BPGP: Kick Up Those Heels

The Beauty Product Guinea Pig column (BPGP) typically features lotions, potions, creams and glosses designed to make women lok and feel their best.  But today, I’m reviewing a different kind of beauty product: running shoes.  Because being in shape is beautiful (and gasping for air like an overworked golden retriever as you climb the Metro escalator is not attractive). 

The last time that I purchased running shoes Bill Clinton was still in office.  So when I started a real workout routine back in October, it didn’t take long to figure out that it was time for new shoes.  But which kind to buy?  The last time I purchased shoes there were 20 choices, now there are 20,000.

A friend of mine who runs three or four marathons per year lent me a pair of odd looking Vibram Five Fingers to try.  I was really excited to give the shoes a whirl since she swears by barefoot running and promised me on a stack of Bibles that I’d like it.  But since I have two toes deformed by an improperly healed break, the Vibrams caused me so much pain that I couldn’t wear them without wincing.  Separating my toes was clearly not an option.


When the Vibrams came up bust, she suggested that I purchase a pair of Nike Free Run 2 shoes ($90).  According to the Nike website, the shoes “simulate barefoot running to strengthen your lower leg and foot,” so they’re a bit like the Vibrams in practice.

Since I started wearing them, I’ve noticed that my form has improved markedly and that my lower back no longer hurts after a run.  I still wear cross trainers when I’m not running, but these shoes have made my time on the treadmill a little less awful.  And for that, I am truly grateful.  

Whether they’re working the muscles in my legs in a different or improved way, I can’t really tell.  No because the tone of my legs isn’t improving, but because, since I’ve never been a “runner” before, I don’t know how my legs would be developing in another shoe.

For you outdoor runners, these shoes are also equipped to hook into your Nike + iPod Sport Kit, allowing you to keep track of your speed distance and calories on your iPod.  Should I decide to leave the comfort of my treadmill at any point, I may invest in the $28 kit.  But, to be honest, being able to watch TV while I run is about the only thing that makes running bearable.

The shoes also come in a shocking number of colors.  So whether you want plain white or bright neon, you can find a color to suit your personality.  Who says you can’t be fashionable while you workout?

Leave a Reply to LS · cancel comment


  1. Suzanne says:

    I started listening to audiobooks while I work out recently. You should give it a try! I like it more than listening to music when I run outside, and it makes the treadmill much more tolerable.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  2. LS says:

    While I appreciate Belle sharing a running shoe that's worked for her, I want to emphasize how important it is for new runners to get a gait analysis and fitting in an actual store. Bone structures in feet vary immensely from person to person and wearing the right shoe can make a world of difference. Also, most people don't run perfectly and being videotaped while running will help you A. figure out what type of shoe is best for your foot and gait B. learn how to correct your gait.

    DC is a running town, so you if you live in the area, I urge you to visit a local store. Try on a ton of shoes! I was shocked at the variations my first time.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  3. S says:

    I second LS – if you are just getting started, definitely get your gait analyzed in a store. I was scared at first, but it's really not a big deal – so no need to be nervous if you're a newbie.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  4. Ellie says:

    Was just going to post what LS wrote, but she wrote better than I would have.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  5. Jo says:

    I've been running in Nike Frees for over a year now and I love them! Although going to a running store to get fitted is recommended, my experience at one wasn't favorable. A few years back I went to a running store to get some running shoes and I was fitted with some heavily padded shoes and insoles. Unfortunately they were so padded my gait didn't adjust and I continued to run striking my heel (which is not how your supposed to run). This resulted in some pretty bad knee paiin. When I first heard about minimal running shoes, I started out with the Nike Frees (Vibrams were just too weird looking for me) and never looked back. Belle, if you like them keep running them as long as you're not experiencing any pain. You know your body best. Worse case scenario, if the Nike Frees don't work for your running, at least you'll have some cute shoes to run errands in ­čÖé

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  6. amy b.s. says:

    i swear finding the right pair of shoes is half the battle.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  7. RS says:

    I too swear by the Nike Free. I've been running in it for about two years, and I am generally pain free. I used to get shin splits all the time, but no longer. I also second the running while listening to audio books recommendation. I can run many more miles when listening to a good book — in fact, sometimes I don't want to stop, just so I have an excuse to keep listening!

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  8. BAB says:

    Wait a second–two weeks ago, you said you hate to run, so you don't run ever. Now you're logging miles on the treadmill? What happened to the elliptical and Jillian Michaels videos?

    Cute shoes though.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  9. Kelly says:

    DC girl recommending Georgetown Running Company! They spent over an hour with me analyzing my gait and trying tons of options with me. Check out their Yelp reviews for corroboration – they're all, like, glowing. My bum ankle doesn't hurt the day after I run anymore!

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  10. M says:

    Ditto to LS. When I first started running with my pretty shoes I chose for their colors at Sports Authority, I messed up my knees, got shin splints, and pulled the arch muscle in both my feet. That's right, pulled my arches. Don't let this happen to you. Go to Pacers. Go to Fleet Feet. Go somewhere they will watch your feet as you move.

    January 5, 2012/Reply
  11. Adrienne says:

    Additionally recommend getting your gait and feet analyzed. Every town has a decent running store. Different shoe brands are better for different feet. Unless you know what to look for, you can cause serious damage to your feet while working through the pain.

    Since every brand has a basic shoe box, all of their shoes will fit one type of foot better than another one. It doesn't matter if you get Nike running shoes or crosstrainers. If the Nike mold doesn't fit your feet, you will hurt.

    For example, if you have narrow feet or high arches, Nike, New Balance and Adidas work. If you have flat feet with no arch (like me), these shoes make workouts extremely painful. Reebok and Saucony are the best brands to try.

    I also have a marathon-loving friend who swears by Mizuno. I wasn't aware they even made running shoes since I haven't heard of them since my high school volleyball days.

    Budget to spend up to $150 the first time and go to a specialty store. After that, you know the brand and style to buy and can look for deals at sporting good stores.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  12. Libbi says:

    I just bought my first pair of Nike Free's over the summer, and LOVE THEM! I have always swore by Asics since I began running in high school, and a friend who also always wore Asics told me to try the Nike Free's out. I was skeptical at first, but now I can't wait to get more pairs, they are SO comfortable!

    But to tag on with everyone elses' advice, YES definitely go to a running store, and it definitely doesn't hurt to check in with a Podiatrist. If you have flat feet or high arches, you may need some additional support to help you. I found out in high school that one leg is longer than the other, causing serious knee and hip pain. A small wedge in my shoe did the trick!

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  13. Jessica says:

    I've always found that Nike runs wide in women's shoes. DId you find that to be the case with these? I've taken to running in Adidas or New Balance, as they tend to have a narrower shoe.

    January 7, 2012/Reply