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Your top 5 running shoe questions, ANSWERED.

                                                                                                  

Finding the perfect shoe for a customer is an extremely rewarding experience. A runner relies on their shoes to carry them mile after mile and if the shoe doesn’t feel right then the runner is miserable. As a local running store employee and avid marathoner I feel pure glee when I match a customer up with the right shoe! There is nothing quite like watching a runner put on a fresh pair of sneakers and simultaneously release a sigh of relieve while lighting upside. “This is it! This is the one,” exclaims the runner! And just like that- presto manifesto my work here is done.

Of course it’s rarely quite that simple. Most people have some sort of issue with their feet that makes the fitting process a little more complicated; the customer might have a high instep, bunions, hammer toes or one foot that is a full size off than the other foot. If a customer has been wearing the same brand (or sometimes even the same pair of shoes!!!) for the past five years or more they often benefit from being educated on the technological updates in running footwear in recent years as well as a little information on when is the ideal time to replace shoes.

Some customers require a little extra TLC, but hey- they’re runners so they’re family, right? Often when I fit customers for shoes I find myself educating them on the different types of shoes, brands and answering a vast array of questions about running footwear. Listed below are the top 5 questions I hear from customers at my local running store while accompanied by my answers of course!

                                                                                                                            

1Q: Customer comment: Customer, “I bought a pair of (insert brand here) and they were horrible! I loved them at first, but they fell apart.”  Me: How long did you have them? Customer: “Just over two years.” Me: First remove pit from stomach, swallow, take a breath: “They didn’t fail you. You simply loved them to death.” [Educate customer on typical lifespan of running shoe.]

Translation: When should I replace my running shoes? 

1A: The short answer is every 6 months for active runners and 4-6 months for VERY active runners. Click HERE to read the recent article I wrote on how you know it’s time to replace your shoes.

2Q: What is the BEST running shoe/brand?

2A: There is no one BEST running shoe or brand. Nearly every running footwear company will create the following types of shoes: lightweight/racer, neutral, stability and motion control. Have your gait assessed to determine the right level of support. Then try on SEVERAL different brands to find the shoe that fits the curves of your feet the best! Everyone’s feet are shaped differently; you are simply trying to find the brand, make and model that fits yours with the most ease and comfort!

3Q: What are the benefits to training in two different shoes?

3A: Many runners own two pairs of the same shoe and rotate daily to extend the life-span of their shoes. Also, two pairs minimizes excuses used to skip runs: I don’t want to get my shoes wet in the rain, I forgot my shoes at location XWZ and my shoes will get all grimy if I run in that rain, sand, mud and/or snow.

Some runners will train in two completely different shoes where one is typically heavier for training and the other is a lighter model for racing and speed workouts. The reduced weight on a runner’s feet on race day can lead to a faster race times.

Training in two shoes of different weight and drops is often used as an injury prevention technique to prevent overuse injuries. Shoes with lower heel to toe drops will make the smaller muscles in the feet and calves work harder during the running gait cycle. Slowly integrating these more minimal shoes into a running regime can target these smaller, weaker muscles.                                                                                               

4Q. I’ve been reading the book Born to Run and there seems to be a significant amount of research to support barefoot running. Will running barefoot reduce the likelihood that I will get injured?

4A: Yes. Probably. Maybe. Honestly, it depends….

I get this question ALL THE TIME from customers. The real questions at play are the following: Do traditional running shoes with a heel to toe drop of 10-12 mm cause runners to get injured? We as humans were born to run without shoes, so shouldn’t our body work best on the run without shoes? Could minimal shoes like the Vibram 5 finger and NB Minimus that protect our feet from street rubbish but maintain a zero drop be the answer to an injury free running career?

Great questions. Solid hypothesis. Outstanding book. While I firmly believe that more minimal shoes probably are better for injury prevention there’s just one itty-bitty hitch- while we were born to run without shoes once we started walking our parents strapped shoes on our feet. Our body has learned to walk and run with shoes on our feet. I am 31 years old. If I wanted to be a barefoot runner that means that I am combatting 30 years of muscle memory (and inherent muscle weakness of those smaller muscles). My body has only been exposed to walking and running with shoes for 30+ years. Wow.

To be clear: that is NOT to say that barefoot running can’t be achieved, it can!! (1) In my experience people who grew up doing barefoot activities (yoga, dance/ballet, walking on the beach daily) are more likely to make a smooth, injury-free transition into barefoot running. (2) It takes patience- a lot and a lot of patience! Many runners will continue their traditional running regime and then run a quarter of a mile in a zero drop shoe for a few weeks before upping it to a half mile and so on. The transition will likely take MONTHS to a year to be able to fully run in a zero drop shoe.

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5Q: Why do I seem to get injured flare-ups of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis in the summer/fall?

5A:  Runners have a bad habit of blaming their running shoe for whatever ails them. Tisk, tisk! Stop the madness!! Walking around in flip flops all day ever day during the summer is more likely the cause. You only wear your running shoes between 30 and 120 min a day, right? What you wearing during the rest of the day will likely have a more prominent impact on your foot pain. Flip flops (like minimal running shoes) make the small muscles your feet work REALLY hard to go through the same walking motion. If you choose to wear flip flops or unsupportive shoes throughout summer then your feet and calves need extra TLC  during this time (massage and/or rolling out) to help mediate the risk of injury.  

Consider buying a separate pair of supportive running shoes to wear throughout the summer (muhahaha…all the shoes!!). OR invest in a sandal like Oofos (pictuerd above) that has a built in arch support to get you through the summer months comfortably.

I hope this answers some of your questions! 

~ Kass



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