Congrats! You have committed to a running training program! Have you also noticed that your running shoes are a few years old and looking a little lacklustre? It’s time to get some new ones. Gulp.
Choosing the right pair of running shoes can be like walking through a minefield. There is an overwhelming amount of information and several different philosophies on which shoes are the best for the job. You will hear some people swear by minimalist shoes, maximal shoes, pronation correction, and even barefoot running. It’s difficult to weed through it all. A key thing to remember, is that there aren’t really any BAD shoes out there. However, you must find the best shoes for you, and within that category you will be choosing between varying degrees of bells and whistles.
So, where to start? Be a consumer! Plan a trip to your local run specialty shops. Visit them all and try on as many pairs as you can, but skip the big box stores! Those are fine for the catch all items, but if you’re serious about your running, get serious about where you shop. A specialty run shop has experienced staff that is trained to fit runners with the right shoes. The best retailers won’t even let you look at the shoe wall because they will be too busy discussing your needs, your training, and your goals with you. In addition to assessing your gait, a good run shop should also be asking you about past injuries so that they are getting the whole picture before recommending a single pair of shoes.
After your discussion, it’s common to start with three different pairs. Try each pair on, and then go through this mental check list:
- How is the overall comfort?
- Do I have a minimum half a thumb width between the end of my toes and the end of my shoes? (Marathoners - you’re looking for a whole thumb width to account for swelling on long runs!)
- Is it tight across the forefoot? If it’s too tight, you will get numb toes!
- Is your arch lightly supported? We still want your arch to do some work. Too much support creates a crutch, but you want a little for when you start to get tired on longer runs.
- Is the heel secure? Any slipping up and down or shifting side to side? (Slipping will cause blisters and shifting is unstable. Watch this video for the best way to lace your shoes!)
- Take them for a spin! Most run shops will let you run around outside in the shoes to get the feel of them.
After you’ve tried all the pairs on, you might be able to weed one pair out. If you’re down to choosing between two, put one from each pair on each foot. See how they compare to each other. Now, this is where we get to bells and whistles. Are you looking for any special features? Durability, waterproof, lightweight, etc. These things may have already been addressed in your original discussion, but now is the time to ask questions and see how each model fulfills your own personal requirements.
Hopefully at this point you’ve found your winner, but if not, hit the next store! Keep trying on shoes until you find The One. And you will know when you find it. It’s a total “A-ha!” moment.
But, wait! What about shoes for speed workouts, and trail running, and long runs, and racing, and… Patience, Grasshopper. There are many shoes for many needs, but spend the money where you spend the most time. If that’s on mid-distance road runs, find a shoe for that because it will work just fine for the other things too. Once you have your tried and true, then you can start building your collection. Doing more trails? Add a trail shoe. Adding more speed and hills to your routine? Add a fast shoe. Going for a PB in a big race? Consider a racing shoe. And just like you did for your trusty go-to shoe, go back to your fave specialty run shop for these, too. These are truly specialty items, and you are gonna want expert advice on their selection, right? RIGHT! Now, get out there and find some awesome shoes. Happy running!
How to get the most out of your running shoes
- The lifespan of a shoe depends on many factors, but in general you should get between 500 and 800 KM out of them. (Approximately 300 to 500 miles)
- Rest your shoes! Just like you rest your body, rest your shoes a good 24hrs between workouts. All the materials in the shoe need this time to recover and return to their original state. Only wear your shoes for your workout, then take them off!
- Surface clean only. You can take the insoles out and toss them in the wash with your run clothes, but please don’t wash your runners. It’s very hard on them.
- Feeling less bouncy? Take a look at the side of the midsole and see if there are creases or wrinkles in the foam. If there are a lot, the foam is starting to break down and it’s time to replace!