Happy Trail

Houston-area's newest trail opens with blossoming plans for the future

The Spring Creek Nature Trail is the beneficiary of a national grant. Courtesy Photo

This story originally appeared on CultureMap/Houston.

Houston-area hikers can look forward to a smoother path, thanks to recent national grant. The endowment will help build additional bridges along the Spring Creek Nature Trail, a 13-mile unpaved natural surface trail located in The Woodlands. 

The funds come just as the Spring Creek Nature Trail opened to the public on June 1 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The trail runs through Montgomery and Harris County, following the contours of Spring Creek.

The Bayou Land Conservancy — which works to conserve land and protect Lake Houston — is one of nine non-profit organizations across the country to receive a trail grant from the American Hiking Society (and charter sponsor L.L. Bean). The goal of the project is to construct and anchor a boardwalk that can be utilized by multiple groups. The conservancy will engage trail volunteers in the design and build of the boardwalk.

“Building boardwalks on the trail will prevent rutting, soil compaction, and degradation of wetland habitat resulting from trail traffic,” said Jill Boullion, Executive Director of the conservancy, in a statement. “This is a low-impact solution so that trail users can experience Houston’s forested wetlands without impacting them ecologically.”

The right shoes are a big deal for runners. Courtesy photo

I bought my first pair of running shoes in 2007. I decided that I was running the Houston Marathon. I had no idea what I was doing, so I found a running group to train with (Kenyan Way, because I wanted to be as fast as the Kenyans). The next thing I needed was shoes. So, I went to Lady Foot Locker.

Until then, I bought my shoes at Payless or Wal-Mart, so I was really excited to buy real running shoes. I looked at all the shoes lined on the walls. The smell of leather, rubber, cloth, and whatever else shoes are made of filled my nose. A gentleman came by and asked if I needed help.

At this, I proudly announce:

“I need a pair of running shoes because I am running the Houston Marathon this year!"

He immediately recommends the $200 pair of shoes on the top shelf. I was thinking more like $70. After bargaining and pleading, I walked out of Lady Foot Locker with a brand new pair of Nike Shocks and $160 less in my bank account.

.The next morning, I meet the group for hill running at Allen Parkway. I was so excited. My first time in the runner community and.....

Everyone I met kept looking down at my shoes. Turns out Nike Shocks were the worst shoes to run in because of their heavy soles. That's what I get for going to Lady Foot Locker.

The problem is there are too many shoes and way too many opinions. Who is right and who wants a fat commission on their check? After twelve years and many pairs of running shoes later, I've gotten the whole thing down. So, I made a guide for you first-timers.

1. Buy your shoes at a specialty running store.

(I recommend Fleet Feet). The staff is usually made up of marathon runners who make it their personal business to keep up with running technology. You can also find out about running events.

2. Find the Right Salesperson.

This person should be friendly and patient. They would start by asking about your goals and they should find out about prior running experience that you may have. They would then start the gait assessment.

3. Gait Assessment.

This procedure separates Fleet Feet from Academy and Lady Foot Locker. This assessment is done in two ways:

Manually. The salesperson records you running on a treadmill to see exactly how you run. They are looking at how your foot strikes the ground and how much your ankles move while you run.

FitID. This is new, cutting edge technology. You stand on what looks like a scale. Sensors literally take the topography of your foot. You can tell how high your arches are and which way your foot tends to pronate.(that's the inward or outward roll of your foot when you run or walk. This dictates the type of shoe you need).

4. Choosing your shoe.

There are two things to consider: your shoe type, and shoe style.

Type. There are three types of shoes based on the support you need. Neutral. Stability. Motion Control. This is the whole point of the assessment. Neutral shoes are for people who don't pronate. Stability shoes are for people who do. Motion controlled shoes are for people whose feet are all over the place and need stability.

Style. There should be a vast variety of the lastest shoes. Choose from brands like Nike, ASICS, Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Adidas, On, and more. Back in 2007, running seemed like a sport that only middle-aged men in those crazy shorts (you know the ones) participated in. Now younger people have taken up the sport, so running shoe brands have really stepped up their shoe game. Instead of crazy neon orange and greens, you can find knit shoes in the sexy colors like grey, black, navy blue, and pinks. So take your pick. I use a nuetral shoe with good cushioning. Currently, I'm giving the Brooks Ghost a try.

5. Size.

What is your shoe size? If you are a 7 1/2, you would answer 7 1/2, right? Wrong. Your running shoe size needs to be an entire size larger than your regular shoe size. So, if you wear a 7 1/2, then your running shoe size is an 8 1/2. While you run, your foot repeatedly jabs the toe box of the shoe. This extra space reduces unnecessary injuries like your toenails turning black and falling off.

6. Price.

A good running shoe should cost between $120 and $150. If you are squeamish about the price, I assure you, it is totally worth it. Just ask Fred Faour. He bets on his Brooks every single time because his injuries decreased and his times improved once he started wearing them. It's that serious.

7. Final Test.

Try them on and run around. This will let you know if the shoe is right for you. If not, choose another. This is where the salesperson exercises patience.

8. Accessories.

Good accessories will make your running experience go from good to exceptional. Good socks ( about $13) that are dry-wicking, padded, have a high thread count and stay in place are a must. Lock Laces ($8) that never come undone are well worth it.

9. Walkers.

Where are my walkers? Don't feel left out. Running shoes are walking shoes! So, this article applies to you too.

So, what's the whole point to this article?

Don't go to Wal-Mart. Don't go cheap. Do go to a place like Fleet Feet or another specialty store and get treated like a professional runner. Or don't cross the finish line.

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