I never liked to run. Even when I was younger and a competitive swimmer, my least favorite physical activity was running. I had to run several miles some days and it was agony, both physically and mentally. Running had a mind-numbing effect on me. As someone who has had attention problems all their life and only recently received medication to address them, doing a “boring” activity was not something I wanted to do.
But now that I’m nearing 30, I’m starting to want more accomplishments under my belt. One of them is doing a 5K. So one freezing spring morning, I put on my best shoes, loaded up a couch for a 5K program, and left. I barely got home.
Enough time had passed since I was young that I had forgotten all about shin splints, but my body reminded me of it. I used to do weight training but a knee injury and depression kept me from playing sports for a few years so I wasn’t in great shape when I started this 5-hour trip. km. I’m not a small person, even at my best physique – and my knee never recovered from its injury because I could never afford surgery or time off from work.
However, I’m a stubborn guy, going from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. My wife likes to joke that I don’t do things by halves, often to my detriment. I’m the type of person who sprints instead of going the distance. Such a mentality has served me well in my swimming and weightlifting careers because speed and power both pay off, but you don’t train for a 5K like that.
So what does all of this have to do with a pair of shoes? Besides dealing with shin splints – which, if you haven’t experienced them, are extremely painful and essentially keep you from doing anything other than hampering – I have flat feet. Great for swimming, not for walking or running. Shin splints, flat feet, a knee injury, excessive body weight, all of these had kept me from becoming some kind of long-distance runner.
In desperation and a genuine desire not to give up, I went to a local running store and asked for help. I tried different shoes, each one more different than the next. I tried lots of cushions, but ended up going with a brand I had never heard of: Altra.
Specifically, I chose the Altra Torrin 4.5 which felt like a whole new walking experience when I tried them out. Altra’s fame is the wide, foot-like design. I don’t know anything about running shoes, but it supposedly gives your feet more room than a traditional running shoe.
The Torrin 4.5 also has what it calls a ‘zero drop,’ which the company says “puts the heel and forefoot the same distance off the ground. This natural balance aligns the feet, back and body posture for less impact. “
I paid around $ 150 for my pair of Torrin 4.5, and you can buy your own pair at Amazon if you think they would suit you. Prices range from $ 89 to $ 250 depending on color and size.
Something about the Torrin changed the way I walk. For starters, I noticed how much more stress it put on my calves. I know the physiology of weightlifting, and while I don’t quite understand the Altra effect, I nonetheless appreciate that every time I put on these Altras my calves get a killer workout. And you know, I’m all for it.
I digress. The Torrin certainly seemed like a better running experience to me, but it took a long time for my shins to heal enough to try running again. But a few months ago I started doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) and reached a point during these workouts where I can run regularly. I even ran a mile in 12 minutes, something I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished.
And guess what? I can’t wait to run. I like to put on my Altras and jog with sprints to get my heart rate up. Some days my shins still protest, but nowhere as bad as before. Of all, only my knee seems the most upset, but the pain has dulled over the years.
I am by no means saying that the Altra Torrin 4.5 is the best shoe you can buy, because we are all fundamentally different. Your needs are different from mine. The point of all of this is that finding the best running shoe for you is important if you want to get serious about running. Look for stores where people know what they are talking about. And, at the end of the day, remember that you get what you pay for.
Is performing my favorite activity now? Not by far. But it’s something I can happily find doing, although I still prefer heavy lifting. Fitness is a continuous journey of progress and improvement, and I’m happy that my Altras have helped me achieve things that I never thought possible for myself. Then it’s 5K.
If you need help, check out our guide on how to buy running shoes before you go online or visit the store.