The Garlic & Olive Oil of Shoes: How I’m Beating ITBS

So, I’m 100% Italian. My mom and I always joke around about how we just “don’t mess with the basics.” In our cooking, that means that there’s plenty of flavor and enjoyment from adding garlic and olive oil to almost any dish. Once you read this entire entry, you’ll see how this pertains to shoes.

Long story short, I learned not to mess with what works – at least in this situation. And now that you’ve read the short story, keep going to read the long story.

As many of you know, I suffered from terrible IT band syndrome, or ITBS, after the Pittsburgh half marathon. It wasn’t just a little pain; it was debilitating. I limped through the finish line and right into the medical tent, franticly asking for answers.

“I can’t bend my leg,” I said – as if it were a question.

“It’s your IT band. There have been at least 20 other people in here so far with the same thing. Use a foam roller and a Stick massager.”

So I did, and low and behold, it was healed in two weeks. Two weeks was a short time to wait to try the new Hoka Bondi 4 shoes that I bought at the Pittsburgh half marathon expo. I had my eye on Hokas for a while. They just looked so damn dreamy – all that padding, a guided ride…they seemed perfect for someone who heel strikes 100% of the time.

Except I went out in them, and I discovered at about 1.7 miles that I had that same, debilitating pain in my other leg. I was familiar with IT band pain because I spent two weeks nursing my left leg back to health, and now, NOW, the right leg?

Welp, time to foam roll and Stick massage!

That wasn’t working. I foam rolled and Stick massaged many, many times per day. The pain subsided. As soon as I went back out, it came back again right at the same time – between 1.5-2 miles.

I moved to the CEP IT band compression strap. I made it for 2 miles, but by 2.5, I was walking the rest of my run.

I took more time off and biked because biking didn’t hurt. after a week or two weeks of rest and biking, still the same pain, and no better.

I was at a loss. I talked myself into dropping out of a race because I knew I must have seriously injured my other IT band somehow. I was close to calling my doctor and spending hundreds more on PT to get the problem under control. I was heartbroken, and I was becoming an insane bitch because I wasn’t able to run (no really – I was).

Finally, I thought, “Let me think back to a time when I didn’t have any problems running. What shoes did I wear?”

When I wore the Hokas, I experienced terrible IT band pain. They were out. When I wore my loaded Asics that were apparently better because they were more expensive, I got a hamstring sprain. When I wore my sixty dollar Asics that I bought on a whim from Zappos, I had no problems.

What the hell? I tried everything else I could think of to get the pain to go away. Might as well break out the Asics I bought and only wore for about a month, logging hardly any miles. Low and behold, I ran three miles and didn’t feel a twinge of pain. Same for the next run. And the next run. And the next run

Now, some would say that it could potentially be a lot of things that are making the pain go away, and that’s valid – but I just don’t think that’s the case. It doesn’t make sense that changing into different shoes made pain go away immediately, but there was no causal relationship. Same route, same pace, same weather, same everything – except the shoes.

I have logged nearly 20 miles in 9 days since I switched back to my cheap Asics, or what I will refer to as the garlic and olive oil of shoes. They’re basic, but they do amazing things and get the job done. There’s nothing fancy about them, and they’re one of the cheapest womens running shoe models Asics makes. They’re actually advertised as “low mileage” shoes (ha). At sixty dollars a pair, I will buy every color – I could have bought at least two for what I paid for my dreamy Hokas…

Lesson learned here for me – don’t doctor things up too much. Yes, have your gait examined and all that jazz. But…if the shoe fits, run in it. You’re lucky if you hit the nail on the head with the style and model of your first pair of running shoes, and I was silly to leave them behind.

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