When I pack my gym bag every morning, I carefully consider what I’m putting into it. If I’m planning on jogging outside that day, in go shorts and low cut socks. If I’m deadlifting, calf-high socks and pants are a must. The only two things that never change are my tank top — sun’s out, guns out — and my shoes. It’s that last addition that’s arguably the most important: with so many options from which to choose, whatever style of shoe I’ve settled on easily speaks volumes about me. How so? Let’s consider the various options.
Illustration by Christopher Cunetto
Nike Free Runs: You’re fit, most likely. Or, at least, your wallet is. Style is important, too — these are the best-looking trainers out there. Even if you’re just doing Zumba in them, it doesn’t matter — they’re cool. The monochromatic look shows an understated conservatism, while the bright color patterns strategically matched to your favorite work out clothes scream “I’m here!”
New Balance walking shoes: You’re practical. Let’s face it, you don’t like spending a bunch of money on a pair of shoes you only wear an hour a day. Good for you, frankly. I wish I were as pragmatic. You also don’t like spending a lot of time picking out your daily wear. The shoes come in two colors — black and white — and go with just about everything. You probably wear a pair of Champion sweat pants that you’ve had since the mid-’80s, or go for the calf-high white socks, pushed down, and a pair of shorts that are a tad shy of acceptable length. Either way, you’re there to work, who cares what it looks like?
Vibram Five Fingers: Oh, you! The fad hit hard, clearly. (Full disclosure: I’ve got a pair, too.) You almost appreciate the interesting aesthetic, simply because people used to ask you about them. A conversation piece and footwear in one? Who could resist? Too bad science turned around and threw all the bogus fitness claims out the window. Hey, there’s always an upside — the class action lawsuit coming up should net you a couple bucks to go buy the brightest Nike Frees you can find. You’ve got to keep the footwear conversation going, after all.
Other Barefoot Shoes: You bought into the gimmick, but don’t quite appreciate the conversation aspect as much as your barefoot brethren in the toe-shoes do. Plus, these come in different colors, and sport cool names like “Minimus.” It’s a lifestyle choice, after all. You won’t be seeing any of that class action money, though. Sorry.
Wrestling shoes: You’re serious business. The high-top, flat-soled, bright-colored choice of many professional body builders give your feet the ultimate foundation to lift from. Now, if only you could get past third place in the local body building competition and really let people see what you’re made of. One day, one day… Don’t forget: get that protein shake in 10 minutes after your last lift. You wouldn’t want to lose those precious gains, would you?
Reebok/Adidas trainers: You like Nike, you really do. Too bad they tack those ridiculous price tags on. Don’t worry, further down the aisle, in the back, there’s a small selection of shoes that pretty much look the same. A different logo maybe, and the gimmicks might be a bit wackier (looking at you, ‘blades), but that’s okay. They’re still supportive, and you can still match it to your favorite pair of shorts and shirt.
When it comes down to it, what you’ve got on your feet doesn’t matter so long as you’re in there doing your thing. Whether it’s the comfort of the shoes, the color, or the lifestyle that accompanies them, as long as you’re putting them on, you’re doing it right. In case you’re curious, yes, I’m in a pair of Nike Free Runs. The Be-True editions. And yes, I do my best to match them to all my tanks. Sue me: sun’s out, guns out!