Buying Shoes in the Land of the Undersized

New Balance 860
Standard

If the Wikipedia article about average human height is to be trusted Canadian men average about 175cm (5’9″) whereas Chilean men hit a mean of about 170cm (5’7″). When I arrived it was fun to be the tallest man in a room. Everything feels slightly too small. Subway cars are slightly downsized versions of Toronto, and elevator manufactures must asume people are stackable because they never fit more than three people shoulder to shoulder. But it’s not a staggering difference so after a while I stopped noticing it. Until I had to buy shoes.

I’ve been running a lot since I arrived in Santiago. There’s a race almost every weekend and lots of paths in the city. I even did okay in a local trail race a few weeks ago, which make me want to do better.

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Boxing Day morning I went for a run up San Cristobal. I missed a cutoff for the trail and took the looooooong way up on the road. I’m glad I got to see it, but by the time I got home I was feeling it. My feet had taken quite a beating and upon closer inspection, my shoes were the culprit. I’ve been running in them for about 8 months, so it was time for a replacement.

‘No problem’, I thought, ‘I’ll go to the Costanera Centre (one of the nicer malls I’ve been in). They have shoes stores.’ Costanera is a mall on par with Yorkdale from Toronto, and sometimes it’s nice to go there if only to feel like you’re in North America again. And they certainly have shoe stores, but the shoes they had were a different story.

Size 10.5. If you want anything larger you’re out of luck. And with my size 12.5s that means I was stuck. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the end of the 2012 calendar, but they were just fresh out. Nike, Adidas, Brooks, and (my favourite) New Balance all carrying wide varieties of running shoes sized 10.5 and under. One brand did seem to be available in larger sizes, but it was Asics and I’m haven’t been pleased with the GT-2170s I’m retiring so I wanted something new.

And I also realized pretty quickly that while I didn’t have much problem pointing at the model on the shelf and sputtering out ‘do-ce punt-o cinc-o’ (twelve point five), getting any extra advice across the language gap wasn’t going to happen. I had to know what I wanted and what I was looking for.

I’ve been through a lot of pairs of shoes over the years, especially since I started doing marathons in 2010. I’ve experimented a lot with footwear brands but I keep coming back to New Balance. They’re robust, supportive, and just feel right. So to ease my pain I decided I’d just look for the 1190s (high performance, mild stability) or 860s (everyday trainer, moderate stability). I looked for New Balance retailers in the area and lo and behold they had a store all to themselves! Only problem is it was out in Las Condes, which is a bit of a hike East of downtown.

[map address="Avda Vitacura 5656, Santiago, Chile" ]

For those playing at home, try to find the Santa Isabel metro station. That’s where I live.

But it was a part of the city I hadn’t been to so why not take a trip out there. Las Condes is a richer neighbourhood and always nice to look around. Looking at the Google Maps I saw there was also a mall that made Costanera look like a flea market so I figured I’d drop in there as well.

Holy cow Parque Arauco (the malls name) is nice.

Parque Arauco

Lots of outdoor restaurants. Cool boulevard style storefronts. High end stores. Las Condes and Santiago Centro are literally worlds apart. It’s like a different universe every time I’m out there.

In the end the mall didn’t have any shoes for me. Again, only up to 11, except for Asics. Seriously, nobody wants those shoes.

But the New Balance store had my 860s! In a size 13 none-the-less.

New Balance 860

They’re not the flashiest in the world, in fact they’re oddly similar looking to my old shoes, albeit a little cleaner.

Shoe Comparison

New Balance 860 and Asics GT2170 side by side.

I took them out for a light run tonight and they feel great. Great support and reasonably responsive. Happy to be reunited with an old friend.