Crazy Legs

By Michal Kapral If the Shoe Fits

Canadian Running - - FEATURES -


The Bata Shoe Mu­seum in Toronto is ded­i­cated en­tirely to footwear. When it first opened at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion 21 years ago in a glitzy shoe­box-in­spired build­ing de­signed by ar­chi­tect Ray­mond Moriyama, I could not fathom how such a place could ex­ist. In my mind at the time, it might as well have been a mu­seum ded­i­cated to thumb­tacks or dryer lint. But once I started run­ning reg­u­larly a cou­ple of years af­ter the mu­seum opened, I be­gan to un­der­stand the lure of the shoe.

My run­ning shoe ob­ses­sion started with what I could not have. Dur­ing my first visit to a run­ning store, I mar­velled at the ar­ray of colours and de­signs on the wall of shoes on dis­play. I took note of the ones I thought looked the coolest and was ex­cited to pick the ones I wanted based on how they looked.

But the sales guy de­ter­mined that I was an over­prona­tor and needed a sup­port­ive shoe. He went into the back room and brought me two boxes that con­tained my sup­port­ive shoe op­tions. Both were dull, clunky, chunky grey lumps. I looked long­ingly up at f lashy light­weight train­ers on the wall. I wanted a Fer­rari and went home with a Lada. When I went for a run in my new shoes, I could feel the drab clogs drain­ing my en­ergy with each step.

Grad­u­ally, I tran­si­tioned to lighter and lighter shoes, and now race in the most min­i­mal shoes I can find. In the mean­time, though, all the top run­ning shoe brands, in­clud­ing sev­eral new ones, caught on to the fact that we don’t nec­es­sar­ily need gi­ant bricks on our feet. Even bet­ter, they started mak­ing shoes with cush­ion­ing and sup­port that ac­tu­ally looked good. Over­prona­tors and supina­tors de­serve nice things, too. A few years of writ­ing run­ning shoe re­views for this mag­a­zine deep­ened my footwear fas­ci­na­tion. I rev­elled in check­ing out lat­eral tor­sion and f lex, ad­mired out­soles and up­pers, and mar­velled over colour­ways. I be­gan us­ing terms like “plush ride” and “re­spon­sive heel-to-toe transition,” and could dis­tin­guish mi­nor vari­a­tions in heel-counter height. I ac­cu­mu­lated a col­lec­tion of run­ning shoes for ev­ery oc­ca­sion: a beefy pair of trail shoes for rocky treks, a lighter set of trail kicks for sin­gle-track runs, slightly cush­ioned shoes for easy runs, light­weight train­ing shoes longer, slower runs, rac­ing shoes for var­i­ous dis­tances, two pairs of cross-coun­try spikes, and two pairs of track spikes. Just about ev­ery run­ner I know is pre­oc­cu­pied with their shoe choices. Even 85-year-old age-group ace Ed Whit­lock, who is known to shun all ma­te­rial as­pects of run­ning cul­ture, care­fully se­lects his shoes for each of his races. I re­cently watched him set a cou­ple of age­group world records on the track, wear­ing a pair of an­cient spikes that looked like they should be in the Bata Shoe Mu­seum. Or maybe we need our own run­ning shoe mu­seum? Nose plugs sup­plied at the door. Un­til then, we can all just en­joy our live mu­seum in mo­tion – in all its colour­ful glory. Michal Kapral is a colum­nist for Cana­dian Run­ning, and holds the world record for jog­gling a marathon.

“I wanted a Fer­rari and went home with a Lada.”

BE­LOW This pair of shoes from the Bata Shoe Mu­seum col­lec­tion were made by the Goodyear Rub­ber Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany, and are a very early ex­am­ple of footwear de­signed specif­i­cally for run­ning.

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