It always boggles my mind how little I get asked about shoes. Clients ask me everything, from which restaurants I think are healthiest, to how often hills should be incorporated into training plans. But I honestly rarely get asked about shoes!
Your running shoes are the most important piece of equipment you own.
They will make or break your training. In fact, most aches and pains can be attributed to improper footwear. When I first started running I suffered through severe IT band issues. I often had to stop 2km into a training run because the pain was too intense to continue. Finally a fellow runner tipped me off that it might be time for new shoes. When I laced up my brand new kicks the difference was astounding. I was like a new runner!
Choosing a running shoe can be confusing. With so many options out there, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in choosing your shoe based on your favourite colour combination. Read on for some important factors to consider when searching for your “sole-mate.”
Which brand is best?
When I bring up the subject of proper footwear this is the first question I am asked. The answer is none. Most brands offer a wide variety of styles and fits so it’s just a matter of finding what works best for you. My advice is to visit your local specialty shoe store (ie: Running Room) and ask to be fitted by an expert. Remember it’s about fit, not about which fancy colours catch your eye. Brands also often offer additional colour options online so once you find a model that works for you, be sure to check websites if aesthetics are important to you.
What style should I get?
As I mentioned, most brands offer a wide variety of styles, designed to be used for a variety of activities. There are also various fits available depending on if you need a softer cushion or more motion control. It is important to know the shape of your foot and arch depth in order to select the right fit. Experts at shoe stores can usually determine your foot style by a gait analysis and other tests. Make sure you ask if you aren’t sure!
Has a normal-size arch. If you have a normal foot you land on the outside of your heel and roll inwards slightly for optimal shock absorption. This makes for a very biomechanically efficient runner and you therefore don’t need a motion-control shoe. Your best bet is a stability shoe with moderate control features
A low arch is usually indicative of an overpronated foot that strikes on the outside of the heel and pronates (rolls inwards) excessively. This can lead to overuse injuries over time. Motion control shoes with high stability (and a firm midsole) to reduce the degree of pronation are best. Avoid highly cushioned or curved shoes without stability features.
The High-Arched Foot
Those with highly curved and arched feet tend to supinate or underpronate. This results in less than optimal shock absorption. A cushioned shoe with lots of flexibility to encourage foot motion is best for you. Stay away from motion control or high stability shoes as these work to decrease mobility.
Often stores allow you to test out the shoe for a few training sessions on your own as long as you don’t wear them outside (ie: treadmill running only). Take full advantage of this, especially when you are trying out a new model or brands.
When to replace?
A lot of times I work with clients who have had the same pair of running shoes for 3 years. If they still fit, why change? Just like your car, running shoes deteriorate over time depending on how much you are using them. It’s important to replace them once they are worn down as they may not be providing you with the proper support they once did. The length of life of your running shoes depends entirely on how much you are using them and what for. For anyone doing most of their workouts in the gym with the occasional run, I suggest replacing your shoes once a year. For the more avid runner, it’s best to go by kilometers. Once you hit about 600km it’s time to donate your old kicks and start shopping for a new pair. For me this means at least 2 pairs a year.
If you have any races planned this year, it’s not a bad idea to start breaking in a new pair of shoes about 4-6 weeks before race day. New shoes will add an extra spring to your step, as long as you give yourself enough time to wear them in. I ignored my better judgement for my last marathon and switched shoes 8 days before my race. I had never experienced blisters from shoes before and bought the exact same pair as I had previously, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. Huge mistake! 6km into the marathon I could already feel the blister forming. Luckily I was able to tough it out, but it put a damper on my post race celebrations and made walking very difficult for the following week.
Hopefully you are now feeling better equipped to navigate the world of shoe shopping. Just remember, there is no one superior shoe. Everyone has different needs. It may take you a few pairs of runners to find the ones that work best for you so don’t feel like you have to stick with the same brand or model each time. Shopping for running shoes is a lot like dating.
Barefoot runners have it pretty easy eh?