Running shoes. They’re like an old friend. They know a lot about you. They understand you in ways others can’t comprehend. You can’t imagine a day without them. Together you’ve been through a lot and they’ve been with you (no pun intended) every step of the way. They become a part of you. And … it’s hard to part with them when they are no longer supporting you (like a “blankie” for small children).
When running shoes are worn out … it’s pretty obvious. The soles have barely any traction or grip, the fabric is frayed and permanently stained, the cushioning is flattened and non-existent, and they may have a really funky smell. As much as you may not want to admit it … it’s time to look for a new pair of running shoes.
If you’re hesitant to look for a new pair of running shoes … you’re not the only one. Looking for the “right” pair of running shoes is more than just choosing a “cool” looking pair and getting the right size. It’s also more than just buying an identical pair of the pair you already own. Actually, if it’s been more than one year since you purchased a pair of running shoes, it’s unlikely you’ll find the same model. You may find the same model name but it will have different colors and possibly be designed differently as well! Unless you buy several pairs of the exact same model, you will have to start again from scratch. In the end, finding the “right” running shoe is all about getting a shoe that is designed to match the biomechanical needs of your feet (i.e. pronate, supinate, inversion, eversion, etc.) and feel good when you wear them.
When to Buy New Running Shoes
Regardless of whether you use them for walking, running, group fitness classes, or sporting activities, running shoes will no longer have adequate cushioning. A general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, depending on what you use them for (i.e. more vigorous activities will decrease the time in between purchases). If you use your running shoes specifically for running or walking, and log specific miles, it is easy to track distance. For people who use running shoes as a multi-purpose fitness and exercise shoe, four to five months is a general guideline. This calculation is based on the following facts:
- One mile is equivalent to approximately 2,000 steps (average sized adult)
- Recent studies concluded adults in the U.S. take 5,117 steps per day (in comparison to other countries – Australians take 9,695 steps, people in Switzerland take 9,650 steps, and Japanese take 7,168 steps).
Other signs to look for when determining when to buy a new pair of running shoes includes:
- Sore knees
- Achy feet
- Shin splints
- Tight quadriceps
- Compression or “wrinkles” in the midsole of the shoes
- Worn tread on the bottom of the shoe
Finding the “Right” Running Shoe
Now that you’ve come to the realization that it is time for a new pair of running shoes, most industry experts would suggest visiting a specialty retailer. They are a trusted source of information about running shoes and have knowledgeable staff who know feet, the different types of running shoes available, and who benefits from each type. They know how to narrow down the choices for each individual person to the appropriate shoe type for their specific foot shape, size, and how their bodies (i.e. size, weight, walking gait, etc.). For a list of the “50 Best Running Stores in America for 2012”, according to the Competitor website, click here.
The functional design of a running shoe is just one aspect to consider when choosing the “right” one. The proper fit and how they feel on your feet is a whole other ball game! Below is a list of things to look for and feel when trying shoes on in the store:
- Fit around the heel (the fit around the heel should be snug, but not at all tight)
- Fit of the shoe around your whole foot (the shoe’s “upper” should feel snug around your instep, but not at all tight)
- The space between the tip of your toes and the front tip of the shoe (a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe is suggested)
- The space between the left and right sides of your toes and the side edges of the shoe (you should be able to pinch a quarter inch of fabric in the shoe upper)
- The support under the arch matches your foot’s natural shape (take a short jog to see how the arch feels while vigorously moving in the shoe)
Avoid the following common shoe-buying mistakes many (if not most) buyers make:
- Buying shoes based purely on looks
- Buying shoes that are too small
- Shopping for shoes when your feet are at their largest size (approximately after 4:00pm)
- Shopping by a numbered size (a size 8 in one brand may not be the same as the same size in another brand)
Food for Thought
If you are physically active on a regular basis, and rely on your running shoes for a good experience, don’t rush into this important purchase.
- Don’t pretend to know about running shoes (unless you work with running shoes on a regular basis).
- Take advantage of the knowledge and experience from specialty retailers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Take your time trying on the proper functional style of shoe (they will be with you the next four to six months).
- Have an open mind and don’t pre-judge a shoe based on looks.
- Don’t limit your choices based specifically on price. Your needs may warrant a more expensive shoe. Weight the pros and cons of the purchase and choose accordingly.
Your feet play a significant role in the fitness experiences that require shoes (which are the majority of them). Be good to your feet and they will be good to you when you fit exercise into your day!