I was taking a look at the soles of my Adidas running shoes this week, specifically looking at the wear pattern on the soles. I have terrible form, especially in my left leg, that resulted in Runner’s Knee (ITB) when I attempted to switch to a new pair of shoes. After a couple of hundred miles on them, the uneven stresses my errant gait places on my shoes begin to show up as uneven wear on the soles. But that’s not the point.
My mind wandered from my intial task to all the places those shoes have taken me over those hundreds of miles. They’ve run through the streets of Xian (China), Houston, Las Vegas, Hyderabad (India), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Toronto (Canada), Johannesburg (South Africa), and Shanghai (China). And they’ve taken me through the 100 Milevember challenge last November and through my training for the Grand Canyon hike. Is it even possible to look at a pair of shoes like that and not experience a flood of memories? It’s like your favorite shoes have their own channel on the DVR and hitting rewind is as simple as holding them in your hand.
The movie Forrest Gump begins along these lines; Forrest comments on the shoes of the nurse sitting next to him and then begins to reminisce about all the shoes he’s worn during his life and the moments and milestones associated with them. Of course, we can see from hindsight that he’s sitting on that park bench in the Nike running shoes that he supposedly wore for over three years of running back and forth across the United States. (If you have a little extra time, I recommend this aricle with an analysis of Forrest’s journey.)
I think shoes are a great metaphor for an active life because most sports and outdoor activities, travel even, are done in shoes. Of course, it’s our bodies that carry us through the challenges and accomplish the goals we set, but the wear on bodies heals (for the most part) while shoes wear permanently and eventually wear out. I think if you’re active, you want to get to the end of this life threadbare; you don’t want to end up in perfectly shiny shoes with full soles having not taken those extra miles nor turned down side streets. You want to look down at your feet and see the dust, mud, and worn soles. You want to see some scars in the mirror because each one tells a story (even if they require a little embellishment at times).