Running is a great activity for physical fitness, because all you have to do is lace up and get out there – no memberships, no business hours, and no special equipment necessary (unless, of course, you want an armband for your phone, or a nice GPS watch, some wireless headphones, maybe a headlamp, some reflectors … well, you get the idea).
But a lot of runners put little thought into one of the most important parts of a healthy running routine: Good shoes! And there’s so much more than color and cost to consider when choosing the right pair.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing the right running shoe?
They pick the wrong size. You need plenty of room in a running shoe for your foot to expand. Gravity is pulling blood into your feet while you run, plus you’re putting three to four times your body weight into your foot with each strike, so they expand in length and width. Most people with shoes that are too small will complain of pain on the outside of the feet, or the feeling that their foot is falling asleep, burning or tingling.
When we assess a customer’s feet to determine their optimal size, we often select a shoe that’s larger than something they’d choose for work or casual wear. They can feel loose at first, and that’s strange for a lot of people, but after a few minutes of running, they fit just right.
How long do running shoes last?
300 to 500 miles. We usually split the difference and say 400.
The sole, or bottom, of your shoe wears over time, and that wear can change the angle of your foot as it strikes the ground, which can lead to pain or injury. The foam between the sole and your feet can also compress over time and fail to properly rebound, which means it’s not protecting your joints as well as it should.
We recommend that people keep track of shoe wear in some way. There are plenty of running apps for phones and smartwatches that have a shoe wear tracking component, but you can even log your runs in a notebook, or estimate your weekly mileage and put a shoe shopping day on your calendar a few months out. People often bring their shoes into our store so we can get a look at the wear pattern, which can help us better understand what they need out of their next shoe. Just don’t wait until your shins or ankles are bothering you to buy a new pair!
How do you fit a runner to the right shoe?
Whether we have people come in as part of the OhioHealth Runner’s Clinic or just to buy shoes, our free fittings start with a conversation to find out what type of running they do, how far they run, what surfaces they’ll be running on, and any problems or injuries they have.
Next, we use a tool called Fit ID , which uses multiple cameras to create a 3D virtual model of a person’s bare feet. We also analyze your gait by watching you run or walk for a short distance, so we can see how your arch compresses, and how far your ankles roll in, or overpronate, as your feet hit the ground.
With that data, we can pick a shoe that’s the right size and width for you, and even recommend inserts that minimize rotation and guide your foot back to a neutral position.
And it’s not just runners who benefit from this analysis. We have a lot of customers like nurses who wear an athletic-style shoe for work and are on their feet 12 hours a day. We find them the right combination of shoe and insert to keep them pain-free. I always tell people, you don’t need to be an elite runner to walk into a running store.
Why not just buy whatever’s new or on sale, or take a recommendation from a friend?
Maybe it’s not the right category of shoe for the running you want to do. Maybe there’s not enough arch support. It could be too narrow for your foot. The right shoe for your friend or your spouse more often than not isn’t the right shoe for you.
A lot of people ask me, “What’s the difference between an $80 and $120 shoe?” It’s the technology. The materials are more durable and they can last a little bit longer. Shoes are the same as most other things when price goes up, quality usually does, too. It can be tempting to buy a discounted shoe off the shelf, but if it’s not the right one for you, the potential for pain or injury could end up costing you more in the long run.
If I find a shoe I love, should I buy several pairs?
Avid runners and walkers are creatures of habit. They may buy five pairs of a shoe they like out of fear that it’ll go off the market, or an update will change the fit. It’s really a personal preference. But for many of us, over time, our training can change, or goals or mileage can change, and our bodies and lives can change. We always suggest people get a new fitting if they feel they need one, and to be open-minded to a new shoe being the best choice.
A comprehensive physical, nutritional and biomechanics assessment by the team at OhioHealth Runner’s Clinic can help you reach the next level, complete your next race, or continue running healthy for years to come. Call (614) 566-1RUN to schedule an appointment.