There are very few things that I absolutely do not regret purchasing.
Number one is my first and only DSLR, the Canon Rebel T2i….and by extension, the 50mm f/1.4 that was bought a year later. It’s this magical item that has taught me so much, through trial and error, about everything related to art. How colors can look. How I can frame things in a way the human eye doesn’t normally see things. How bokeh affects objects, the way depth of field could drastically alter things. It helps me in my profession – it is easier to mimic life in my work, when I know what life “should” look like through the lens of a camera. I’ve used it to help us with film shoots at work, from snapping stills to recording video interviews of people, and this would not be possible if I didn’t have my camera. So in a way, I am already getting paid professionally for my photography….this plastic camera has returned its cost in so many ways. Oh, and not to mention I get gratification when people tell me they like this or that photo of mine. I feel like it helps me grow in several skills at once. Added bonus? At a wedding or event, I can hide behind my camera. No longer am I the awkward girl standing by herself, playing with the ends of her hair. No, I’m snapping pictures and moving around the party. Maybe it’s like a mask, an invisibility cloak, but I am still much happier behind the lens. Still not secure in *front* of it, however.
Number two used to be up to debate, but as of today it gets awarded to the New Balance Minimus Trail (WT10) Shoe. I just got this yesterday night, after much researching and shoe testing, on in-store treadmills. There’s a store that’s pretty cool, called Jack Rabbit NYC, with a few branches in the City. I went to the one near Union Square this past weekend. You have to sign up on a list because everyone must consult with a staff member, if they are going to try on shoes. This is actually a really good thing – I’m sure people leave much happier when they get to test shoes and receive personal attention. You don’t have to wait long for someone to free up and see to you.
First, the staff member gave me some “neutral” shoes. I don’t know what that means really, but it was just a regular sneaker…tough-ish rubber sole, mesh, plastic, and leather wrapped around the top of your foot. It had structure and weight. I laced up and got on the treadmill, which had a camera somewhere behind me. As I ran a 12 minute mile, the cellphone-quality camera recorded my thighs, knees, and feet jogging. The clomping of my feet rang loud; do I always run this heavy? Wasn’t migrating from a heel-strike to a forefoot strike gait supposed to make me silent as a shadow?
She stopped me after a few minutes, and we reviewed the video of my legs in slow motion. My boyfriend, who accompanied me, said, “Wow, your muscles just popped out of your legs as soon as you started running.” His eyes were wide. I think it was a good kind of amazement. Leg muscles are the only kind of muscles I have, really.
The saleslady pointed to my knee, then dragged a straight line down to my planted foot on the screen. She flipped from frame to frame, said my gait was “neutral”. This I found shocking….I was wide-eyed stunned and struck dumb for a moment. Neutral gait? On me?? Me, who is such a terrible runner?! But yes, she was right. My knee and my foot lined up perfectly. 2 years ago I did come in to another one of those fancy sports stores (Paragon, also by Union Square) and did their treadmill consultation….at that time, I hadn’t yet heard of the book, BORN TO RUN, and I hadn’t heard about the benefits of forefoot striking. As a heel striker, I was an over-pronator. When we reviewed my video at Paragon, the employee told me that my foot and knee were misaligned – my feet would land too much on their outsides, then would roll inward. This was before the whole barefoot running thing really took off and became a sports trend….so Paragon recommend that I get a shoe with more support. They said I over-pronated because I had no arches, I had flat feet. I need support to make up for this.
Funny thing about that…it wasn’t MORE support that “fixed” my gait, but LACK of support. The lack of support forced my body to develop the foot muscles to create its own support…
I later told my boss about my magical “improvement” in gait, and he said it was no surprise to him. He said that when you heel strike, it’s very easy for your foot to face some random direction. But when you forefoot strike, there isn’t any choice. Your body will move forward wherever your toes are pointing in such a gait, it was a matter of physics. So once you begin forefoot striking, it’s only natural that your gait would normalize in to neutral. This was great!! I should probably mention that he is the one who gave me a(n ebook) copy of BORN TO RUN to read. A life-changing book, really. So my boss is completely pro-forefoot-striking.
“Is there a certain kind of shoe in particular that you’d like to try on?” Asked the saleslady, a pretty blond woman with long, mascara’d eyelashes. It reminded me of daises. Hope that’s not weird.
“Minimal shoes, any brand that’s not Nike,” I replied. Nike still holds all my hate.
After several pairs and several brands, I got to the New Balance Minimus Trail shoes…WT10, not their WT00. The WT10 version has 4mm of height difference between the heel and the forefoot…so there is a slight slope. I think it’s actually a perfect balance between a shoe with some cushioning in the back, for those accidental and unavoidable heel strikes, and a truly flat and minimal, barefoot-like shoe. Though normally a size 8 in sneakers, I went up to an 8.5 for the WT10. It was very snug, but the saleslady let me jog on the treadmill to test the shoes out. And it actually felt amazing. The straps kept it snug to my foot, this way it wouldn’t slide around…it felt like it *was* me. But the toe box was mesh and wide, with enough space for my toes to splay out as I pushed off the ground.
Their colors were ugly, so I left empty-handed and bought a black and pink pair from Eastern Mountain Sports instead. Luckily for me, they were having a minimal shoe sale (20-30% off, ends Sept. 25, 2012)….so a $105 pair of shoes cost me $78 instead. Really great deal.
Today, I met up wtih a high school friend who lives nearby, wearing the new sneakers. They felt great, but I had to keep digging in to my shoe to massage my foot. For the entire day, unrelated to running or the shoes, the center of my left foot had been cramping. It was annoying and awful….any pressure on my foot would shoot pain straight up my left. But I promised to meet my friend under the bridge, by the river, so I did. We ran together, and in my mind I wanted to do just 1.5 miles. Something light and short, so that I don’t kill my feet with shoes that would possibly need breaking in.
But what was I thinking? This shoe is so flexible that you can roll it in to a ball! Effortlessly! You don’t NEED to break them in. So we ended up running 2 miles (3 was her original goal, but we turned to loop back for home when it began to drizzle) and I felt zero pain. Actually I felt better while running than I have for several weeks, if not months. My feet were so comfortable, so happy….I didn’t feel any more cramping (this was probably from adrenaline rush, I don’t know), the shoes moved with me and not against me….I’m just so ecstatic about how great they were. I can’t think of anything bad to say about them. It’s perfectly snug in the right places, loose enough to give comfortably in other places. With minimal shoes, they often recommend you do drastically less than your normal run so that your legs can get used to the lack of support. I surprisingly didn’t have to. It felt great, it still feels great…it’s seriously one of my best purchases.
Oh, and since three is the magic number in fairytales….let’s say my Number Three best purchase ever was my Kindle. It’s 4th generation, the no-frills one (no touch-screen but people keep touching it just in case), meaning it was the cheapest. Because it’s so easy to slip in to my bag every morning, I’ve read roughly 17 books this year…which is probably 15 more than I read last year. And I feel all the better for it.