Be true to your shoe

The Cascadia 8

When I started running in the late 1970s, I would find a shoe, run it into the ground in six months, head back to my local Phidippides to buy another pair — and discover the manufacturer either no longer made that shoe or had drastically altered it to the point that a shoe that recently fit a short, wide foot now only accommodated a sleek Cinderella. It would take me three or four more six-month cycles to find another Mr. Right Fit — and six months later that shoe was likewise gone. I still remember the sales guy trying to console me after breaking the news that my beloved Saucony Jazz had changed and was no longer right for me.

Last May, three years into my second running life, this one more geared toward trail than pavement, I was introduced to the Brooks Cascadia 7. I thought I’d been happy in my Vasque Mindbenders, and I was. A blister or two is to be expected on long trail runs. Hot feet as well. But it didn’t take five miles in my new Cascadias to tell me I’d found my true shoe. They weren’t the trendy minimalist shoes, the gossamer coverings I’d seen dance past me in trail races. But who was I kidding? My aging bones can’t take that much direct pounding; I need the extra cush. The tread was grippy and the inside wrapped around my chubby foot like dough around the pig in-a-blanket. They were bombproof.

I couldn’t have been happier.

After the Umstead Trail Marathon March 2, I decided to treat myself to new shoes — new Cascadias, of course. I swung by the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Cameron Village, plucked a new Cascacadia 8 from the display rack and joyfully tossed it in my hands. A little lighter than the 7, I realized. “Can I try this in a 9?” I asked. I wasn’t expecting any surprises; still, always good to play it safe. And safe my foot felt, nestled in this familiar cocoon of comfort.

But as I was bouncing around in my soon-to-be 8s, I happened to notice the 8’s neighbor on the display rack — the Brooks PureFlow2. It was shinny (orange, with black and white trim), it was light (at 8.8 ounces, a significant 3.1 ounces lighter than the Cascadia 8 ) and it looked fast! I playfully tossed this light, sexy shoe in my right hand.

“Here are your shoes.” I found myself holding a box of my old standbys in one hand, an orange vixen in the other. Reluctantly, I put the orange shoe back, paid for my 8s and left.

For a week, the 8s staid in the back seat of my car, unopened. I confessed my longings for the PureFlow2 to my training buddy, Chuck. If you were tempted by the PureFlow2, he said, wait until you see the Altra Running Lone Peak,  “which I think you would find to be a suitable replacement for the Cascadia.” Homewrecker.

I was torn. I loved the Cascadias, I really did. They’d been so good to me over the past year. And really, for a guy my age the PureFlow2 made no sense. Minimal support, clearly inadequate tread for the rocky, rooty trails I run. And glow-in-the-dark orange? If that doesn’t scream midlife running crisis. And yet … .

I needed to clear my head, to think. And of course the best place to do that is on the trail, running. It was cool out but sunny, a gorgeous day for a run and it enveloped me from the start. The first mile or so of this particular run — the Loblolly Trail at Umstead State Park — is a mellow downhill, easy to warm to and get lost in. I juked through rock gardens, floated over rocks, gave in to long, lurid strides on the longer downhill stretches. This is why I run, I thought. And that’s about when I realized me dilemma was solved.
The answer, it turned out, was right at the tip of my ankles.

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