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Digital Running Club » Columns, Time on Feet » What your running shoes wish you knew

What your running shoes wish you knew

I love to write about funny, quirky, odd or interesting things that happen to me when I’m running or racing. It combines two of my favorite hobbies: running and writing. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to bring the dreaded nine-to-five into the mix. Not that I mind… there aren’t many careers in the running industry available to runners (such as myself) who aren’t fast enough to get paid to run professionally. So we make do with the careers that are left: I sell running shoes.

I’ve seen all types (of shoes, of feet and owners of said shoes and feet). It makes the job interesting and no two days are alike. But there are some situations that I encounter more often than not, and some common things that your running shoes (or possibly, your running shoe salesperson) would like you to know.

1. Don’t judge a running shoe by its color

I’d love to say that fashion doesn’t matter in the running industry, but unfortunately I don’t know that any industry is safe from fashion lately. That being said, please please please don’t go to your specialty running store or sporting goods store and ask to see only purple shoes because that’s the color scheme you’re going with this racing season. No matter how coordinated your outfit is, you will NOT look good in those racing photos if you’re grimacing and limping along because you’re in the wrong shoes.

Make your shoe purchase the first part of your outfit, and buy the best shoe for your foot and running style. THEN coordinate your outfit around it.

2. You shouldn’t need to break them in

Customers find themselves wanting a particular pair of shoes and try to convince themselves that if the fit isn’t perfect that the shoes will stretch out or break in over time. If it’s a quality pair of shoes, this won’t happen. Your shoes need to feel 100% comfortable right there in the shoe store for you to have even a chance of them feeling good out on the road. Good running shoes should not stretch out, wear down, or conform to your foot. At least not while they’re still usable. Once the integrity of the shoe changes, it doesn’t mean you’ve broken it in… it means it’s time to throw them away. Which leads to the next point:

3. Be realistic about the life expectancy of your shoes

As with any high-impact sport, running places extreme levels of stress on a pair of shoes. Many things are being done to improve and increase their life expectancy, but the bottom line remains that running shoes need to be replaced often – how often depends on how much you run. The general consensus is every 300-500 miles.Many factors will impact this figure, including the terrain run on, the speed at which you run and your gait. A heavy heel-striker, an over-pronator, or a larger framed runner will wear out a pair of shoes faster than others. Unless you run in a shoe with zero cushioning (such as a Vibram Five-Fingers) you cannot judge the health of your shoes by the look of the outsole. If your outsole is worn down, your shoes have most likely passed their prime many miles ago. Base your expectations on the total miles the shoes have covered, and the way your legs and feet feel NOW compared to your first 100 miles. Oftentimes, pain or discomfort (or even injury) can be linked to shoes that need replacing.

But most importantly…

4. Listen to advice, but don’t live by it

We get advice from all sources: friends, magazines, the internet, coaches, professional athletes, even our beloved running shoe salesperson. There’s some advice that I wish people would ignore completely, like when a friend tells another friend “Only buy (insert favorite shoe brand here). They’re the best.” I’ve had customers come into the store all excited to begin a training program and insist on only trying on a particular brand, simply because they heard that’s the best running shoe. There are quite a few leaders in the industry now, and they all have their merits. Though I’m partial to some brands over others, the only shoe that’s the “best” is the shoe that fits you best and allows you to run as comfortably as possible. It might be the brand you’d intended to buy, or it might be a brand you’ve never heard of.

Additionally, even the best science, analysis and intentions won’t always point you towards the right product. In this instance, I was the customer rather than the salesperson. I weigh a little more than most runners my height, I heel strike, and I over-pronate. My gait is atrocious, and my legs pinwheel to the side when I run due to a weakness in my right hip.  By all reasoning, I should be in a motion control shoe. After trying many shoes, I was fitted for a fantastic pair that carried me easily through training and racing my first few half marathons. Then, out of the blue, I started getting shin splints and tendonitis in my ankles. Science would point me towards new shoes with more cushioning and support, but trial and error have landed me in minimalist shoes. Without any support and cushioning, my gait naturally changes to one that’s lighter, easier, and smoother. Bottom line: know what type of runner you are and what shoes are best suited for you. But if those don’t work – don’t be afraid to think outside the box. (ha!)

Essentially, you need to approach the selection process with an open mind. Running shoes can make your run the most or the least enjoyable part of your day.

Respect the shoe. And your salesperson. See you on the salesfloor!!!

Written by

Tracy is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She’s employed by a major fitness footwear retailer as a Regional Product and Sales Trainer. By working in what she considers to be “as close to a dream job as you can get,” Tracy gets to travel the east coast while educating her co-workers and potential clients on the benefits of embracing a healthy lifestyle.

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One Response to "What your running shoes wish you knew"

  1. Good article. I change out my sneaks at about 250 miles. After about that mileage the small aches will start after the runs, so I change them and ‘pow’ no aches.

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