Wearing Them Out: My Journey with My Journeymen Shoes
By Tim Butterfield '12, Staff Writer
I’m a big fan of running shoes.

Is it a fetish? Well, I’m inclined to say no. I look forward to each new pair of shoes I buy like I look forward to summer vacation, but I wouldn’t call myself, or anyone else, a vacation addict. But I do know this much: I treasure each and every pair of running shoes I have owned throughout my running career.

My friends laugh at me when my laptop’s screensaver pops up, but I see nothing funny about it at all. In fact, I feel a rush of pleasant emotions when the photo slideshow of my retired and current running shoes flashes across the screen. I rush to tell the stories that I associate with each pair, but the room has usually emptied before I can finish a sentence.

I’ve noticed similar patterns regarding responses to my enduring Facebook photo album entitled “My Running Shoes.” I haven’t received too much online feedback about the album in which I take so much pride, but the few remarks I do get really brighten up my day. Three people — my dad, a former assistant cross country coach and a former teammate — have given the album Facebook’s “like” feature, signified by a heartwarming thumbs-up icon. A few of my running buddies and former teammates have even taken the time to view my photos and tack on a few memory-sparking comments. Of course, this happens once every six months or so.

Here’s the thing. I’m a runner, and my shoes have carried me thousands of miles. So is it THAT weird to feel a special bond to them? Some people name their cars because of the personal connections they feel to the vehicles that have taken them long distances. Well, why wouldn’t a runner care just as much for the vehicle that has helped him travel along streets, trails and tracks all his life?

I remember every shoe I have ever owned and run in. Admittedly, having only started running three years ago, I don’t exactly have a million pairs to recall. In fact, I’ve only run in seven pairs during that time. But I know that I’ll remember those seven pairs 50 years from now just as clearly as I do at this moment. Each pair of shoes has a significance that only I can appreciate, but my shoes have also provided me with plenty of memories that I can recall with others.

My first pair: the Adidas Supernovas. A good pair of shoes, but the rigid stability plate just killed me, so I transitioned to a neutral shoe. From there, the good times began to roll….

The blue Brooks Glycerin 5s single-handedly healed all my nagging aches and pains within my first week of using them. They carried me through the cross country season and a few months beyond. When I upgraded to a new pair of the same shoe (in red!), the blue Glycerins became my everyday shoes. I wore them to school, to the movies and to pickup basketball games. They continued to be a part of my life months after the cross country season wrapped up, finally meeting their end on the muddy beaches of the Meramec River. To hear that story, find me.

The red Glycerins took me through my first long-distance training regimen, as I built up all winter long for the 2008 Go! Saint Louis Half Marathon. I laced these shoes up before my first training run on Jan. 29, and I was wearing them as I crossed the finish line on April. Shortly thereafter, they became my everyday shoes, which they remained until a few months ago.

During the summer of 2008, I wore a pair of green Glycerin 6s while training for another half-marathon. They carried me several hundred miles that summer before reaching the point of retirement. I now wear them on long bike rides, since I don’t need any tread on my shoes while pedaling. I like to think that by wearing them on long rides, I’m giving the Glycerins a glimpse of the high mileage they had once mastered.

A pair of yellow Glycerin 6s carried me through my second half-marathon in personal-record time. I continued running in them during my first year of college, and I still keep them for everyday use and the occasional trail run.

Despite having become a very dedicated Brooks guy, I decided last year to branch out a bit. Besides, all shoe companies make great products — all that matters is finding a specific pair that feels good. Most shoe-technology scientists have spent time working for multiple companies, anyway. Keeping this in mind, I selected a pair of Saucony ProGrid Triumph 6s. They served me extremely well during my spring and summer of low-mileage training, and they brought me to the finish lines of several track workouts, time trials, training runs and road races.

My Triumphs accumulated around 100 miles before I was told that I needed to return to wearing a stability shoe. So I found a pair that I really liked, which also happens to be one that nearly every runners likes, as it is the best-selling shoe of all time: the Brooks Adrenaline.

In essence, I love my shoes because they have stuck with me through it all. They’ve carried me through the good runs and bad runs, through snow, rain, hail and wind. They’ve endured Saint Louis summers and New England winters without ever uttering a single complaint. They have escorted me to class, formals and practices. Each pair has served me faithfully until its time was up, at which point it has humbly adjusted to the quiet life of retirement. For their loyalty, I am grateful.

Hopefully, many of you are now anxious to begin creating your own running shoe photo albums on Facebook. Maybe you’re about to grab your car keys and head over to the nearest running specialty store to be fitted for a new pair of shoes (please don’t gravitate towards the Asics just because they’re fashionable at the moment — this is about much more than looking kind of cool).

On the other hand, I’m sure that many of you have been laughing at me this whole time for my intense appreciation of factory-manufactured, mass-produced footwear. But if you have ever run a PR, experienced a runner’s high or finished a run feeling a better than you had when the run began, I’d like you to look over at shoes and at least thank them for those moments possible.

Issue 21, Submitted 2010-04-07 03:13:24