photo: Joe Schaefer

This might be glaringly obvious to serious runners out there, but as someone who never considered myself a runner for a really long time, I had no idea how extremely important the right pair of running shoes is. Here I am at 22 years old, preparing to run my first half-marathon, and it JUST dawned on me that sneakers are the gateway to my success.

When I began talking to more experienced runners about the race I'm training for, they started throwing questions about my sneakers at me. I realized that I couldn’t really follow along, let alone even tell them the exact type of old Saucony shoes I had been running around in.

So I marched to Columbus Circle in Manhattan, ready to get my first official fitting for the sneakers that, in my mind, would carry me through the next few weeks and across that finish line. (I had actually been to the store once before just to browse and get a sense of the full fitting from afar. Creepy, I know, but I wanted to get a sense of what they were going to make me do when I was ready for my own.)

I nervously walked in to what seemed like a runner's paradise, hoping to find my perfect fit. It was like walking into a crowded room hoping to find the man of your dreams among all the other boys. I locked eyes with a salesperson and thought, This is it! It’s happening.

My fluttering heart soon quieted down as I slowly realized that my fitting wasn’t turning out as magical as I had hoped. The salesperson who helped me didn’t really have much to say or many questions to ask. I ran on the treadmill so he could tell if I overpronate, which I do not, and then he brought me three pairs of sneakers.

The first pair was a total disaster. They didn’t bounce or bend with my step. I felt like I was walking on planks. Then I slipped my feet into a purple pair of Asics and felt pretty great. However, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for or what I needed and I didn’t really get much of an explanation from the salesperson fitting me either. The last pair was a stunning pair of pink Nike Pegasus sneakers. I tried them on, bounced around the store a bit, and was sure these were the ones. They made me feel like I had a second skin over my feet while walking on air. This was it. I had found them. I walked out of the store that day with my head held high. 

photo: Joe Schaefer

Unfortunately, my euphoria didn't last long. Slowly but surely, as my training progressed and the week went on, I started noticing a strange numbing sensation in my feet. 

Naturally, I entered into the seven stages of grief over my former perfect fit as they slowly turned into a source of pain. Denial hit me first, and it hit me hard. I tried to reason that I had to break in my new shoes and that over time they’d grow to love me as much as I loved them. Guilt crept in soon after, leaving me with sorrow over the $110 I had just spent. Next came anger, and boy, was I pissed. I immediately thought that if I had spent my fitting time with a different salesperson I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Maybe someone else would have taken the time to talk to me about my goals, where I planned on running, how often I’d be running, little details like this. However, he did not, and I was left to make decisions on my own that I had never made before.

Although I can’t return the shoes I purchased after eagerly throwing the receipt away, I’ve accepted that my first pair of running shoes might not have been my perfect fit. I talked to other runners and found out that most of them have bought at least one pair of the wrong sneakers. Luckily, I kept my Saucony sneakers from this past summer, and for now I’m testing them out to see if they work better for me. So far, they’ve been much better, but I’m still in the market looking for my exclusive pair.

If I can share any advice about getting fitted for your first pair of sneakers, it's this: Keep your receipt, because like most first partners, they might not be the love of your life.

photo: Joe Schaefer