I am passionate about everything that has to do with running, so friends often ask me questions about the sport. The questions and comments I hear are often about running shoes. Here are several of the more common questions I hear and my humble attempt to answer them.
Do the running shoes we wear matter?
My answer would be yes, but the reasons differ depending on each person. Our feet are our foundation, and we need to treat them well. When we run we generate a lot of force. Our joints absorb about five times our body weight. Your gait and your biomechanics also play a role as well as the strength and conditioning in your legs and core.
Some runners need something special in their shoes. Some might need special features like arch supports, others need cushioning, while other runners prefer lightweight shoes.
Shoes matter to me because I believe in rotating the ones I wear as well as wearing different shoes for different terrain. I have a pair with a lot of cushion that I rotate with a very lightweight pair. I have a pair for road runs and another for trails. I have two pairs that I use for ultra-marathons and one super lightweight pair that I use on rainy days. I rarely throw away a pair of running shoes, I just add them to the rotation. Different shoes allow your feet to strike the surface slightly differently working your muscles more.
Different shoes work for different people. I am intrigued with the running sandals, but after running behind a woman during an 8-hour ultra, I decided they were not for me. I need more stability.
What is the best shoe to buy?
The best shoe to buy is the one you are comfortable wearing. What shoe is the best is a personal preference. The next time you go to a race look at the shoes the runners are wearing. You will see a wide variety. Some runners swear by a certain brand, but within each brand, there are a variety of styles, so if you buy a shoe only because of the name you might be disappointed. There are some running stores that will let you exchange your shoes after using them for a certain period of time.
Can the wrong shoe cause issues?
This would be a yes for me. Years ago, I bought a pair of inexpensive Nikes at a factory outlet, and I ran in them exclusively for a while. I developed Plantar Fasciitis and a Neuroma on one foot. It might not have been because of the shoes, but I’m pretty sure it was. Last week, I decided to run in barefoot shoes. It felt amazing at the time, but the next day, I realized I had jarred my back, and one foot was swollen. Of course, this is just for me. I know there are runners who run in barefoot shoes all the time.
Can shoes affect your performance?
I would answer yes to this. When I am wearing a new pair of shoes I feel like I have an extra spring in my step. It might be completely a mental phenomenon, but I feel faster in new shoes. I also feel faster in lightweight shoes. There are also all kinds of advances in shoe manufacturing.
When is it time for new shoes?
Experts say you should buy a new pair every 300–500 miles. For many runners that would be around 3 months. You can also look for wear on the shoe. My left hip always aches a bit when it is time for a new pair.
Running shoes are personal so experiment with a variety of brands and styles to see what works best for you.