Why I Got On To Break In My Running Shoes

There once was a time when joggers and runners were relatively uncommon sightings on the streets in my neighbourhood. Then one day, the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores and changed our world as we knew it. Our lifestyles followed suit. We now have to come to terms with a change in our habits and priorities in life. With these changes come minor changes in our lifestyle; and to match, the suitable gear for our activities. In this instance it is the running shoes we wear.

Four runners on the pre-marathon training.
Pre-London Marathon 2019. From left to right: Norizan Azizan, Azlina Ali, Raty Hussain and Noor Amy Ismail.
Image by Author

Running For My Sanity

As the year progressed from the initial outbreak of the pandemic, most of us have instinctively felt the need to up the ante on our health. It stemmed from the Movement Control Order (MCO). We became restless, and some of us desperately needed to quell our lethargy. The great outdoors had never been more attractive than ever before and we became impatient to seek change from the drudgery of a work from home (WFH) existence.

During those three months of MCO, though I did not quite go stir crazy, I shall admit to being antsy. Those were somewhat trying months for me. Running enables me to maintain a sense of sanity.  It is then when all else seems to empty my mind; all I see is the ground before me and the need to make up that distance according to my pace. Fast or slow, this is when I am in control.

A solitary runner on the road in the early morning sun.
Kristin Armstrong’s quote: “There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.
Image by Author

I had reacquainted myself to running just over five years ago. My running shoes were cast aside and ignored as I moved on from my teenage years. I dabbled in various other sporting activities thereafter and was quite happy to be that proverbial Jill of all trades but mistress of none. Thus I did not pursue any activity seriously to consider an appropriate change in footwear other than the trusted basic trainers.

Running Challenges

I took to the Couch to 5k challenge but grew tired of following a set plan. Instead of abandoning the programme entirely, I used it as a stepping stone, walking regularly and continually increasing my stamina. I then built up my speed to brisk walk, jog and then run.

Having been out of practice, the ensuing aches and pains that followed were quietly dismissed as body talk of the inactive. Two persistent concerns arose though. The soles of my feet began to ache at every step, and this, I found out, was the onset of plantar fascitis. The most glaring casualty of my runs was the colour change to my toe nails, when the big toes on each foot eventually turned black.

I knew then that the trainers I wore were not up to the standard of running shoes. As multi-functional sporting shoes, they were ideal for general activities that require support for the feet and sufficient traction to grip the ground.

Appropriate Running Footwear

As I found myself constantly using the trainers for running, I realised it was essential that I use the correct shoes for this specific activity. Running shoes are designed with features that will help you run better whilst preventing injury with its cushioning features.

New Balance running shoes at my usual playground, Taman Persekutuan Bukit Kiara at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
My New Balance took me on my park runs and gradually saw me build-up my speed and distance.
Image by Author

I shopped for an alternative pair but, as I was still not a regular runner then, I did not think long and hard over my choice of shoes. My requirement was simply a footwear of a wider width and sufficiently light. It came in a pair of a basic New Balance.

Know The Basic Anatomy Of The Running Shoes

It is useful to arm yourself with some basic knowledge of the running shoes. Know that it should provide good cushioning to protect the heel and midsole areas for that heel to toe stability. The heel counter of the shoe should be sufficiently sturdy to support and stabilise the heel, preventing excessive pronation and supination. This is when the arch of the feet naturally collapses, helping the body absorb the shock of the impact. Take care that the shoes provide adequate shock absorption as you would be subjecting the feet to the repetitive high impact motion of running.

For me, I paid close attention to the front of the shoes. Sometimes referred to as the toe box, it should be able to comfortably house the widest part of the feet and toes. The toes should not touch the inside front of the shoes; while the feet should sit comfortably within and not feel cramped.

Moving On To The Next Pair Of Running Shoes

When I lost my New Balance, I switched to a pair of Nikes. I was running more frequently, at an average of three times a week at varying distances. By then I had put myself through the paces with base runs, tempo runs and the occasional fartleks, when the pace of the run varies between fast runs and slow jogs.

A worn out pair of Nikes with the basic Polar fitness watch that tracks your location, distance, heart-rate and pace.
The Nikes that have helped build the base of my longer runs.
Image by Author

I wore down my shoes soon enough.

When I signed up for my first half marathon, I instinctively sought the services of a more serious footwear. Research and discussions led me to several considerations before purchasing the next pair of running shoes. Foremost on my mind is the desire to enjoy my runs and avoid potential injury.  

Look For The Perfect Fit In Your Running Shoes

The shoes should be a snug fit; centred in the shoe and not pinch nor flap at your feet. Make an allowance of one thumb’s width between the back of the ankle and the shoe.

Also, it needs to be flexible to allow the feet to move in any way it wants. The shoes should also be supportive and provide stability to your feet.

The On Cloudsurfer provides cushioning, support and stability.
My On Cloudsufers provides the cushion and stability to keep my feet happy.
Image by Author

Remember that your feet tend to swell a bit throughout the day. For a more accurate fit, it is advisable then, to try your shoes in the afternoon or evening.

What Do You Need The Running Shoes For?

An everyday pair of running shoes calls for durabilty, with the appropriate cushioning for your feet.

A lightweight pair of running shoes is ideal for faster workouts and races.

A pair of trail-running shoes is generally heavier and designed to adapt to the varying terrain of dirt, roots, gravel, rocks and mud. It would also have lugged soles to improve traction.

Is There A Budget For Your Running Shoes?

When a pair of running shoes carries a higher price tag it is likely to correlate with the technology and comfort within. However, it does not mean that the more expensive pair will yield the better run. Conversely a less expensive pair, although providing a good run, may lack the finer technological tuning to accommodate to the demands of your feet. Typically a pair of quality running shoes would range from MYR 400 – MYR 800 (approximately USD 100 – USD 200).

When I Shopped For My Running Shoes

I took off to a mall one afternoon and wandered in and out of various sports shops. Venturing into the Asics store, I discovered a service they offer: gait analysis. This records a runner’s feet while running on a treadmill. I was analysed by one of the assistants, who then explained my running style and recommend me an ideal pair of running shoes. It was indeed enlightening to learn of my foot type and the best shoe option available to me.

Basically your feet are supinated or under pronated, when you have high arches. This causes the ankles to have a tendency of rolling out when you walk and run, causing a load increase on the outside of the feet. You can quite simply note this by looking at a pair of your old, or existing shoes as the soles would be worn out on the outside. Then, you are better off by selecting a pair of cushioned shoes.

When you are over pronated, the arches of the feet are flat. The ankles are likely to roll in when you walk and run, increasing the pressure at the innerside of your feet. This can be detected from the old or existing shoes as the soles are likely to be worn out on the inside. Select a pair of support or control shoes to help prevent injuries.

Your feet are of neutral pronation when the ankles and legs are aligned. This is when the heels are able to maintain its vertical position upon walking or running as the body weight is evenly distributed between the toe and heel areas. The soles of the old, or existing shoes are generally worn out in the centre. Look for a pair of neutral shoes.

When Multi-Brand Sports Shop Works

I did not find my Asics of choice and wandered around the mall, wondering if my ideal running shoes are indeed elusive. Then I chanced upon the Running Lab, quite the one-stop shop with the popular Hoka, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, Salomon and Asics in their stable. Keeping in mind my needs of a wide-fitted and well-cushioned pair of running shoes, I continued my hunt for that perfect fit with the appealing design all wrapped up in that ideal budget.

Then, at the corner of my eyes I spied the On. Its colourways and unconventional outsoles immediately caught my attention.

The choice of On running shoes to suit your needs.
From top to bottom: The On Cloudflyer, Cloudsurfer, Cloudflow and Cloud X.
Image by Author using PhotoGrid

Why On Is The Only One In The Running

If I were accused of falling for the marketing talk, I readily admit my guilt. Born in the Swiss Alps in 2010, On held the ambition of revolutionising the sensation of running. Adapting the patented CloudTec® technology to the outsole, the shoes are engineered to ensure a soft landing upon ground contact offering “no compromise on cushioning and impact protection. In other words, running on clouds.”

I fell for the On Cloudsurfer and envisioned myself swiftly skimming the ground. It remained a vision, I hasten to add! Still, I readily confess my happiness with my pair of Ons. There was never a need to break in my running shoes as I went along my merry way from the get-go.

Plantar fascitis was almost a thing of the past and I was able to keep my troubling left ankle well supported on my runs. The significant and most obvious improvement was the colour change of my toe nails! Within five months or so, my black toe nails had grown out. Indeed it was just another pleasure when the shoes and socks come off – my toe nails intact and of the correct shade!

My first On Cloudsurfer is worn out but still good for the occasional outing.
The first pair of On Cloudsurfer is definitely well-worn yet it still warrants the occasional outing.
Image by Author

On The Choice For My Maiden Marathon

I became a little more serious in my running when I signed up for the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2019. There was no question of keeping to my On Cloudsurfers for this marathon outing. I was in my running shoes almost everyday. For two months at least I kept to an average of 30 kilometres each week, as the following three months to April saw a steady increase in distance. In the end my pre-marathon mileage stood at 1,082.72 kilometres and I came away without any injury. After 42 kilometres of pounding through the streets of London, I was indeed walking tall.

My running shoes at the  Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 - On Cloudsurfer.
I pulled on these On Cloudsurfers in April 2019 for my Marathon outing. It served me well for 42 kilometres on the streets of London and was hugely responsible for minimising the aches and pains the day after.
Image by Author

What Are Your Reasons For Buying Those Running Shoes

My pair of On Cloudsurfers was indeed a chance encounter that has since lasted over three years. I may not be shaving off copious minutes from my usual five-kilometre runs but my feet are happy! I continue to enjoy slipping into my running shoes and that, to me, is the ultimate in running.

When you choose a pair of running shoes, ensure that all your criteria are met. Try not to fall into the trap of purchasing a pair just because it is the latest model or because your favourite athlete sports a pair.

The running shoes you buy are essentially your personal preference. These are but aids to keep your feet happy, taking you on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

Where Can We Purchase On Running Shoes?

On running shoes are available at the Running Lab outlets at One Utama, Petaling Jaya and The Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

The distributor for On in Malaysia and Singapore is Outdoor Venture Pte Ltd and they can be contacted at +65 6846 1227.

About Azlina ALI

Veteran journalist, wife, mother, with an ever burning passion to write and tell stories. Then throw in a dose of healthy diet and an active lifestyle, Azlina is a force to be reckoned with. She's a lean, mean storytelling machine.

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