By Michal Kapral If the Shoe Fits
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.