Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our daily recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.
When I started running again in early 2009, all I had, equipment wise, were shorts that I sometimes wore as pajamas, tee shirts from various collegiate events that involved either me or one of my close friends either throwing up or crying, and a pair of very worn running shoes that I sometimes donned when volunteering with dogs at an animal shelter and were thus likely covered in a thin layer of pee and slobber. Undaunted by my equipment limitations, I decided to train for my first marathon that spring.
After a few months of running for longer and longer distances, I realized that my old pee-shoes were not going to cut it anymore, because they were showing their wear, but mostly because I could feel their wear- the stubborn recurring shin splints left over from years as a child gymnast were returning. In the past, I'd picked out running shoes based on which ones looked the coolest and didn't feel terrible on my feet, but I knew that marathons Do Not Fuck Around and that I should probably consult a professional before picking out the shoes that would hopefully carry me over the finish line. I needed something that would stand up to punishment and keep my shins pain-free. I didn't know where to start.
I had heard good things about a store called Fleet Feet, and so one day, dressed in serious office clothes, I meandered over to a location after work, where an employee who was also named Erin asked me what I was looking for. Marathon in six months, I told her, and I have a nasty case of the forever shin splints. She sized my feet and had me put on a pair of trial shoes and run on the store's treadmill, where they actually take video of your stride and see how your feet strike the ground. This was tricky because I was wearing a pencil skirt, but Erin was encouraging and non judgmental. She told me she'd grab several pairs for me to try on, and a few minutes later returned with about six different shoe boxes.
Among the shoes she picked out for me was a magical shoe called the Asics Gel-Kayano 17. They weren't the most beautiful running shoe I'd ever seen, but as soon as I tried them on, they felt different than any other shoe I've worn. The lacing is asymmetrical, which relieved pressure on top of the foot and minimized sock bunching. The cushioning felt solid without feeling harsh. Best of all, they held my foot in such a way that when I ran, I could barely notice my shin pain. Even though the price tag seemed a little hefty, they felt far and away better than any other shoe I'd tried, and I have not once regretted that decision. (Side note: Fleet Feet, and everyone who works there, is awesome. I've gone there for everything running-related since this initial experience and have never been even slightly disappointed.)
While a little bit of pain is inevitable when you're spending that much time on your feet, a good pair of shoes can make the difference between a run that leaves you giddy with excitement and one that leaves you wincing while you walk. The best thing about the shoe is that even at the end of my long runs later that summer- 16, 18, and 20 miles- they never let me down. I finished the marathon in them with a gigantic smile on my face, even though it was 86 degrees outside. I felt fantastic.
I never had problems with the tread on these shoes being unreliable, with the internal cushioning breaking down, or with that horrible "crap I laced my shoes too tightly" feeling that sometimes sets in mid-run. My shin splints completely went away and have not returned. I calculated that I ran more than 300 miles in my Asics before replacing them with a new pair this spring. I still can't bring myself to throw away that original pair. We've been through so much together!
Not every running shoe is appropriate for every person, and some people (like my cousin, who herself is running her first marathon this Sunday) prefer to run barefoot. But if you're a runner who is prone to shin splints or achilles pain, at least try on the Asics Gel Kayano. It might change how you feel about running.
Asics Gel Kayano 17, $140, asicsamerica.com
Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.