Dear Nike

Dear Nike,

I don’t know how to break this to you gently, so I’m just going to be blunt:

Our 10-year love affair has hit a bump. I’m sorry to tell you this, but my feet have cheated on you. I have cheatin’ feet.

It started innocently enough. I needed new shoes to help with my plantar fasciitis problem and my crunchy knee. I went to the Runner’s World website, clicked on the Running Shoe Finder and took the quiz (apparently women’s magazines aren’t the only ones with compatibility quizzes).

After submitting my answers to several questions (Are you male or female? How high are your arches? What are your motion mechanics?), I got a list of suggestions, including the news that I needed stability, which you had not been providing enough of over the years. This was a bit of a surprise, but not entirely: I had been leaning a bit in the wrong direction (overpronating) for several months, possibly even years. It was inevitable that I would get hurt.

I don’t blame you entirely. It was a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t been in tune with my true needs. I was surprised to discover recently that I have high arches. I had always believed I was “normal” in that area, so I had never tried to deal with my issues. Turns out I needed better, more rigid arch support. I thought all I needed was a soft place to land (extra cushioning) with minimal support, and this is what you had given me all these years. I can’t exactly blame you for not providing what I didn’t know I needed.

Second, some of my needs have changed. When I began looking for you 10 years ago, the store clerk (or, as I prefer to call him, “the matchmaker”) suggested I try your women’s Air Pegasus model, which was for “heavier runners” (or, as I prefer to call us, “full-figured gals”). I felt the love immediately. As you gently caressed my feet, I knew this was a match made in Runners Heaven. And you weren’t bad on the eyes, either; the physical attraction was undeniable. White and black with a red swoosh. Ooh, baby!

But that was then. This is now.

I’m more mature now, and lighter. The extra cushioning is nice, but I need more from a shoe.

And there was my husband to think about. You might assume that he urged me to be faithful, but he did not. I had tried on a few models in a local store – brands I did not even want to look at, much less allow to touch my feet – but I kept longing for you. Nevertheless, he wanted me to keep an open mind, to be sure I had exhausted all local options.

I had already found a better, younger version of you online – one that offered cushioning and support. And even though the Running Shoe Finder helped me narrow my choices to one or two, that was a virtual store. I needed to try on a few real pairs before deciding, especially since this was such a big decision for my physical (and, yes, emotional) well-being, not to mention our checkbook.

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that the one I had ultimately chosen online was … you again. A cushiony, more supportive version of the shoe you used to be. I had even virtual-chatted with a guy at the Road Runner Sports website. (Those guys are like the Dr. Ruth of athletic gear. They help you find true compatibility. True love to last a lifetime – or at least a few months, until the shoes wear out.)

I asked him the difference between the model he suggested, the Nike Zoom Equalon+ 4, and a similar model in another brand that I had been looking at, albeit reluctantly. I didn’t really want to stray from you, the one I had loved for more than a decade, but my husband/coach sometimes has to talk sense into me. I couldn’t try on the Equalon, and I had tried on some other brands that seemed to fit my needs.

But Dr. Ruth-guy had me sold on the Equalon; he said it was equivalent to the other model except that the Equalon had more cushioning. Support and extra cushioning! The total package!

But, alas, there was the third thing: a sale at the local store.

My husband, who’s also my coach (and my real true love), went with me and watched me run each time I tried a new pair. Because the store didn’t have my chosen shoe (you), he watched as the other brands corrected my overpronation. Nevertheless, he said I should think about it some more. He even urged me to ask the clerk to order last year’s model of the one that seemed to be the best fit (the older model was $40 cheaper, and I was under no obligation to buy it). A few days later, the store clerk called. My order had arrived.

I tried on the shoe. It felt good, it offered stability and … it was good looking.

I can’t say it looked better than you in every way – I’ve grown to love your happy little swoosh over the years – but it was narrower. It made my wide boats look like … well, normal girl feet. And it has stabilized my gait. Not that the online version of you wouldn’t have done the same thing. But I couldn’t be sure of that. A relationship that begins online is risky.

So, Nike, I have cheated. I’m sorry I’ve strayed. But I have a feeling our love affair isn’t over – if you’ll take me back someday. Because someday money won’t be such an issue. I will still be frugal, but I’ll be better able to make the choices I want to make when it comes to my feet. I know you will offer me a soft place to land again (and again). And the stability I need.

Thanks for the memories, but don’t think it’s over for good.

I’ll be back.

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