Toned body, legs strong and steady, beads of sweat on her forehead, hair tied back and out of her face – gosh, I want to be like her!
Not to promote consumerism or endless material consumption, but adverts for running shoes are actually getting it right at the moment. They appeal to our athletic drive, our sporting pulse. They tell us that this shoe will make us faster, better, stronger – I feel energetic just looking at some of the adverts out there.
I don’t know about you, but I want a running shoe that’s going to get me through the last three kilometres of my half marathon, a shoe that’s comfortable, a shoe that won’t make my toenails go black if I decide to do the Comrades Marathon. I want a shoe that will put up with me if I pronate slightly, won’t mind if I sweat too much and doesn’t care if I sometimes run a little pigeon-toed. I want a shoe with a little gel protection, a shoe that won’t rub my heels raw, a shoe that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve been running on coals. And if it’s a pretty shoe, well then that’s just an added bonus.
Running shoes are functional. Yes, they can be fashionable too but if you give a runner the choice between a grey pair of good shoes and a bright pink pair of bad shoes, I can guess which one they’ll choose. Many women may put up with wearing high heels all day to look glam, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’ve been running for three hours straight, your hair is matted against your face and your cheeks are as red as the devil himself. Speaking of, sometimes you feel like you are literally in hell.
And then there are those amazing runs. The runs when your feet feel as quick and light as a feather, your heart rate sits comfortably and you breeze through the finish line looking like you’ve just come out of the beauty salon. It’s on those days that you’ll tell people that it’s because you bought these really awesome shoes with a padding this and a gel that. The power of advertising.
The point is that women are finally being depicted in the media as something other than pretty, fashionable, skinny and made-up. We get sweaty and competitive and energetic too. A far cry from the ReeTone adverts a few years ago that implied women only ever wore running shoes to tone their bums and legs. Running shoes to compete in an actual event? Gosh, don’t’ be silly, women just want to be skinny!
One of my favourite adverts is one released last year by Nike Women. While it isn’t of a fearless female in action, it contradicts the notion that women do exercise to achieve beautiful figures and that some women are actually pretty happy with their bums.
Exercise should be about health and well-being and fulfilment. Our bodies, no matter what size, shape or form, manage to get us through some amazing experiences especially in terms of exercise goals whether it is boot camp three times a week or an ultra-marathon. Advertising companies seem to be finally getting that and kudos to them for incorporating it into their marketing strategies. It’s working.