Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Splurge on shoes!

Now that the weather is finally beginning to vaguely resemble something Spring-like, I think more and more of us are ready to shuffle off our wintry coils and get outside for some activity. Of course you all know what my favorite outdoor activity is: running (duh)!! One of the greatest things about running is that you don't really need any fancy equipment to do it--all you need to do is throw on some clothes that you don't mind getting sweaty (for a start, anyway. When you get serious about it, you may find you want to invest in some wicking material in order to prevent the dreaded chafing), grab some shoes, and head out the door.

The problem here is that a lot of people end up grabbing the wrong shoes. This seems to happen a lot, and to a certain extent, fitness magazines do little to stop this problem in its tracks. Recently, Fitness magazine ran a piece about the best shoes for different activities, identifying one shoe for walking, one for running, one for cross-training, etc. The problem with this is that there really isn't a single "best" running shoe--everyone's foot is different and everyone needs a different shoe. Going in to some big sporting goods store and just picking out what a magazine told you is the best shoe is one of the least productive things you can do for your wallet and your body.

Running in the wrong shoes can be extremely hard on your body, and seeing as how running is an activity that is inherently hard on the joints, it seems to me that you would want to minimize or mitigate damage as much as possible. Getting the right shoes is essential when it comes to preserving your knees, ankles, and hips! I know it may sound silly, but the difference between the right and the wrong pair of shoes could mean the difference between running happily for the rest of your life and running miserably for a few years (if you make it that long) before injuring yourself to the point where running is out of the question.

Here are my tips when it comes to buying the right shoes:
  1. Take a look at some material online to see what is said about shoes. Runner's World and CoolRunning are probably a good place to start.
  2. There is a lot of information online about how to get an idea about the shape of your foot, how you roll through your foot as you run, and the shape of your arch. Being familiar with all of these things can really help you to identify a good shoe. You should make sure you get an idea of how a high arch is different from a low arch, and what pronation and motion-control shoes mean.
  3. Go to a running store. A lot of (if not all) running stores pride themselves on being able to help their customers find the right shoe. They want you to be running as long as possible. The longer you run, the longer you are their customer. I'm sure they are also interested in your running because they are generally runners too and want everyone to enjoy running (so it is not just a capitalistic interest)! Some stores have treadmills that are hooked up to cameras and monitoring systems, others just rely on the keen eyes of their highly-trained staff. Whatever the set-up, a good running store employee will spend as much time as necessary with you in order to find the shoe that works best for you. The best sign is when they start you off with brands you have never heard of--that is, they don't bring out the Nikes or the Adidas; instead, they start with the Mizunos, Asics, Sauconys, or Brooks.
  4. Don't be afraid to speak up. When you are trying on shoes, remember that you are making an investment in yourself and you want to find the right thing. Take your time to get a feel for the shoe and if it doesn't feel exactly the way you want it to, say something. Try a different pair. Make sure you run in the shoes, and that you don't just walk. Your stride while walking is different from your stride while running and often a shoe will feel different during the two activities. Give the shoes a test run, even if it means going out onto the sidewalk in front of the store. Most of the time, the store employees have no problem with this.
  5. Expect to pay between $75 and $120. Believe me, it is worth it. Plus, if the price is a bit too high for you in the store, you can always take a look and see what's available online (although that isn't really nice to do to someone who just spent an hour with you and helped you go through eight pairs of shoes).
I hope these tips help and keep you running for a long time to come!


chris said...

Great info...thanks for sharing!

Rachel said...

I totally are so important for your run! One interesting tidbit...I found my running shoes at a running store and they were actually cheaper than they were at a general sports store. I happened to choose a shoe that you can buy elsewhere though. I preferred the Nike's over the Saucony's or the Brook's. But anyway, I think many people are afraid that they could get the same shoes cheaper elsewhere but that isn't the case...

Great advice!