As we trot into October, cooler weather may entice new or inexperienced joggers to hit the trails. Thus, I thought it would be beneficial to highlight the most important part of any runner’s arsenal: good quality running shoes. Skimp on shoes and you could develop injuries such as blisters, abrasions, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or knee and foot pain that will leave you debilitated, disheartened, and defeated on the side of the road. Beyond that, the right pair of trainers can improve endurance and efficiency, so it pays to do your homework and invest in a good pair.
Convinced? Good, now let’s talk about picking the right shoes. I want this information to be universal, so I’ll avoid highlighting any specific brands or models of shoe. Most high-performance shoes will share some similar traits, so choose the pair that best fits your needs — and your foot. Don’t worry about fashion, ever.
It may seem obvious, but the number-one consideration is a shoe that feels comfortable. The right shoe needs to match not only the shape of your paw but also the biomechanics of all those bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments as they move in happy unison. You’ll be able to tell right away if a shoe bucks your natural gait. And while we’re at it, this is a good time to remind you to try on BOTH shoes instead of just one. Believe it or not, your foot size may differ from right to left. Feet naturally swell throughout the day as well, so it is best to do your shoe shopping in the evening, when those dogs are at their fullest.
Ok, comfort. Allowing for at least a thumbnail’s width (approximately ½ inch) from the end of your longest toe(s)to the tip of the shoe is a great rule of … well … thumb. Sorry. Make sure your toes have plenty of room to breathe and move. Cramming them in too tightly will increase the chance of moisture and blisters and is just downright uncomfortable.
Try the shoes out to see if there is any unfortunate binding, pinching, or rubbing across the ball of the foot, on the arch, or at the heel. While you want the shoes to support and embrace your feet, any discomfort out of the gate will only spell trouble down the road.
Remember, these shoes need to be comfortable right away! Don’t buy the bull about needing a period to break them in. Go for comfort or don’t go at all.
While you can pick up a decent pair of shoes at any big box or sporting goods retailer, I’d suggest making the extra effort to visit a specialized running store. Not only will the pros there be ultra-knowledgeable and excited to help you out, but they’ll have an abundant stock of shoes to match your physiology, biomechanics, and how much/where you intend to do your running. Types of running shoes include: stability, motion control, neutral, and barefoot. The experts at the store can recommend the best fit for you based on your own goals and the environment in which you plan to run. This personalized treatment may cost a few extra bucks, and you may have to answer some no-nonsense questions about your personal running habits or training goals, but in the end your feet (and knees) will thank you. Some stores may even have an in-house treadmill to allow you to take a few candidate pairs for test runs.
As a general rule, a good pair of running shoes should last around 500-600 miles. While they may not look too worn out at that point, key arch and ankle support and jar-jamming cushioning materials will start to show their age around then. The good news is that you’ll return to the shoe store armed with even more knowledge of what works best for you. Next time, pick up a few different pairs to rotate in your schedule.
Article by Jason Braun