Before I fell in love with Champion brand athletic wear, I'd been a die-hard Nike fan for a couple of decades. Sadly, those dark days arrived when Nike began letting me down and I had to say goodbye.
I was soooo disappointed when several new pairs of Nike's developed holes in the interiors with less than two months of wear.
The first time it happened, I thought I'd just picked out a set that was out of the ordinary in not being up to par, but then it happened again with the next pair. The third pair it happened with was a pair that had been gifted to me by a friend, who got a pair for herself and me because she caught them on sale at a great price.
Sadly, although they were light and incredibly comfy, they gave out too in just a couple of months.
So, when I was went on the hunt for an inexpensive, thin-soled shoe to wear cycling on my mountain bike (I prefer to ride with pedals and cages as opposed to clipless pedals), I came across a pair of Champion brand shoes that worked like a charm, for under $30.
On the south-east coast, I'd always ridden wearing hiking boots. There was often nearly as much hiking and rock climbing when I went cycling as there was riding. The hiking boots were lightweight, thin soled and had awesome grip when I had to carry my bike and hoof it.
Texas, though, with its triple-digit weather, made hiking boots too hot to wear. I needed something with thin soles and well vented uppers. As it turned out, I scored big when I found the Champions. If there wasn't much hiking involved on a bike trip they proved to be the perfect cycling shoe for bike pedals with clips.
They were durable too. I washed them frequently and even with steady use, each pair lasted about six months.
Later, after coming to Indiana to recuperate from a heart-issue that got out of hand in the summer of 2012, I had recovered enough to be able to put in some daily (okay, mostly-daily) mileage on walks, trying to get my duration abilities back up to an easy paced jog, for at least a mile or two; nothing fast and no ground-pounding, just some low impact, granny-speed stuff.
Once more, I went hunting among the Champion selection and found the most perfect-feeling jogging shoes I'd ever worn.
They were soft as marshmallows on the bottom, and ultra-lightweight, yet gave me great support on the insole. The uppers were well vented, and had excellent elasticity when I needed them to bend and stretch.
When I got the first pair, I was averaging 2 to 3 miles a day, mostly on pavement, and with intermittent walking and jogging.
They lasted six months before I had to get a new pair, which is the pair pictured on the right.
Now comes the sad part.
I was able to secure two pairs of these shoes in one year. When this set (the ones pictured) became too worn for further workouts, I went searching for a replacement pair just like them. To my dismay, Champion has either stopped making them, or they've stopped selling them in the shops in this area.
It was was wayyyy disappointing having to move to a different style of Champion shoe, and finding a good fit wasn't easy. They have lots of styles, and so far I've seen their shoes at Payless Shoe Store, Target, and several sportswear shoppes. But, finding the type that both looked good and felt good was a challenge. I wear narrow shoes, especially in the heel, and sometimes it's a pain trying to find a pair that have extra space where I need it, and less space where I don't.
I tried on several pairs that had a color scheme I loved, but all of them were uncomfortable regardless if I upped or downed the size. I finally found a pair that felt good, but lacked the marshmallow-toothed sole I wanted. Surprisingly, when I tried them on and walked around in them a bit, they feel pretty good. The soles are flexible, but not soft to like the last model, however even without the marshmallow effect, the the insoles seem to have an impressive amount of support and shock absorption.
I've only worn them for one walk so far, which was the night I got them. The very next night, weather arrived dumping a bit of snow and some ice, just enough to make the roads slick.
But, they did good during the first wear. I didn't do any jogging, just walking, and I stopped at a little under three miles and the whole time I was on pavement. They stayed comfy, and I made it back without any stress fracture flare ups or raw spots from rubbing, so for now I'm happy. I still don't love them like I loved the last style, but they'll grow on me ... I hope.
I do hope by the time these wear out Champion will have improved their color scheme with this style. I wasn't keen on having to get pink-trimmed shoes.
Alicia bought a pair last year when I got the second pair of the ones I loved. They didn't have the style I was getting available in her size, so she got these, which are a close match. Her shoes look pink in this pic, but in truth, they're more of a lavender color.
The soles aren't quite as marshmallowy, and the uppers are similar, but they've got less mesh in the uppers, and are more solid structured.
This style hurts my feet in the toe box, but she says they've done really well for her.
They've held up longer than mine because she doesn't go for regular walk/jog workouts. She does other stuff instead and when she's off road walking and jogging, she wears her all-terrain Swiss Army trainers. But, these she wears for the occasional walk or jog around the village, and sometimes to Murphy Park in New Harmony, saving her Swiss Army brand for the more demanding off-road trails.
When there's weather ...
When the weather is too foul for sneakers, I got some boots for Christmas last year that have been a wonderful stand-in. They're super-comfy, the bottoms are fantastic for no-slip grip, and they hug my foot's shape just tight enough to be secure without choking me from the ankles down.
Last year, I had such terrific edema in my extremities, I couldn't always get them zipped, but since I've been mending steadily (mostly), the edema has stopped, at least 98% of the time, and I can zip them to the top without any trouble.
Speaking of zipping, one thing I don't like about these boots is the zipper location. It's on the outside and it'd be much better if it were in the front, with maybe a panel to cover it. On the side, it just makes it awkward to zip and it doesn't look as good. Other than that, they're awesome.
They're water proof, all the way to the top with a warm and super-soft faux-fur liner that has so far, kept my feet and legs warm in single digit weather and in several inches of snow for a good long while when I've been walking, snow boarding, running from the horses, or whatever else. I haven't jogged in them, but I'm thinking if I did, they'd work pretty well for it in a pinch.
The brand is Rugged Outback, and these are yet another style that stopped after only one season of sales in this area.
There's a competitor style that's available that feel terrible to wear, and of course, they're still around. (Sigh) Go figure ...
Anyway, the reason propelling this post is my hope that some Champion employee will see it, and report it, and just maybe they'll bring my favorite sneakers back on deck! Also, to give you a heads up on the good things about Champion brand athletic wear. They make great stuff. The problem is getting them to continue making it when they've come out with something that works really well.
There's been no trouble with the rest of their athletic clothing. So far, I love everything I've bought that's Champion brand, from sweat-wicking tees to bike shorts, to sweat pants and sports bras. They actually manage to have all of those items available in very cool colors, including the high viz and reflective stuff.
For now I'll stick with Champion, but if I continue to have a struggle finding another set of their shoe styles that I like a lot, I'll be heading to greener pastures. I don't want to, so I'm hoping Champion will figure it out and get with the program. There really is a good deal of truth in the advice of not fixing something if it isn't broken.
Last thing to cover are laces. The ones I've got pictured below are really great for athletic shoes. They last forever and they're available in both boring, or high viz colors. Your choice! (Grin!)
I have a yellow set in my old sneakers, which have been retired to become my desk and around the house shoes, and a green set in my new ones.
Much of the time, my walks and jogs are done after dark, so, I have a big love for high-visibility colors in athletic wear from the ground up. After dark I always wear a bandanna (I have loads of them) with fluorescent colors in it, and fluorescent colored tee shirts and a high viz hoodie (when it's cool enough) too.
I know this isn't about any of our packs' outings or adventures, but since it's about athletic wear, I thought I'd make it fit here on the Pack Rides! blog. And since you're all so incredibly accommodating, I'm doubting any of you will be fussing over it. I do hope you found it interesting and helpful next time you're out shoe-shopping for some athletic shoes and that maybe I've enticed you to give Champion brand a test run.
Okay, that's all for this one gang!
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