Yesterday’s post about the inevitability of running shoes being remade each year, whether they need to be or not, overlooked an obvious consequence of this dastardly marketing strategy: the disappearance of a favorite shoe. In a bitterly ironic turn of events, I came face-to-face with this issue just a few hours after making the post.
I had done my run on the grass at Normandale Park. This, with some variation, is one of a handful of my regular runs: a half-mile on pavement over to the park, then several miles running its perimeter of primarily grass and a bit of dirt. Usually I throw in a dozen or so 100-yard sprints on the football field, along with some dexterity drills (running along a line, switching from side to side every few steps, that kind of thing). It’s a bumpy, twisty-turny sort of running, great for building foot and lower-leg strength and flexibility. I run Normandale wearing my New Balance 790s, which to my thinking are the perfect off-road shoes: flat, low, light and incredibly flexible. Cushioning? Fuggedaboutit. You couldn’t feel more rocks if you ran barefoot.
So after yesterday’s run I was cleaning the mud off my 790s when it occurred to me that they were beginning to wear down and although they probably had a solid month of life in them, it might be wise to get a new pair lined up. I jumped online to Zappos, but they had none in stock. Weird. Then I tried Holabird; they had just a few super-small sizes. WTF? A little more Googling landed me on a blog entry from April this year announcing, to my horror, that New Balance was abandoning the 790 and that a replacement model, the 100, would be released in October.
Bastards! Here they had a loyal customer, a guy willing to buy several pairs of their shoes every year, and they were leaving me out in the cold. Why? Because that’s what shoe companies do.
As promised, the 100s are now available. But I didn’t want the 100s. Or maybe I did. Unsure, I read a few reviews and a lot of comments, many from similarly jilted 790s lovers. Several people said the 100s weren’t as flexible as the 790s, were narrower in the toe and featured a hard top of the heel that was liable to dig into your ankle/Achilles. Other said the 100s were great, with many of the same wonderful attributes of the 790s but with more apparent durability.
While I mulled over the 100s, I did find some 790s available in my size. They were the brown ones, not the all-black models that I loved so much, but at least they were 790s. What to do? I felt like Elaine in the drug store, faced with the prospect of her favorite birth-control aid disappearing from the market.
ELAINE (with little hope): Yeah, do you have any Today sponges? I know they're off the market, but...I bought three pairs of 790s.
PHARMACIST: Actually, we have a case left.
ELAINE (excited): A case! A case of sponges? I mean, uh...a case. Huh. Uh...how many come in a case?
ELAINE: Sixty?! Uh...well, I'll take three.
ELAINE: Make it ten.
ELAINE: Twenty sponges should be plenty.
PHARMACIST: Did you say twenty?
ELAINE: Yeah, twenty-five sponges is just fine.
PHARMACIST: Right. So, you're set with twenty-five.
ELAINE: Yeah. Just give me the whole case and I'll be on my way.