Running Shoes Tips

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Test Fall Marathon Shoes in Summer

Late summer is the season when new model running shoes will become avaialble. For fall marathoners, you have two choices. If you love the shoes you have been running in, then buy another pair, so you can start breaking them in a month or so before marathon day. If you want to try a new model, do it now so you can wear them on a long run (at least 13 miles, ideally 16-20) and still have time to make a change if they don't work for you.


Almost Like Running Barefoot

A few years ago when the Nike Free [running] shoes came out, they were seen as the closest you could get to running barefoot. But now, if you truly want a [barefoot running] experience, the Vibram Five Fingers is the shoe for you.

These shoes consist of a minimal stretch upper with a slot for each toe, to further mimic the effect of running barefoot. But the Five Fingers also protect your feet from glass, rocks, and tree roots with a trademark Vibram rubber sole that is durable, yet flexible.

The Vibram Five Fingers are available in several models, including some with Velcro straps for extra stability.

What can I do with used running shoes?

Recycling Running Shoes: When The Bag In The Closet Overflows

Let's face it, how many old running shoes do you need to keep around to mow the lawn? Probably just one. Maybe two. So, what to do with all those running shoes that you have dutifully “retired” from running after 350-500 miles of running? If all else fails, you can probably donate them to your local United Way or Salvation Army. Or, ask at the specialty running store in your area. Some stores, and some running clubs, collect used shoes periodically and send them to charities overseas. The bottom line is: Don't run in old shoes because you think they will be wasted. You can find a way to give them new life without risking injury.

How far ahead of the marathon should I buy new shoes?

Avoid New Shoe Blues, Break Them In Early

Don't wear new shoes to run a marathon. To give your feet the best advantage, put at least 100 miles on your running shoes prior to the marathon. Even if your shoes feel great the first day you put them on (which they should) and even if you're putting on a pair of shoes that's identical to your previous pair, a break-in period lets you be sure that you have the right size, and you can get used to the feel of the new shoes and reduce your risk of blisters. And, if for some reason you realize that the current pair rubs in a strange way, and just isn't going to work, you have time to buy and break in another pair before marathon day.

What's the best way to dry my running shoes when they get wet?

The Care And Feeding Of Running Shoes

You ask a lot of your running shoes when you are training for a marathon, so get the most out of them by treating them right. When you finish a run, remove your orthotics (if you have them) and keep them somewhere other than inside the shoes. This allows both orthotics and shoes to dry out, which will help them last longer than if they are perpetually damp.

When your shoes are wet, either from excessive sweat or a rainy run, stuff a page or two of newspaper in each shoe and leave it there. When you go to put your shoes on the next day, pull out the paper and you'll find that the paper is damp but your shoes will be dry. Don't put running shoes in the washer and dryer. If your shoes are dirty and muddy enough to bother you, use an old toothbrush or rag and scrub them off in a sink, and allow them to air dry (or use the newspaper technique). The hot air dryer will speed up the breakdown of the shoes' material, and you'll be wearing them out soon enough.

Are men's and women's running shoes different?

Mars And Venus In The Shoe Store

Running shoes, like any other shoes, are available in men's and women's styles and sizes. The men's and women's styles of the same model usually have the same attributes, such as extra cushioning or stability. Some models of women's shoes are be cut slightly narrower, and women with wide or large feet may want to try on a men's model of a shoe they like; they may find a better fit.

How can orthotics help my running?

Orthotics: They May Be The Support You Need

A pair of orthotics can alleviate many of the foot and leg problems marathoners experience. If you have chronic pain in your foot, ankle, knee, hip, or back, it's worth a visit to the podiatrist. You may pronate (your ankle tips to the inside) or supinate (your ankle tips to the outside). Check the injuries chapter for more details on these conditions, but simply put, if your foot rolls around when it strikes the ground, especially over the long miles of marathon training, you are at increased risk for injuries, and orthotics may help.

Check the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website at for ideas if you don't have a regular podiatrist, or ask fellow runners in your area for a recommendation. If you don't like what you hear from a podiatrist, such as “just don't run,” then run, don't walk, to another podiatrist. The right doctor wants to help keep you healthy and happily running and there are ways to correct almost all foot problems.

Most custom made orthotics (ordered through a podiatrist) cost several hundred dollars, but some insurance companies will cover one pair per calendar year, and once you have them they will last for several years. That said, some runners do just fine with simple over-the-counter arch supports or shoe insoles from a drug store, and a podiatrist can customize these devices with extra padding in a way that gives your feet the support they need.

How can I keep my heels from slipping in my running shoes?

Use A Lace-Locking Technique For A Better Shoe Fit

If you have narrow heels that tend to slip in your running shoes, a simple shoe-lacing strategy will help keep your feet snugly in place and prevent blisters.

  • Lace your shoes normally until you get to the hole one down from the top.
  • Bring the lace through this hole so it is on the outside of the shoe.
  • Then, instead of crossing the lace over, put it through the topmost hole, going from the outside of the shoe to the inside. This creates a small loop.
  • Don't pull it tight, leave a small loop.
  • epeat on the opposite side of the shoe.
  • When you have two loops, take the end of the lace on the left side of the shoe (which should be pointing towards the inside of the shoe) and thread it through the loop on the right; then take the end of the lace on the right side of the shoe (which also should be pointing towards the inside of the shoe) and thread it through the loop on the left side.
  • Put the shoe on, and pull on the ends of the laces, which will pull the loops flat against the shoe.
  • Tie your usual bow and you're ready to go.

How should I choose my running shoes?

Don't Buy Into Brand Hype

Resist the temptation to buy a certain brand or style just because you like the color, or because your favorite sports star is wearing it. Wearing the wrong shoe style or size for your foot is one of the top causes of running injuries.

If you're new to running, new to marathoning, or experiencing foot pain, seek out a local specialty running store, rather than a chain store, and try some different shoes, and promise yourself to buy what fits your feet. no matter what color it is. The staff members at specialty running stores usually know their stuff and can help you choose a shoe.

Road Runner Sports (and some specialty running stores) will take shoes back and let you exchange them if you aren't happy with them once you have worn them for a few days, or a few weeks. Remember, you won't be looking at your feet while you are running, anyway, so if the right shoe for you is a color that clashes with your shorts, you won't see it most of the time. And the best news is, most shoe companies change the colors several times a year, so you'll only have those blaze orange Nikes for a few months.


New Shoes? Walk Before You Run

Even new running shoes that fit will can be stiff at first. When you get a new pair, even if they are identical to your last pair, take the shoes for a walk the day before you wear them. Try to walk for half an hour or so. Alternatively, wear them around the house for a day.

Of course, many runners are able to run in a new pair of shoes right out of the box, which is probably fine for a few miles. But if you want to do a long run in new shoes, try the walking break-in first. Why not save yourself a sore spot or blister if you can?

How do I know what type of foot I have, and what type of shoe I need?

Your Arch Type Points You To The Right Style Of Shoe

Most manufacturers base their running shoe designs on three categories based on the arch of the foot: low arch, average arch, and high arch.

  • Low arch: If you have fleet feet and low arches, you need a more stable shoe to guide your foot's motion, so look for “stability shoes.”
  • High arch: If you have a high arch, you want a neutral shoe to keep your feet aligned and plenty of cushioning to absorb the shock of your footfalls. Look for “cushioned” shoes.
  • Average arch: If you have an average arch, you need a shoe with some stability, but not too much, you can wear almost any shoe, and your best bet will depend on whether your average arch falls on the high or low side of average. If you're on the high side of average, try cushioned shoes first. A stability shoe might not flex enough, and it could cause you to develop plantar fasciitis (more about that in the injury section).
If you're not sure what type of arch you have, put a piece of paper on the bathroom floor and check out the shape of your wet foot when you get out of the shower. If you see a very narrow mark between your toes and heels, you have a high arch. If you see a large, flat patch, you have low arches.

What size running shoes should I buy?

Think Big, Size Up When Buying Running Shoes

In general, the right size running shoe is a half to a full size larger than your everyday shoes, depending on the style of the shoe and whether you have any insoles or orthotics to insert. For example, my everyday shoe size varies from 8.5 to 9, but my current running shoe is a 10, in part because I have to accommodate my orthotics. If you're torn between two sizes, choose the larger. Your feet will expand when running long distances (and even short distances). You can always add an insole or wear thicker socks to fine-tune the fit, but you want to be sure to have about a thumb width of space between the end of your big toe and the end of the shoe.


Don't Be Afraid to Return the Wrong Shoes

Sometimes finding the running shoe that works for you takes some trial and error. It doesn't help when the shoe companies insist on changing the models. More often than not, the changes lead to better shoes, but sometimes one year's model of your favorite shoe lets you down. Maybe the design rubs your foot the wrong way, maybe it is now too wide or too narrow.

The key is not to make yourself wear an uncomfortable shoe because you feel you should. If your favorite model changes, you have some options.

-Explore new worlds: Check out other models that meet your criteria (high arches, need for orthotics, etc.) You might find a new favorite.

-Go back in time: Thanks to eBay, nothing is ever really gone, at least not for a while. If you know your size and model and aren't fussy about colors, you can likely find enough pairs of your favorite shoes on ebay to get you through until an updated shoe comes along that does work for you.

Should I wear the same running shoes every day?

Rotate Your Shoes

It may seem excessive, but once you find a shoe you like, buy a second pair right away. Rotating between two pairs of shoes not only ensures that you have backup of a shoe you like, but it's better for your feet and legs not to wear the same shoes for running day in and day out for several months.

When you first put on a new pair of shoes, write the date on the bottom, so you know when you started wearing them. After about a month or so of regular wear, start breaking in a second pair (“pair B”) on shorter weekday runs (and write the date on that pair, too) and wear the older pair for long runs. Once “pair A” has close to 200 miles on it, or if you feel that the cushioning or stability is deteriorating, switch and use pair A for weekday short runs again, and move pair B to the long weekend training runs. Retire your shoes when they have 350-500 miles on them.

Once you have retired pair A, it's time to purchase another pair, and repeat the rotation pattern. Even if they don't look worn out, the midsole support and cushioning will have broken down by then, and the shoes won't be protecting your feet.


New Year, Old Model Shoes

The start of the new year can be a great time to stock up on last year's running shoes, if there was a model that really worked for you in the past year, take the time to pick up a few pairs as the new models come out. You will likely get last year's model at a reduced price, especially if you aren't fussy about the color.

If you're lucky, you might be able to get a whole new year's worth of shoes to keep in your closet and pull out as needed, without having to worry about whether they are the right style and fit.


Getting Serious About Trail Running?

If you are getting serious about trail running consider a pair of trail shoes for that purpose. A good pair of training shoes are often fine for trail runs, but if you find yourself craving longer distances on more rugged terrain, try a pair of trail shoes and see whether they work for you.

A caveat: If you have high arches and you usually wear a cushioned, neutral shoe, you might find trail shoes too stiff. So, buy a pair from somwwhere that lets you return them after a wear-testing period (I recommend Road Runner Sports) and see what you think.

If you do buy trail shoes, try to reserve them for the trails. Too much road running will wear down the extra tread and defeat the purpose.


Running Shoe Tips Apply to Non-Running Shoes, Too

It would be great if all shoes were as comfortable as running shoes, but that's not the case. However, you'll be a happier runner if you keep your feet as healthy as possible by making some smart choices for non-running shoes. Some points to keep in mind:

-Width. For men in particular, if your dress shoes pinch your feet, ask about different widths. Many men's shoes come in different widths, and you don't have to sacrifice style for comfort.

-Heels. Some women love their high-heeled shoes. And there's nothing wrong with that in moderation. But heels can contribute to foot problems that can affect your running. At the first sign of foot pain, look at the shoes you have been wearing lately, and perhaps take a step back to more cushioned shoes, lower heels, or flats until you recover.

-Orthotics. If you have orthotics for your running shoes and you still have foot pain, you might benefit from orthotics in your non-running shoes. This makes shoe shopping more challenging, but with a thin pair of dress shoe orthotics (not at all like your running orthotics) you can find shoes that look stylish and will accommodate your orthotics. Your feet will thank you1


Unhappy With Your Shoes? Try New Ones Off-Season

Any runners, beginners and veterans alike, have had a pair of running shoes that they aren't happy with. Ideally, you find a shoe you love and it keeps returning year after year with few modifications.

But if you have had injuries during the summer and fall, look to your shoes. It might be that even though your shoes feel good, they aren't right for your foot type. Motion control shoes might seem cushiony, but if you have high arches and you are experiencing plantar fasciitis, a cusioned shoe with less motion control might help.

Winter is a great time to try a different style of shoe. If you aren't sure what shoe is right for your foot, visit a specialty running store or the website for advice. Also, if you have a persistent foot or knee injury, bring your running shoes with you and show them to your doctor. He or she can often identify problems and make suggestions for better shoes.


Spring Shoe Shopping

If you have been running in the same shoes all winter, spring is the seaon to seek out a new pair, especially if you are an outdoor runner.

Even if you weren't putting in a lot of mileage, the salt and chemicals used to de-ice the roads can take a toll on your shoes. If you have a style of shoe that you like, look for the same type, but if you have noticed any discomfort in your feet, get off to a good start for spring and seek advice at a specialty running store, or online at

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Heidi Splete
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