A quick glance in my wardrobe will tell you that I’m not much into shoes – black fit flops (summer) – black ankle boots (winter) – black heels (weddings, funerals and graduations). I have some walking boots, walking sandals and wellies. And running shoes………. When our couch to 5k groups started out I talked about the most crucial bit of running kit being a good sports bra (for the ladies at least) and I would stick by that advice. However, the next most important is shoes. So this is my (lighthearted) guide to new runners – via the 11 pairs that I currently own – on running shoes and how to get a pair that it right for you (avoiding some of my mistakes!)
Rule Number 1: Make sure they are big enough!
I give you exhibits 1-3 – They all fall into the category of not big enough but for slightly different reasons. Always buy shoes at least a size bigger than your shoe size (so for me I need at least a 4.5 as my shoe size is a 3 or 3.5). You need at least a thumb width at the front to avoid the dreaded black toe nails. And the other important fact is that your feet swell when you run – so “snug” when you start off is “tight” after 2 or 3 miles. So here we have the two white pairs – both size 4 – lovely shoes (Brooks Adrenaline) but just too small. I knew it at the time – but they were in the sale – really cheap and my usual make………. what difference can half a size make? (Answer: Quite a lot!). A did a few runs in these (still in denial) – before consigning them to gym work. They are perfect for the gym and would be used all the time if only I went to the gym more than a few times a year (usually when I’m injured and need to cross train). And the purple pair – now these are a bit different and harder to diagnose – but in the end they also fall into the “too small” (or narrow) category. Again lovely shoes and my usual Brooks Adrenaline – size 4.5 – exactly the same as the ones they replaced (or were they?). I’d run comfortably in these until I got to 7 or 8 miles and then my feet would start to hurt. Not so bad you might say……. but as I was training for a marathon – that left a lot of miles with hurty feet! I couldn’t work out what was going on and put the pain down to my training/injury/running too far too soon – anything but the shoes. Nothing I tried made it any better and in the end I ran the marathon with those shoes and the hurty feet. It was only when I ran in another pair of shoes – that I realised they were the cause of the pain. Brooks had slightly remodelled their shoes -a bit narrower (as all manufacturers do – usually annually) and they no longer worked for me………..
Rule Number 2: Get the right shoes for the way you run.
Many runners like myself, “overpronate” (their ankles roll in slightly on each stride) – and so we need a bit of extra structure and support in the arch of our running shoes. And then there are things like the “drop” in the shoe – between heel and toe. I know very little about this but most new runners need a good drop when starting out as this encourages you to strike the ground heel first which is better for protecting against injury in new runners (everyone has different views about this – and it changes the more experienced/faster you get – watch Kelly Holmes run – she doesn’t touch the floor at all!!!). A few years ago there was a passion for “barefoot running shoes” (Exhibit 4 – you have to admit they are a really pretty colour) – with much less of a “drop” – people swore by them…………. until they ran too far in them – too soon – and began to pick up injuries. These purple beauties are lovely and lightweight and very comfy – but I use them mainly for walking and a little light running – they don’t really suit my running style.
Rule Number 3: Different shoes for different conditions.
If you are just going to run on roads and tarmac trails – or even a bit of off road in the summer – then one pair of shoes is just fine. But if you are going to try out other conditions – and run through rough ground and mud then some trail shoes are probably a good plan (Exhibits 5 and 6). These shoes have much better grip and can keep you upright in most muddy conditions. The brown ones were my first foray into trail shoes (Brooks Cascadia) and are great for road and trail with puddles rather than heavier, muddy conditions. The blue ones (Saucony Peregrine) – nice and wide – though I need a size 5 in these – have great grip, enough support for some road running and keep me upright most of the time. And my little indulgence – the black and purple ones are “ice shoes” – (Exhibit 7 – again Saucony Peregrine so very comfortable) – with a special sole that doesn’t slip in icy conditions – I don’t wear them often but they are great for those icy mornings when you want to stay upright. I also have some “YakTraks” that you can clip over your shoes to run in the snow………….
Rule Number 4: Replace them.
They say you should replace your shoes every 600 miles! Sounds a lot doesn’t it? But I run about 100 miles a month – and more if I’m training for a marathon – so that’s new shoes every 6 months – and at £100+ – that’s quite an outlay. Most people would agree that – if you are not getting injured it’s okay to keep running in your existing shoes. But they do need replacing sometimes – I usually find that after a year they have no tread left and the padding inside is coming out (exhibits 8, 9 and 10). These are all Asics Gel Kyano and they are SO comfortable – or ran that “very special race” so it’s hard to part with them……… I try and have 2 pairs working at one time – old and new and then retire the old and buy new – and so they cycle keeps going. And that brings me to exhibit 11 – my new babies! Aren’t they lovely – silver too! I went to replace my Asics with the same – but they have been remodelled and just felt way too small. So it is back to Brooks Adrenalines – now also remodelled – much wider and comfy again…………..
None of this actually explains why I have 11 pairs of running shoes…………..
Here are my DOs and DON’Ts for buying running shoes
DO buy your shoes from a running shop – where you can run on a treadmill and get someone to look at your gait. Do you need neutral shoes? or some with structure and support?
DO try shoes on – even if they are the same make and model as previously.
DON’T buy off the internet unless you are absolutely sure they are the make, model and version you want.
DO go and buy shoes after a run – when your feet are warm (not nice I know – but you can take clean socks).
DON’T buy shoes in the sale – unless they are EXACTLY what you want.
DO try on several pairs – running shoes should be comfortable from the start – they should not need to be “broken in”.
DO get them big enough
And especially for me……………..
DON’T buy two pairs when you only need one (fat chance of me following that).
DO learn to let go and recycle…….