I have worn running shoes daily since the age of 32 or so on the recommendation of a podiatrist I saw for plantar faciitis. So although I am not a very experienced runner, I am a very experienced wearer of running shoes. I have worn running shoes for running, schlepping around, fitness walking, and a heck of a lot of dog-walking. In deep snow or pouring rain, I wear boots, but otherwise, you can bet I’m wearing running shoes.
I began fitness walking when I quit my nine-year-long smoking nonsense and this was my first introduction to the formal athletic shoe. Prior to this, I wore cheap canvas “sneakers” that you can buy anywhere, and while these have rubber soles, they are not technical shoes meant for distance walking. I was walking six to eight miles a day at least, so I needed a supportive shoe. I started out with walking shoes, but eventually graduated to running shoes.
What I learned, from this podiatrist and from knowledgeable shoe fitters, is that my feet require a very supportive shoe. I tend to pronate–a lot–and I need a good arch. Many shoe makers have models that are supportive. Some do not. Some brands make only supportive shoes. I believe one of these brands is Brooks, and these are said to be the most supportive shoes. A handful of runners do not pronate and do not require–or prefer–a supportive shoe, however.
I also take out the insole and put in Spenco arches. There are many kinds of Spenco arches available, and many other good brands of arches around. I would advise trying out different types of insoles. You may be surprised that the insole provided by the shoe company isn’t exactly what is right for your arch and your foot. Also, an insole designed for running or cross training provides lots of padding where you need it–in the heel especially–that you don’t get with the insole that comes with the shoe.
I have got to be one of the toughest customers to please, however. I try on a bunch before I’m satisfied. I have returned shoes a number of times. I have given up on shoes when they didn’t work out after a month and bought new ones (ouch!). Three times, I ended up with defective shoes, twice from the same store, and once I bought a defective pair without knowing it and wore them, and wondered why my feet hurt so much (these were Reeboks). Finally, I figured it out. Yes, running shoes can be defective and if they are at all uneven, take them back right away. Your feet deserve perfection. You wouldn’t settle for a defective TV set, would you?
Okay, some buying advice: Don’t try to save money by buying a cheaper model. Good running shoes all cost about the same. As of today, April, 2011, expect to pay maybe $100 to treat your feet well. If you can find the same shoes as a discount, great, do so, but don’t buy your shoes at K-Mart and expect your feet not to hurt. They will. I tried on shoes at Target once and couldn’t walk ten steps in them. This is your body. These are your feet, your knees, your hip joints, your back. You can cause permanent damage if you don’t wear the right shoes.
Where to buy: Buy your shoes at a running store where the shoe fitters know running and can measure your feet and watch you walk. They will know what kind of shoe is best suited for your feet and gait. Go on a day that it isn’t raining, so that you can run in them outside, and wear running clothes that day, or something you can run in. Just about every running store will allow you to run in the shoes outside. The running store I go to allows me to return the shoes, if I don’t like them, for credit only. Do check into the return policy and keep this in mind. I did exchange a pair once. Ask questions and talk to the shoe fitters about your needs.
I have heard that some people can get good deals online. I would only do this if you are getting the exact same model you already have. Check into shipping costs and return shipping costs. Remember, again, that shoes can be defective, so you don’t want to spend a whole bunch of money sending them back if they are, and then having another pair shipped to you.
Your feet change over the years. Mine did. They got longer over a period of just a few years in my 30’s. They are narrower now. Nonetheless, I think everyone already knows that shoes are all different. Depending on the model, I can wear a 6 to a 7-1/2, N to W, though generally I wear a 7, and I look for the narrower models. My current shoe is the Adidas Women’s Supernova Sequence, or I think that’s what it’s called. They are blue, white, and silver, size 7. I’m on my second pair. My running has been great in them, and I have no complaints. When a running shoe is good, it’s good, and it serves me well. I give these five stars. I’ve also owned Nikes (all of them five stars, IMHO), Saucony, Asics (boo), Brooks, Mizuno, Reebok (which I told you about), and one other brand I can’t recall. The shoes with “gimicks” I have not liked. I just like a plain, simple shoe that does what it is supposed to do. I have had best luck with Adidas and Nike. But everyone is different and has different feet and different needs. Don’t just listen to me. Go with what feels good to you.
I definitely differ with the “experts” on one thing: shoe break-in. They say that running shoes don’t need to get broken in. Sorry, folks, they do. Every single pair I’ve owned–now, you consider, I have lived 18 hours a day in running shoes for the past 20 years now so I know what I’m talking about–has required break-in. I don’t mean just your foot adjusting to the shoe. I mean your shoe adjusting to having a foot inside it and something hard under it. They’ve just come out of the factory and they need to get to know you. I’d suggest schlepping around in them for about three days, and give them a good walking, too, before you run in them. You’ll be glad you did.
The “experts” do say not to run a race in a new pair of shoes. This I agree with completely. I’ve got the same model of shoes that I had before, so I’d be able to race in these fairly soon, but if I had a model that was new to me, I’d give it a good 50 or more miles before racing in the new shoes. Again, I am inexperienced and I have only raced once, so I don’t know, but this is what I am guessing.
How do I know when to buy new running shoes? It’s obvious. They “die” suddenly. I can tell you almost the exact moment. I get all kinds of lacing issues. The laces are too tight one minute, too loose the next. I start to feel like the balls of my feet are touching the pavement. The arches seem too high suddenly. The “bounce” is gone from the shoe. The soles are worn, but not completely. If the soles are really, really worn, then I’ve waited way too long to replace the shoe. My last Mizunos died while I was walking to the gym one day. I knew it, and replaced them as soon as I could. My feet were so happy. They say you should keep track of your mileage and replace your shoes every 500 miles at most. I replaced the last pair of Adidas after 450 miles. I saved the last 50 miles of the old pair for walking the dog. The shoes died today, a few hours ago, and I don’t think I can wear them anymore.
Do not wear used running shoes bought at tag sales or anywhere else. You wouldn’t use a used toothbrush to save money, would you? This is your body. Treat it well. If you have to wear dress shoes to work, change out of them quickly and get into your running shoes as soon as you can get away with it. Don’t wear high heels–ever. These were probably invented by men to handicap women. High heels are incredibly dangerous. They give you bad posture and numerous back problems. Imagine running after a bus in them. You will miss the bus for sure.
They say you should use your running shoes for running only, and have another pair for schlepping around, because of the way the shoes get worn down. I have no opinion on this because I have never tried having more than one pair. All I know is that for my feet to stay healthy, I have to wear these shoes–not sandals, not high heels, not loafers. Just treating my feet well. It is our feet that, for most of us, hold up our entire body–our legs, knees, hips, spine, neck, and head. It is our feet that provide most of our transportation over our lifetime. And when we are comfortably laid to rest, our feet will be at the very bottom of our coffins, waving at the last pallbearers as they carry us home.