Just like Mma Makutsi in Alexander McCall Smith's 'Blue Shoes and Happiness', it is well known that I like shoes. While Mma Makutsi's shoes speak to her and give very sensible advice, my shoes tend to be silent, although there was that time when my Black Suede Boots insisted that I take their photo so that I could send it to all of my friends so that they could admire the boots' loveliness too...but that's another story.
Bassman (also known as The Husband) thinks that I am a shoe snob. Not so. My £10 Tesco boots are as much loved as the more exclusive, demanding Black Suede Boots, and I can be as excited about new running shoes as I can about a new pair of Irregular Choice heels. Even more so at the moment, because my new running shoes appear to be the answer to my achilles tendon problems.
Over the last nine months or so I've been plagued by achilles tendon pain, but it has only really been a problem when I've increased my mileage or increased my speed above certain limits. As long as I did short runs at a slow speed, and with a shorter stride than I normally would use, it was okay. Not entirely satisfactory, but I got by. It was only when I started training for the recent 10k that the pain escalated and persisted. Before taking myself off to the physio or to the sports podiatry specialist, however, I did what comes naturally. I investigated the option of some new shoes.
I went to our local branch of Run4It where a very helpful sales person watched me walk and run, and then completely contradicted the advice I had been given years ago at another running store. Not only am I not as severe a pronator as I had been told, I apparently have an almost neutral gait. And the version of Asics that I was wearing - and which I bought nine months ago - were completely inappropriate for me.
The choice came down to Asics versus Saucony, but both with only mild support as opposed to a higher level of motion control. The Asics felt fine - but when I tried on the Saucony shoes, I burst out laughing because they felt so good, and I'm sure that I heard them say, 'Buy us, and we'll take you around that marathon course on white and pink and silver cushions of air.'
So of course I bought them. Comfort plus a bit of sparkle. I took them for a 3 mile run on the treadmill at the gym - no achilles pain at all. I took them for a 2 mile run outside yesterday - not only was there no pain, but I increased my speed and my stride length and it felt fine. They have now accompanied me on a work trip to Shetland, so we'll see how they do on hills. The real test will come with longer distances, but I am cautiously optimistic.
More evidence that the right shoes can indeed change your life.