The first pair of sneakers I ran any sort of distance in was Chuck Taylor Converse back in the 1960s—white, high-tops. Sneakers—there’s a word you don’t hear often these days. I graduated to Adidas in the 1970s. Looking back, those shoes seemed awfully similar to the minimalist running shoes that are popular today. Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic gold in the marathon launched a multi-billion dollar running shoe industry crowded with shoes that boasted cushioning and stability. Today the rave is barefoot and minimalist. They say if you stick around long enough, things go full circle.
Walk into any running store and you will see a display of running shoes on the wall with anywhere from twenty-five to fifty pair of shoes, or more. The array of choices can be maddening. There are resources like Runblogger with excellent reviews and commentary of many shoes, but when it comes down to it I tend to go with what works—that is, what feels right. Over the years I’ve run in Nike, Brooks, New Balance, Asics, Reebok and Pumas. I wore New Balance and Brooks for extended periods of time, and then tired of them. I was on an Asics kick when I ran the Boston Marathon, but needed a change when it was over. Today I run in Saucony.
I’d seen Mizuno running shoes on hundreds, maybe thousands of runners at races, but I’d never worn a pair. I’m certain I could have run in Mizuno’s as easily as I had in the other brands.
I guess it was a matter of time. Last week I heard about the Mezamashii Run Project, a program sponsored by Mizuno with the objective of putting thousands of running shoes on runner’s feet across the country. Free running shoes! How could you possibly go wrong? I registered.
Then I had a thought. There are programs in my hometown of Philadelphia that use running as a means of teaching life-skills to their members. Students Run Philly Style helps students accomplish goals beyond their dreams, including running a marathon. Since 2004 the program has served over 2,500 students from ages 14-18. Back on My Feet began in Philadelphia and is now a national organization dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency within the homeless community by engaging them in running as a means of building confidence, strength and self-esteem. Who would be more deserving of a pair of running shoes than young students just beginning a running program or homeless men and women working to get back on the feet and into society?
Share the information about the Mizuno program with administrators of such worthy programs in your city or town. Runners in these programs deserve the opportunity to experience that magical feeling all runners get. The joy of sweat dripping from every pore of their body, the freedom of the open trail and a healthy interest that provides stability and happiness in life.