Get the most out of your running shoes by knowing how to select the best ones and the replacement timeline for them
When it comes to running, the shoe you choose will greatly impact your body and running technique. Learn what type of shoe will benefit you most in the long run by using this article for how to pick out your running shoes, what type best suits you, and when it’s time for a new pair!
written by Dr. Kimberly Davis, RunLab™
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED NEW SHOES?
Probably more often than you think. Even if you have managed to achieve sound biomechanics (rare), are extremely lightweight, and a low mileage runner, it is still important to remember that your shoes have a shelf life. Those sweet (rad?) neon and splatter-paint Nike knock-offs you bought for $39.99 from TinyHandsTinyPrices.com may look really cool, but they probably aren’t doing you any favors from an injury prevention standpoint. Most people wait until they start to notice nagging pains before they think to replace their shoes, instead of doing it before the issues pop up.
Most runners should replace their shoes every 300-500 miles depending on the weight of the runner and the efficiency of their mechanics. This means every 5-6 months for the average runner and every 2-3 months for the higher mileage runner. This is assuming you ONLY RUN in your running shoes, not wear them to work or to the gym.
WHAT ABOUT ROTATING THROUGH SHOES?
I am a huge fan of this concept. Not only does it allow your shoes time between runs for the foam to “bounce back”, but different types of shoes give you different feedback from the ground, and in my opinion, this is always a good thing from a neuromuscular standpoint. Your body adapts very quickly to a learned stimulus. By giving it different signals, you are forcing it to constantly respond to outside stimuli instead of just “going through the motions” with learned patterns. I personally rotate through several shoes depending on the type of run and how fatigued my body is, and I find it works very well for keeping my body engaged with what is going on between my foot and the ground. If you would like some guidance stop by and chat. Everyone that works at RunLab™ is a dedicated runner and we love talking shop.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHOE(S)?
If you answered: “Well obviously, I choose the shoes that will match my tutu for the Goofy Challenge”, then you, my friend, could probably get a job in a number of running retail stores…but I digress.
Choosing the right shoe is much more complicated than most people think IF you have suboptimal structure, range-of-motion, and/or biomechanics, which most non-elite runners (and even many elite runners) are challenged with. “How do I choose the right shoe” is the eternal question that every runner (and shoe company, and retail employee) wishes had an easy answer, but at the end of the day…it doesn’t. At RunLab™, we feel very strongly that it isn’t so much about the shoe as it is about the foot that inhabits the shoe (and the knee and the hip and the body that live above the foot and for some reason get left out of most types of “gait analysis” done in shoe stores). Most elite runners with sound biomechanics can run in almost anything they want to run in within a certain range, typically avoiding extreme stability in most cases. They aren’t great runners BECAUSE of the shoe. They are great runners because of the work they have put in on the strength side, and often because of the genetic gift they have been given on the structural side. Back to the question. First and foremost, if a shoe doesn’t feel good in the store, it won’t feel any better when you run.
STOP CHOOSING SHOES BASED ON COLOR!
Base your choice on what works with your structure, goals, foot shape, etc. If you fall outside the “norm” structurally, meaning you have bunions, very high or very flat arches, knock knees, are bowlegged, have retroverted or anteverted hips, super tight hamstrings or calves, etc., or if you have a history of injuries, or trouble finding shoes that work for you, get a movement analysis & gait evaluation. And I don’t mean the kind where somebody watches you run for 10 seconds down the street, looks at your foot/ankle, and then starts talking about how much or little you pronate or supinate. That isn’t a gait evaluation folks! A good gait evaluation should look at your entire body from multiple angles, ideally, both in shoes and barefoot, and should factor in what is happening with your unique structure, range-of-motion, goals, strengths, and limiters. This is not something most people have expertise in doing well.
Think of it in bike-fit terms, you can get your saddle height adjusted, OR you can go through a lengthy process that looks at all the necessary angles and takes your individual needs, foot position, femur length, tibia length, reach, etc. into account. Both of these things might be referred to as a “bike-fit” but one of them clearly takes your unique structural and functional makeup into account and requires expertise in biomechanics to really fit you properly. Movement analysis and gait evaluation is the same way. Remember: understanding what could go wrong down the road through thoroughly understanding your mechanics is a heck of a lot cheaper than the rehab to fix the issue when you break. Just sayin’…
- Replace your shoes early and often, more often the higher you go in mileage and before you start to notice pain.
- Stop picking shoes based on color! Seriously. Did I really need to say that? Yes. Yes, I did. Stop doing it.
- Choose your shoe stores wisely, we can guide you if you need help.
- When someone calls you a “pronator” or a “supinator” and then attempts to “fix” the issue with a shoe, this person doesn’t under biomechanics. Be wary.
- A Movement Analysis and Gait Evaluation looks at the whole body and doesn’t just take 30 seconds. If you have structural or injury issues, it’s worth getting it done by experts (I might know some people!)
- The shoes don’t fit if your heels slide, or if your toes are pinched.
- If part of your foot is hanging over the sole of the shoe, it doesn’t fit.
- If you hate the color…it still might fit! See how you tried to forget what we talked about already?!
ABOUT DR. DAVIS
Dr. Kimberly Davis is the Founder & CEO of RunLab™, a Movement Analysis and Gait Evaluation company headquartered in Austin, Texas that provides runners anywhere in the country access to comprehensive gait evaluation services through www.runlab.us.
Recognizing a lack of consistency and quality in gait analysis across the country, Dr. Davis launches RunLab.us in 2018 as a means for runners to access her industry-leading gait team from anywhere in the United States.
For more information about the RunLab™ team, please visit WWW.RUNLABAUSTIN.COM
For gait evaluation services outside the Austin area, please visit WWW.RUNLAB.US