Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Thoughts on Picking the Right Running Shoes

When I started running a few years ago, I had no clue what I was doing.  I thought all I had to do was throw on some shorts, shoes, t-shirt (yes, the cotton kind) and take off.  I found out in a hurry that this ensemble was a recipe for misery. 
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I started running by using the CoolRunnings Couch 2 5K plan.  At the time, I was intimidated by running outside so I started this training by using a treadmill at the gym. I had my old pair of Nike cross trainers that were my everyday shoes.  After about a week into the training, I noticed that my calves and shins were KILLING me.  I chalked it up to my legs getting used to running and told myself it would get better.  Well, 2 weeks or so went by and it only got worse.  I started talking to some running friends of mine and visiting some popular running forums such as Hal Higdon's Training Peaks forum and the forums. I read posts that talked about good running shoes and how they make such a difference.  One post related it to a mechanic or carpenter having the proper tools for the job.  Those that know me know I can be pretty cheap.  Most "running" shoes I could find were anywhere between $70 and $100 brand new.  I thought that kind of money was insane.

After another week of painful running from shin splints, sore calves, and now huge blisters... I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get some new "running" shoes.  I revisited friends and forums to seek advice on how to find the right running shoe for me.  All of the advice I got pointed to the same philosophy... get shoes that fit you and your natural gait.  Wait, what?  What does that mean and how do I do that? 

Study your gait to determine the type of running shoe you will need. 

There are a couple of ways to do this but ultimately it boils down to your arch.  Yep... your arch is the key.  If you have normal arches, you will use a normal shoe with limited to no stability control.  If you have flat feet, you will need a stability shoe that helps with under-pronation.  If you have high arches, you will need a stability shoe that helps with over-pronation.  If you want to quickly determine what type of arches you have, here is a great article called Take the Wet Test: Learn Your Foot Type.  However, if you have the luxury of being near a true running store, you might find it more beneficial to visit them and have them analyze your feet and gait in person.  This is the option I chose to do.  Most local running stores employ runners that know their stuff.  My store watched me run and could tell that I was a slight over-pronator.  They had about 4 options of shoes with the stability to help my foot land in a more neutral or normal position with each step.  I tried each pair on and jogged in them to see how they felt, and then I jogged with one shoe on each foot from different brands to compare the feel to each other.  Ultimately, I found a shoe that felt great and I was off and running (pun intended).

Find a brand/model of shoe that works for you and stick with it.

After being fitted for my new running shoes, the pain in my shins and calves started to go away. I was no longer getting blisters and running started to get really fun.  As I progressed through the Couch 2 5K plan, my body was adapting to my new lifestyle and running started to come easier. I ran my first 5K about 5 months after I started training.  A couple months later I ran a 10K.  By the end of the year I had added a half-marathon and a full marathon on these shoes.  Most runners will tell you that the life of a running shoe is anywhere from 400-600 miles.  Some like to push them longer and some like to buy new after only a few hundred.  I think it is a matter of preference and something that you should listen to your body to decide.  My knees, feet, and ankles start hurting around 500 miles so that is usually a sign for me to replace my shoes.  

Once you find shoe that is right for you then my suggestion is to stick with it!  The first time I ever replaced my shoes, I decided to try another brand just to try something different. I woke up the next morning excited to try my new kicks. After 3 miles, I had regretted my decision.  These shoes rubbed hot spots in different places than my old shoes, they had a different feel when my feet hit the pavement, and they didn't feel like they were giving me the support I needed.  I was fortunate that my local running store took them back and let me exchange them for the newest model of my old running shoes.  My feet were very happy on my next run.  Lesson learned.  I have been through 5 models of my favorite running shoe, the Saucony ProGrid Guide.  Recently I decided to purchase my first pair of trail shoes. After looking for weeks to determine what trail shoe I should get, I consulted my running store again.  I tried 3 different brands and guess what... I ended up with the Saucony ProGrid Guide version of the trail runner, the Saucony ProGrid Guide TR4.  Hey... if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Saucony ProGrid Guide 5 & Saucony ProGrid Guide TR 4

1 comment:

  1. Saucony is my preferred brand as well! Good shoes.


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