I’m not just breaking in a pair of shoes. I’m breaking in my feet.
Let me explain. Two years ago, I bicycled daily from temporary lodgings in Gatineau across a very long and miserably windy bridge to Carleton University, in Ottawa. Not because I loved to exercise – for four decades, I made fun of all those damnable endorphin junkies – but rather because I was on a student budget.
I thought I’d go through the winter as well, until I hit black ice one day and bleakly saw the choice between splatting into a car windshield or falling over just before the smash-up. I picked the wipe-out, scraping my entire left side along a nasty mix of snow, frozen water and asphalt. (But I was alive! And I found my glasses before they got crushed by traffic!)
Studded winter tires are not for me. It was time for a switch to municipal transit.
As an earnest-looking sort with an Ottawa City student bus pass, I managed to get away with using it to zip me into the nation’s capital. For a while, anyway. Eventually Gatineau bus drivers got tired of my freeloading, and ordered me to smarten up.
And let me tell ya, I am some kinda cheapskate. So I started to walk into Ottawa. I wore my usual big warm coat and the heavy boots that had seen me through two previous winters.
Once I finished my courses and moved back to my smalltown home, I happily lazed about , avoiding all exercise. No need!
One day, an ice storm made the simplest of visits to the corner store a dangerous trek. In response, my spouse, who runs daily, bought a treadmill. (It’s a bit of a monster, offering a maximum incline of 15 percent, and a speed of 12 miles per hour.)
And off she sprinted. The whole house would shake.
One day, after she’d safely left for work, I walked on the magic carpet. In woolly slippers. It felt like I wasn’t making a commitment that way. Just testing it out. All comfy-like, in my PJs.
After a couple of days, I turned on CBC Radio 1 to keep me company as I walked ever onward (unless it’s a call-in show, or Stuart Mclean – then I skedaddle over to Radio 2 PDQ).
By the time I got to a daily four miles, I was hooked. Better sleep, and stress levels were way down. I then decided I might want proper footwear. I chose an ancient pair of blue suede shoes, hoary fashion sneakers I was holding onto for bicycling to the comic book shop once the warmer weather arrived. The shoes felt weird for a couple of days, but I soon settled in.
Weeks later, my spouse, the runner, pursed her lips. “It’s like you’re running bare feet,” she said. “You’re getting older, you know. Your arches are going to fall.” And she bought the gift of expensive black shoes, with gel in the soles, specifically made for running.
I’ve never owned a pair before.
When I put them on this morning and got onto the treadmill, I could feel the give for the first time. And they’re so light! So airy! Yet the usual four-mile walk has left me with all kinds of weird muscle kinks and aches.
She says it’s going to take a little time before my body gets used to proper shoes. So I am, in truth, breaking in my feet.
After that, I’m considering getting rid of the jammy pants and buying a pair of shorts.
Eleanor Brown is a freelance writer living in Sherbrooke, Quebec. She’s a former managing editor of Pink Triangle Press’ flagship publication, Xtra, in Toronto, and the former editor of a daily newspaper, the Sherbrooke Record. She can be reached at ebjourno at gmail.com.