Just about every runner or would-be-runner has faced sticker shock at the price of running shoes. Good shoes are NOT cheap. But, we’re here to tell you there’s a reason for that- and that the price of those good shoes is usually money well spent.
There’s an old adage that says you spend most of your life in bed or on your feet- so don’t scrimp on mattresses and shoes. That’s about right. And, for runners, the quality of your shoe is even more important.
The job of your running shoe is really to protect your joints: every time your foot hits the pavement (or track) the shoe needs to absorb some (most) of the shock and help to keep your knees and ankles in alignment. Every bit of shock you can take off your knees is helpful. Proper ankle and knee alignment are important to keep you injury free.
The first step to figuring out what type of running shoes you need is to determine what type of running habits you have. You can work with a Certified Personal Trainer to have them analyze your running habits and make suggestions regarding form- this is called gait analysis. You can also go into a specialized running shoe store and have them help to evaluate what type of shoe will best support and protect your joints. A Trainer or shoe store expert will watch which part of your foot is taking the most impact and how your knees react to that impact- then they can recommend brands and types based on your individual needs. Here in the Tri-Cities we two specialized shoe stores that work specifically with runners: Runner’s Sole and David’s Shoes- both located in Kennewick.
Once you have your new shoes make sure you break them in gradually- all runners know how debilitating blisters can be. Never rush to break in new shoes before a race (trust us on that one: been there, done that). Alternate new shoes with old shoes every couple of miles and days until you’ve put about 30 miles into the new pair. DO NOT TOSS your old shoes until you’re sure your new shoes are well broken in (again, lessons learned). Running shoes take about 100-150 miles (ish) to truly break in- this is when the foam stops condensing. You should replace your running shoes about every 300-500 (ish) miles- which is when the shoe usually loses it shock absorbing qualities and forces your joints and muscles to take that impact. On the flip side of that, you should really be shoe shopping when your old shoes hit about 300-400 miles- this gives you plenty of mileage in your old shoes with time to break in the new shoes.
A few common problems people run into while shoe shopping:
-Thinking all running shoes are created equal- they’re not. This is part of the reason why good running shoes ARE more expensive.
-Thinking more expensive running shoes are somehow the best- not necessarily the truth.
-Thinking that once you’ve found the “perfect pair” of running shoes you’ll never have to shop again- not true, your shoes wear out and your running form can even change over the years, which will mean you need to reassess which type of shoe is better for you at this stage of your running game.
-Putting brand loyalty before everything else- Nike, Adidas, ASICS, etc, many studies have found that there isn’t that much difference between the top running brands. What’s more important in a shoe is how it fits your foot and assists your joints while running- not the logo staring up at you.
-Buying shoes because you like how they feel in the store- like we mentioned earlier, it takes about 100 miles for the foam to stop condensing, then you’ve got another 400 good miles left to go. Aim for a shoe that feels great at the 100 mile mark (yes, this will take some trial and error).
-Buying shoes that don’t fit your needs. Again, the primary purpose of running shoes is to absorb/reduce the shock of running so your knees don’t have to, and to keep your knees and ankles in proper alignment. If your shoes aren’t doing that- then you have the wrong pair.
-Buying the wrong size shoe- running shoes should be about 1 size bigger than your normal shoes. This will help keep your toes and toenails from bruising.
All in all, shoe shopping is going to take some time. And it’s probably not going to be cheap. But a GOOD pair of running shoes- shoes that support your needs- are going to go a long way towards keeping you injury free. A couple hundred dollars in running shoes is a whole lot cheaper than thousands of dollars of physical therapy and lost time recovering from a knee injury!
We wish you good health,
Columbia Basin Racquet Club
Photo Credit: Josiah Mackenzie via Flickr