Arguably, the most important possessions for any runner are her running shoes. Sure, we all have our favorite shorts, bras, tanks tops, gels, gloves, etc. But nothing is more important than those slabs of rubber we strap to our feet. They take the biggest brunt of the intensity of our sport. They hit the pavement. The slosh through mud and puddles. They absorb forces equating to multiple times our body weight.
Not only are our shoes the workhorses of our sport, but they’re also our protectors. They protect our feet—which are weak and soft thanks to modern life—from the harshness of the ground, but they also protect us from ourselves. Our shoes can correct our strides and much of our form can be either corrected or hindered by them. Because of this, runners can struggle for years to find the right pair of shoes. Everyone has different needs and preferences. Some need stability and like to feel like they’re running on clouds. Others like less shoe, something that just gets out of the way.
When I started running, I didn’t think much about shoes. I just got a pair of Asics and ran in them everyday. Then I became intrigued by Vibram FiveFingers back when they were all the rage. I went through a few pairs of them. I could never take myself seriously in them, but I liked how they felt. I liked feeling the ground. Unfortunately, I developed posterior tibial tendonitis because of them after a couple of years. I tried a few different shoes after that, but returned them all for just not feeling right—shoutout to Road Runner Sports for their Test Run program that lets you try out shoes for up to 90 days and return them if you don’t like them.
That’s when I found the New Balance RC 1600. I was in love! 5.6oz of bliss. These shoes practically feel like nothing. On paper, the 8mm heel-toe drop is more than I’d prefer and they’re a little on the narrow side (I’ve got wide feet so I run in the men’s version), but something about how they felt while running was just perfect. It almost felt like nothing at all.
Today I rotated my 13th (lucky?) pair of New Balance 1600s in and my 10th pair out. Amazing the difference... https://t.co/RxFscKPC1l— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) June 14, 2016
This was in the summer of 2012. Four and a half years ago. I’m on my 14th pair of them, currently. And I still have two unopened pairs in boxes. I’ve run over 5,000 miles in 1600s. Six of my ten marathons have been in 1600s.
Technically, the 1600 is a racing flat. It’s not meant to be worn day-in and day-out, but I love them for everything. I love them for races. I love them for speedwork and tempo runs. I love them on long runs. I’d wear them for everything except recovery runs.
If you go through every Flat Amy photo I’ve posted before a race, you’ll seem them there ready to go!
Like most runners who find the perfect shoe, I’d buy multiple pairs at a time and lived in constant fear of New Balance discontinuing them. When the v1 got replaced with the v2, I panicked. But luckily, I loved the v2 just as much. Last year, when stock of the v2 dried up everywhere, I freaked and took to Twitter!
A couple of winters ago, I even took an older pair that was about to get retired and screwed a few screws in soles as makeshift Yaktrax for the ice. I wanted nothing else on my feet. Eventually, I was rotating three pairs of RC 1600s and a pair of RC 1400s—another New Balance shoe in the same family, with a bit more to them.
But, sadly, this post is a goodbye. This isn’t a happy ending.
A few weeks ago, I started to have some pain in my right foot out of nowhere. It started at the Women’s March and I feared it might be a stress fracture. Not that I know what a stress fracture feels like, but my physical therapist was very cautious when I first talked to her about it and I didn’t know what else it could be.
A trip to a podiatrist with experience dealing with athletes (and he’s an runner himself), ruled out the stress fracture to my relief. However, it wasn’t all good news. It turns out, my feet are a mess. My left foot’s arch collapses a bit which puts stress on my posterior tibial tendon and, in turn, causes the tendinitis I deal with. This I already knew. The surprise was my right foot. What a mess! My big toe is out of alignment. Currently, it’s at the high end of moderate. This is causing me to start to develop a bunion and arthritis. Fun! And the pain I’ve been having is bursitis, also caused by my toe being out of alignment. There’s a lot going on.
While none of this is an injury in the sense that I need to stop running to let it heal, it does mean I could be headed down the road to needing surgery. Blargh. However, my doctor’s treatment for this is rather simple. A change of shoes, some decent over-the-counter insoles, and some physical therapy exercises. This won’t realign my toe, but it could keep it from getting worse.
I was devastated when he told me I needed to change me shoe. He told me I need more cushioning and less of a heel-toe drop. I was about ready to storm out like a child throwing a tantrum, but…you know, I really don’t want to have to have surgery if I can avoid it.
My doctor’s recommendation? The Saucony Kinvara. Not quite as light as my 1600s, but at 7.7oz, light enough that I couldn’t really tell the difference. And a 4mm drop, which I’m more than okay with. But so much cushioning! At least compared to the 1600.
I left his office and ordered a pair of Kinvara 7s and insoles and waited for them to arrive. Before trying them on my own, I brought them to my next physical therapy appointment and we talked things over. My physical therapist had me put them on and try them out first on the AlterG treadmill and then on a regular treadmill. We wanted to make sure they were the right shoe and doing what we wanted them to do before I dove headfirst into wearing them. After about a mile on the treadmill with the Kinvara, I didn’t hate them. I was willing to give them a try.
I’ve now run nearly 20 miles in the Kinvara and, well, I guess they’re not the worst thing ever. They certainly don’t feel wrong. I can see them becoming my main shoe. I’m not happy about it, but it is what it is. I’ll learn to love them…I guess.🙄
Still, leaving behind my 1600s feels like a breakup. To a non-runner this may sound absurd, but we runners get attached to our shoes. I look over at them sitting by the door and it’s like looking at an ex-girlfriend I’m not over yet. I want to text them in the middle of the night and tell them I miss them. I wonder if we can still be friends. My physical therapist says I can still work them in for speed work and races, but with the possibility of surgery on the line, I’m afraid.
I’ll miss you, 1600s. We had a really good run (pun intended) over the last four and a half years. We spent so much time together and ran thousands of miles. We’ve set new PRs. We’ve qualified for Boston. We’ve done Dopey Challenges. ❤️
PS: Something I didn’t mention up above, but don’t want to gloss over is New Balance’s positive stance on Donald Trump. While they tried to walk it back a little, their statement seemed soft. Either you’re explicitly against hate and oppression or you implicitly support it. For this reason, I am actually very happy to move away from New Balance and this was something I was likely going to be looking into doing after my stockpile of 1600s ran dry. As long as I have a choice, I would prefer not to support any company that has made statements in support of Trump.
@krissymmurphy Looks like the pile of NB 1600s I've got at home! Pairs 2, 4, 5, and 6 are on the stairs and 7 is waiting in its box!— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) February 24, 2014
I have five pairs of running shoes by the door right now. Four of them are New Balance 1600s. #runchat— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) November 23, 2014
@WomensRunning I rotate multiple pairs of New Balance 1600s and 1 pair of 1400s.— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) September 9, 2014
@jenwilson Really love New Balance 1600s! I’m on my 14th pair! They’re listed as racing flats so pretty good for speed work— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) August 31, 2016