The perfect beginner running shoes are probably waiting at Payless

My running shoes are starting to fall apart. There is a hole in the mesh over my pinky toe joint that is ever-increasing with each run I go on, stubbornly hanging on to my first pair of running shoes.

They’ve been a great pair, carrying me to some of my most exciting running milestones – first time running a mile without stopping, first time making it around the block in Denver without feeling like my lungs were going to explode from lack of oxygen, my first 5k, the first time I realized I was breezing up a hill that had previously made me gasp for air and question my sanity.

I realize to many runners, these milestones aren’t really milestones. They’ve accomplished great things with their shoes (and legs and lungs). They’ve run marathons, half marathons, personal record mile times, etc. But to me, still less than a year in to being a runner, each of those memories has become important moments that I can look back and marvel at.

Celebrating my first 5k, the Ugly Sweater Run. I took training seriously, but definitely not attire. Those penguin socks gave me the worst blisters of my life.

I knew my shoes were cheap when I got them. I found them on sale at Dick’s for about 60 bucks, and I had barely actually used them to run in up until a year ago or so. They’d done a lot of dog walking, sight-seeing, and even played in a kickball league, but little to no running.

Fast forward two years, and I’m at the Cherry Creek location of Boulder Running Company. I’m desperate to find a new pair of shoes that will be as good to me as my Saucony Ignition 3s have been. I’m being informed that they don’t carry those shoes (they’ve never even heard of them) because they’re more of a shoe that would be carried at Payless. If I want something in that price range, I can check the clearance rack. Ouch.

Let me preface this by saying that despite this initial bobble in customer service, I was thrilled with how helpful and wonderful the staff at BRC was. The girl helped my boyfriend and me simultaneously, pulling out dozens of different pairs for our very contrasting needs.

Anyways, I was taken aback by the Payless comment. First of all, I got these shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, thankyouverymuch. I like to think that although I still occasionally shop at Forever 21 (are you still supposed to shop there if you’re over 21?), I’m enough of an “adult” to shop outside of Payless for shoes.

Actually, scratch that. Payless has awesome deals and sometimes cute shoes.

And so what if my shoes had come from Payless? That didn’t make them any lesser of a shoe, or me any lesser of a runner, at least in my eyes. The shoes were a legit running brand (Saucony), they’ve always been incredibly comfortable, and I’ve yet to suffer any injuries or even minor issues from running in them. Didn’t this girl in her fancy expensive shoe store realize that these shoes were My First Running Shoes? That they had made me excited to run, been there through all the tough runs and the fun runs – the ones where I actually enjoyed a runner’s high instead of runner’s oh my god I’m going to die please call an ambulance why did I do this. These were awesome shoes!

The second 5k, this past May. My beloved shoes are barely visible, but they helped me up all the unexpected hills of Omaha!
The second 5k, May 2014. My beloved shoes are barely visible, but they helped me up all the unexpected hills of Omaha!

The point in all of this is who cares where you first pair of running shoes come from? Sports Authority, Dick’s, Payless, wherever. As long as they’re comfortable to you and are of reasonable quality, don’t let any external or internal voices tell you that they aren’t real running shoes. You were a real runner the second you decided to start running, ergo your shoes are real running shoes. Plus, if you actually hate running, wouldn’t you rather only spend $60 to find that out rather than double that amount (or more)?

My $60 shoes have been kick ass. I love them, and I will always look at them fondly in all of their holy, worn-down glory. So go find your first pair of running shoes, wherever they may be – just make sure they make you feel good when you run in them. That’s all that really matters.

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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