn’t actually touching the ground.

I don’t have any unusual fit issues with shoes, like extremely high arches, or an uncommon width. I haven’t had my gait analyzed or a professional shoe fitting (I chose these shoes originally because I wanted to see what a $200 shoe felt like, and they were on sale for like $80), so maybe I am completely unaware of some huge issue with the fit of my shoe. That makes this shoe review fairly useless, because I can’t say “Well the toe box is [wide/narrow/long/whatever] and the shoe is totally different from the previous model!” I don’t know, it’s a shoe. There are all these reviews on the shoe’s page where the reviewer said they loved the Prophecy 1 and 2, but the 3 sucked, and now the 4 is great! I don’t really get it. I had a durability issue with the 3, but I don’t notice that the 4 feels any different than the 3. Of course, I didn’t use the shoes back to back and analyze every step.

I am spoiling myself (specifically my feet, shins, and knee) with these shoes, because they are not worth the price to me at this point, but for someone with injury issues, they could definitely be worth the price, because they really do absorb a lot of the pounding that one’s body normally does during running. And I don’t know, maybe the “insulating” effect they have in the winter will make them worth my money sooner rather than later.

Summer Gear Wish List

I’m trying not to go overboard on gadgets and gear and trying to stick to what I need to improve and accomplish my goals, but I’ve let some of my wants go by the wayside lately and now this list is getting a little long.

High priority:
2 new sports bras
Head lamp
Handheld water bottle

I must purchase the head lamp in the next couple weeks, in order to have it in time for my solstice plans. The hand-held is something I could probably get away with avoiding forever, but I need to get used to it, I need an easy spot to put my keys, and it’s going to get warm soon (I hope) so I’ll need water/whatever on longer runs for safety’s sake. I got tired of hauling my Powerade out of my hydration backpack on my last long trail run.

My favorite sports bra is falling apart, and the one I bought to replace it is terrible. I’m eventually going to do a review on it because it is so bad in so many ways.

Medium priority:
New hose for my hydration backpack
Second pair of running shoes
Running shorts that actually work for me
Body Glide

Obviously the Body Glide and the shorts go hand in hand. I don’t run in shorts currently because I’m always finding them riding up, bunching up, and causing all kinds of discomfort. I want to find a pair of shorts that I like. They must stay in place and not cause chafing. I will stick to capris and full-length tights if I can’t find a pair of shorts that I don’t have to constantly keep digging out of my crotch. Too much information, I know, but sorry. My thighs touch and probably always will, they make shorts a problem. Hence the Body Glide.

I would like a second pair of running shoes for a couple of reasons. First, because people say it’s a good thing to alternate shoes (prevents injury or something), and while that might be shoe manufacturer propaganda, I’ve bought into it, I guess. Second, because it gives me an option if my shoes are wet or muddy from the previous day’s run. Third, because I am still trying out options for shoes and want to see what’s right for me. Fourth, because I might want to swap them out during a race or super long training run if I’m having problems or my feet are soaked or something. Fifth, because I won’t have to break in new shoes as quickly, and I won’t have to run in crappy worn out shoes while I’m breaking the shoes in, as long as I space out my new shoe purchases.

Too many gross things have happened to the hose and mouthpiece to my hydration backpack for me to ever feel like it’s truly clean, which is one of the top reasons I don’t actually fill the bladder in it. The other reason is I need to clean the bladder. Nothing gross happened to that, it just has the usual deposits left behind by water.

Low priority:
New hydration backpack

I don’t really need a new hydration backpack, the one I currently have is adequate, but the newer ones are so convenient! Mine has one big pocket and no storage in the straps, so I can’t get easy access to anything, I have to take the pack off to reach the pocket. I’d like something that I can use more efficiently.

This is an annoying amount of stuff, and doesn’t include a list of stuff I need for fall as I start mapping out my fall races. The good news is I’m entering my final 6 months as a student, and I’ll only be part-time this fall and thus working more, so my finances should open up a bit. The bad news is I still don’t want to be a conspicuous consumer of a wasteful amount of running products. (Owning 2 hydration backpacks is probably conspicuous consumption.)

My goal is to be thoughtful and patient about purchasing new running stuff. Except about socks, I don’t need to think too hard about buying extra socks. But beyond socks, I shouldn’t be buying running stuff just to buy it, I should be buying gear that lasts a long time and serves a true purpose, and I should put some research into what I’m getting. Now, off to Google “best headlamps for running.”

Everything Old is New Again

I wrote a few weeks ago about my problems with my current running shoes, and in the comments a reader suggested contacting the manufacturer. It hadn’t occurred to me, so I appreciated the suggestion and took her up on it.

After tracking down a proof of purchase for the shoes (I bought them in mid-November, and I hardly ran at all in December, so that means the shoes didn’t even stand up to 4 months of wear), I’m now boxing them up and sending them off to Mizuno for an exchange (assuming the exchange is approved).

That means I’m stuck running in my old shoes. My old shoes are by Saucony and I don’t even recall why I bought them. Probably because they looked ok and the price was ok. They seemed like they’re about half the weight of my current shoes, so I thought maybe I’d be flying along with them on my feet. They also smelled horribly, to the point where I could smell them while running. At least, I hope it was my shoes I was smelling, and not something else I was wearing. Ew.

I was wrong about feeling like I was flying, because my current shoes are a lot better shock absorbers than my old shoes (I guess that’s where the extra weight comes in). I also used to run with inserts in my old shoes, but I took those inserts out before running yesterday, in keeping with my semi-minimalist plan, so I was wearing lighter, uncushioned shoes and pounding the pavement with my heels like crazy at first. My stride was completely different and I felt like I was stomping. It took a couple miles to get a stride that felt good. I am a little bit more sore today than I usually am, but not as sore as I thought I would be after a stomp-run.

Unfortunately I am stuck running with these old shoes until they either send me my replacement shoes or send me my old shoes back with a note rejecting my warranty claim. It will probably take awhile to get the return processed and the new/old shoes shipped to me, so I expect these old shoes will carry me through today’s “medium effort” run, a 14-miler, hill repeats, a mid-week 7-miler, and a faux-10k race at a minimum. Shoes, don’t fail me now.

I suppose this would be the time for me to mention conventional wisdom recommends alternating between two pairs of shoes. Whoops.

In My Shoes

Oh look, a picture of my shoes, how gauche.

I took this picture after my excursion to Hartley on Saturday. They look a lot less muddy than they were, although I tried to knock a bunch of it off so it didn’t end up in my house.

I need new shoes. I find this annoying because I haven’t owned them for that long. I can’t remember when I got them but I think it was last fall. So I’ve had them maybe 6 months, and there were a few months in that time frame where I wasn’t running at all. These shoes should be lasting through this marathon training cycle at least!

These shoes are Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3s, which are normally $200+ shoes. They were on sale for the price of a reasonably-priced running shoe, so I got them because I wanted to see what a $200 shoe was like without paying $200. I am not an idiot, it would be ridiculous for a slow n00b runner to buy $200 shoes. I assumed they were on sale because they are hideous, but I believe they were just switching over to the new model, like with cars. I didn’t even know shoes worked like that.

I need new shoes because there’s a hole on the inside of the heel of both shoes. This is probably because I am doing something wrong, and I’m supposed to be slipping them on and off with a shoe horn or having a butler remove them, but I am an engineer. Factors of safety are incorporated into designs in order to ensure a product, machine, or system is safe, not only under ideal operating conditions, but under abnormal operating conditions. A freaking shoe lining shouldn’t be wearing out in six months.

I also need new shoes because I was holding my cat while wearing them a couple weeks ago, and my friend came over and she got scared when she saw him coming and peed on my shoe. I am amazed it didn’t get anywhere but my shoe, since I was holding her, but cleaning the scent of cat pee out of a shoe is not easy.

I don’t really want to spend the money on new shoes now, and I’m not getting any blisters or rubbing, so I might tough it out a bit longer. It’s not the best idea to break in new shoes right before a marathon (especially since I will not be repurchasing these shoes unless they are under $100), but if I start to get hot spots or signs of blisters, I’ll have no choice.

I’m also disappointed that $200 shoes didn’t turn me into Kara Goucher overnight. They were good shoes, though. I did find they were good at keeping water and mud out, except for the really deep puddles.