Part of the appeal of running is how simple it is and how little gear you need. While clothing made of technical materials that wick-away moisture can definitely keep you more comfortable on the road, all you really need to get going is a good pair of shoes that offer the support and fit that your feet need.
Yet many people make the mistake of hitting the road with whatever athletic shoes happen to be on hand. That’s not a good idea. Worn-out or ill-fitting shoes are a common cause of overuse injuries like IT Band syndrome, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis. And wear and tear are not always apparent to the naked eye. If you want to run comfortably and stay injury free, it pays to invest in a good pair of running shoes.
Here’s what you need to know about getting the right pair for you.
Don’t wait for wear out. Worn out shoes are a common cause of injury. In general, shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, but they can wear out much faster depending on a variety of other factors including the types of surfaces you’re running on, the conditions you run in, and whether you wear the shoes for purposes other than running. Some people wear shoes out much sooner. If your shoes start to feel flat, or you start to develop aches and pains that are not related to any increase in mileage or speed, take your shoes into the store to determine whether you need yours replaced. Keep track of the date that you buy your running shoes in your training log, right along with your mileage, so you can easily determine whether you’re due for a new pair.
See the experts. It’s best to go to a specialty running shop, rather than a big-box or department store. At a specialty running store like Fleet Feet Maine Running, you’ll find staff members who have the extensive training and experience to help you find the shoe that best meet your needs. A member of the Fleet Feet Maine Running team will answer any questions you may have, inquire about your needs, any aches, pains, or issues you’ve been having, measure your feet, conduct a gait analysis, and watch you move in various pairs of shoes to help you find the best pair for you. To find out more about Fleet Feet’s FITlosophy, click here.
Bring what you’ve been wearing. When you shop for a new pair of shoes, take along the socks and any inserts that you’ve been wearing on a regular basis. That way you can make a realistic evaluation of how well the new shoe will fit your feet. And don’t forget to bring your old shoes too. The wear patterns on your old shoes can provide valuable insight into your biomechanics that can help the salesperson identify the best options for new pairs.
Size yourself up. You may think you know your size, but it’s best to get your feet measured each time you buy new shoes. Your feet change over time, and one model’s fit can be drastically different from another’s. Many people also have one foot that is slightly bigger than the other. You also want to have your feet measured later in the day, when they're at their biggest. Many people end up getting a running shoe that’s a half size larger than their street shoes. The extra room allows your foot to flex and your toes to move forward with each stride. Try shoes on both feet and take them for a test run around the shop, on a treadmill, or on the sidewalk.
Get some perspective on price. It may feel like a lot to spend more than $100 on a pair of shoes, but whatever investment you make in shoes will pay off in the form of hundreds of happy pain-free miles. If you just opt for the cheapest pair, or put off replacing your worn-out shoes, you could end up injured, and end up spending many hundreds of dollars on copayments to doctors and physical therapists.
Go for function, not fashion. There is a dizzying array of shoes to choose from, and it can be tempting to be wooed by shoes that “look speedy,” have been hyped up in reviews, come in your favorite colors, or are what everyone in your running group is wearing these days. Remember that there is no one best shoe for everyone. There is only one shoe that offers your feet the unique support and fit you need at any given time. And as your body changes and ages, and your training evolves, your shoe needs will change too. Try on as many different models and pairs as possible. Don’t shop by price or by brand.