RUNNING SHOE ESSENTIALS
| by BRIAN METZLER |
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR RUNNING SHOES
10 TIPS FOR RUNNERS BY BRIAN METZLER
I’m crazy about running shoes, but there are worse obsessions to have, right? At least this one is grounded in a healthy activity. My fascination with running shoes started when I was a young kid and has grown ever since.
Since that time and in my capacity as a running shoe reviewer and writer for various publications, I have run in a lot of shoes —probably more than 1,500, but I’ve honestly lost count — and racked up more than 75,000 miles of running in my lifetime.
Here are some sage wisdom I’ve learned about how to choose running shoes through the years and how to care for them to get the most out of every pair.
1. Get the right size
The most important aspect of choosing a new pair of running shoes is getting a pair that matches the relative size of your foot. But understand that not all size 9s are the same for every brand. Shoes vary in size and shape based on the “last” that was used to make the shoe. Some are longer, some are shorter, some are wider, some are narrower, and all have a different interior shape and volume.
2. Get the right shape
Once you’ve picked out a running shoe that is the right length, the next key is ensuring that the shoe matches the shape and volume of your foot. A shoe mismatched to your foot’s volume could fit too loosely or too tightly in the heel, arch, or toe box, especially when your foot is in motion during a run.
3. Understand your gait
How a shoe fits and feels when you try it on is only part of the process. How it fits and feels when your foot is in motion might be an entirely different situation, depending on how your foot moves and flexes when it runs. It’s likely that your gait pattern varies between your left and right side based on how each foot hits the ground, rotates, and flexes. Those changes lead to differences in how your ankle, knee, and hip joints move as you’re running. All JackRabbit stores offer video gait analyses, and in-depth examinations are available from sports medicine clinics and physical therapy facilities. If you need help in a pinch, the Stride Lab app is a useful resource.
4. Get stronger
Whether you’re a longtime runner or just getting started, you should always be working on your form-specific strength. Doing form and strength drills and exercises to bolster your foot, lower leg, and core strength helps reduce the chance of repetitive overuse injuries.
Every runner has a stronger and weaker side, so it’s important to work on weaknesses to approach equilibrium. Good exercises for runners include box jumps and walking lunges for leg power and hip extension; burpees and planks for core strength; clam shells for hip strength; and single-leg squats, one-legged heel raises, pistol squats, and pedestal poses for developing balance and agility.
5. Heel-toe drop matters
The minimalism movement stressed having a low heel-to-toe height offset (or heel drop). While only a few brands offer “zero-drop,” or level, platforms, heel heights are generally lower than they were in the past. While the standard heel-toe offset of 12 mm still exists in a few models, most modern running shoes fall into the 4 mm to 10 mm offset range.
Wearing a shoe with a significantly different offset will change how your feet connect to the ground and alter your gait, so transition wisely and slowly. If you can’t find the heel-drop figure printed on the shoe’s insole or hang tag at a retailer, look for it on the brand’s website.
6. Develop a quiver of shoes
Don’t run in the same pair of shoes every day; instead, rotate between different models depending on the type of running you’re doing and the surface you’re running on. For example, you might wear a cushier pair of shoes for longer runs or recovery runs and a lighter, firmer shoe for faster workouts such as tempo runs, fartlek runs, and intervals.
Rotating shoes during the week will not only extend the life of each pair but also engage the micro-muscles in your feet and lower legs differently and help you avoid overuse injuries.
7. Wear your running shoes only for running
You might be tempted to wear your running shoes as casual wear. Don’t do it. Wearing your running shoes as everyday shoes or for walking the dog or mowing the lawn will soon change the wear patterns of your shoes, reduce the life of the shoes, and ultimately alter your gait.
8. Untie and retie your shoes
Don’t take off your running shoes by stepping on the back of one shoe with the other and pulling your foot out without untying the shoe. Not only does it strain muscles in your feet, but it stretches aspects of the shoe. The only thing worse than removing your shoes without untying them is putting them back on without untying them. It may seem like a time-saver, but if you put them on with the laces still tied, you’ll strain your foot to squeeze it back in and impair the shoe’s shape.
9. Care for your shoes
Running shoes are only as good as you treat them. Keep your shoes indoors but not in your car or garage, where extreme hot or cold temperatures can have a temporary or permanent effect on how the shoe performs.
Cleaning your shoes by hand after running through mud will ensure that the shoe’s traction and flex pattern are optimal the next time you wear them. Speed the process of drying wet shoes by stuffing them with newspapers or dry washcloths or briefly setting them in the sun, but never put shoes in a dryer.
10. Retire your shoes
Most running shoes will hold up for 300 to 500 miles of running before they need to be retired. But the foam midsoles, synthetic fabrics, and rubber outsoles can start to break down after about 200 miles, which can create problems.
Running too long in a pair of shoes can lead to changes in your gait, less protection for your feet, and general discomfort or overuse injuries.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN METZLER
Brian Metzler has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.
He's the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He's the author of “Running Colorado's Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian's Approach for Every Runner.”
His new book, “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” is now available.