My daughter has been home visiting, and on Tuesday, she turned her running shoes over to show me their soles. Evidently, according to her, the worn spots on the bottoms of your running shoes are like a road map of your good and bad athletic form. Kind of like reading palms, I guess.
Curious, I picked up my own walking shoes and turned them over to examine the soles. Oops . . . busted! The soles were so badly worn that not only were they treadless, I was actually walking on the bottom of the shoes’ inner cushions. “You’ve got to get new shoes immediately,” my appalled daughter scolded.
The next morning, she went with me to the shoe store where I gazed in amazement at the dozens of athletic shoes displayed on the wall. I longed for the old days before I started walking 2 to 4 a day when I could just go to a discount store and get a pair of cheapo tennis shoes to walk to the refrigerator and back. Now that I’m the seriously athletic type, the choices have become much more complex.
A sales associate about six inches shorter and forty years younger than I am politely asked if he could help. “I need a pair of shoes,” I said cautiously, eyeing the dozens of shoes on the wall.
“Running? Training? Cross-Training? Tennis? Skateboarding?” he asked, glancing doubtfully at my lumpy Baby Boomer physique.
“No, just walking,” I said apologetically. “Just some shoes to walk in.”
“Hmm, walk,” he said a little disdainfully, I imagined. He began giving me a spiel about the differences between the brands of shoes that I had been examining on the wall display. “I want Nikes,” I interrupted tentatively. “They’re the only kind that really fit my foot. It’s shaped a little weird,” I apologized.
“Okay, Nike,” he sighed, disappointed he couldn’t educate me. He pointed to the sale table where a pair of conservative blue and white Nikes sat with a huge orange mark-down sign on them. “You could try those,” he said kindly. Then he pointed to the Nike display on the wall, “Or any of those would work for walking,” implying that anything, including wrapping my feet in duct tape, would work for such a lowly activity.
I scratched my head in confusion as I looked at the soles of the majority of the Nikes—some kind of brightly colored, weird cushion coils called Shox Turbo that made the shoes look like those pogo-antigravity shoes we used to see in futuristic cartoons back in the 1950s. Maybe if I had been thirty years younger . . . but there seemed to be something desperate about a woman in her late middle ages walking around in orange and white Shox Turbo soled shoes. At least the soles wouldn’t flash red lights when I walked . . . maybe.
I finally chose a pair of conservative-looking white with blue trim Nike Trainers off the wall display--and the pair of equally plain white and blue Nikes off the sale table. “I’ll try those on,” I said cautiously, hoping the little sales associate wouldn’t disagree. He dutifully went to the back room to pull them out in my size.
The sale table shoes turned out to be last year’s model (in fact, my daughter told me they were just like the shoes she used to run cross country in when she was in junior high, back in 1994). The ones off the wall display were $15 more expensive, so I did the old side-by-side walking test. I put the sale shoe on my left foot and the full-price shoe on my right foot and walked around the shoe store. The full-price shoe, of course, felt a lot better, as it always does. There’s a reason that sale shoes end up on the sale table.
“I’ll take these,” I said, pointing to my right foot. The sales associate beamed (he must work on commission).
“Excellent choice,” he said and whipped the other shoe out of the box. “Here’s the advantage of this one,” he explained. “Not only is this an excellent running shoe,” he said, pulling the inner sole out of the shoe and showing me a secret compartment in the bottom, “it also comes with the capability to install a Nike + iPod Sport sensor which will connect with your iPod nano, providing you with instant audio feedback of your time, distance, pace, and calories burned which are uploaded by the receptor to your site on nikeplus.com where you can set and track goals.”
I just stared dumbly at him. The secret compartment reminded me of Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone—although I’d probably just use it to store a couple of peanut M&Ms in case I got hungry on my walk.
“Very cool,” I replied, trying to look enthused. “I see . . . I just hook the sensor up to my iPod—er, nano, did you say? Sure, I’ll be sure to hook ‘er right up so I can, um . . . track my audio feedback.” I wonder if the nano spy-shoe would rat me out if I stopped to listen to a tree frog along the trail.
As he rang up the purchase, the sales associate and my daughter had a lively discussion about the benefits of Double-Dry technology, wicking, anti-microbial, back-tabbed, blister-reducing athletic socks. I just nodded with one of those glazed over blank looks, trying to hide my over-the-calf tube-socked feet behind the Crocs display.
I walked out of the store as athletically as I could, hoping that I would look like I deserved such a fine pair of Nike Women’s Air Pegasus+ shoes with built-in iPod nano technology. I was also a little worried that the sales associate had planted a bug or a computer cookie in my shoe that will allow him to monitor my walking habits on his iPod nano.
The indignities we athletes endure to pursue our sport.