It’s gotta be the shoes …

Posted: November 14, 2009 in Training

If any of you out there remember the old Michael Jordan/Spike Lee commercials where “Mars Blackmon” states – “it’s gotta be the shoes”, you can most certainly identify with the plight of the distance runner.  When I began training for the Philadelphia Marathon in 2006 the one thing that I knew with absolute certainty was that I didn’t know a thing about what I was doing.  I must say when it comes to distance running and training to stay injury free – ignorance is most certainly not bliss.  I dove into every article I could find about managing your mileage, read every beginner marathon training program and spoke to anyone and everyone I knew who had taken on the 26 mile, 385 yard distance.

Of all the advice I received and the first bit of advice I give to aspiring marahoners is that it is all about the shoes.

Most running articles on this topic will cite expert opinion that you should chnage your running shoes every 300-500 miles or every 4-6 months.  For me that generalization is a bit too broad for the beginning distance runner or marathoner.  It is always better to err on the side of caution and replace a pair or running shoes to early rather than too late.  There are a lot of factors that go into what will work best for an individual runner – body weight, running style, even the terrain where you run most frequently are all factors.  The one absolute certainty however is that you should keep an accurate training log that will not only track your runs, but also the life of your shoes for you.  There are a lot of great free sites that do this, personally I use Running2Win to log my runs, routes, times and most importantly – shoes.

Since November 2006 I have logged over 5,500 miles and gone through 18 pairs of running shoes – some may say (especially my wife) that I am a bit overly conscious of the 300 mile rule.  The key is to listen to your body and you will “know” when your mileage is getting high on a given pair of shoes and check that against your running log.  I “know” when I have hit certain milestones on a given pair of running shoes just by feel in the morning over the first 1/2 mile.  Because I run varying distances throughout the week ranging from 6.25 miles on a weekday to 8-12 miles on a Sunday long run when I am not training for a race, I rotate three pairs of shoes through my run week.

For any run over 10 miles I only will run in a pair of shoes with less than 150 miles on them.  For any run between 8-10 miles I only run in a pair of shoes with less than 250 miles on them.  The final 50 miles on a given pair of shoes I will use for my weekday training runs of 6.25 miles.  This rotation accomplishes a few things for me.  The most important is that during the times when my feet, legs, knees and hips will be taking the most pounding I am in the freshest shoes that I own – this makes a tremendous difference as you look to run injury free when the training miles increase.  This also allows your shoes to not only fully dry out after a hot run, but helps allow the cushioning foam and support mechanism of your shoe “rebound” from the activity the day before.

Downside?  Cost of course – however once you get your shoes “into rotation” you end up purchasing a new pair of shoes with the same frequency as if you were only replacing one pair every 300 miles, but up front the investment can be “painful”.   My thought on this is I would rather suffer the pain in my wallet than my body.  Confusion over which pair is which?  You bet.  I try to buy the same pair of shoes that have proven to work best for my running style, body weight, foot-strike etc. – which is whatever represents the latest iteration of the Asics Gel Nimbus series.  However, I will buy different colors of the same model to differentiate or simply place a number or X on the backs of a given pair to identify them.   Finally, storage can be a problem – as you can see below I have no room to complain about the number of shoes that my wife has in the closet – clearly I have a problem, but in the end if you want to train hard and run consistently pain free – it’s gotta be the shoes.

Running Shoes 001

It's Gotta Be The Shoes

  1. Nick Kambitis says:

    I’ve just bought a pair of Asics Kinetic shoes, I’m very pleased with them.
    I started out wearing 20/50’s through to 21/50GT’s over 7 years. I use Asics gel 3000 for the sports centre and kyano 15’s for my long runs. looking forward to pounding the road in my kinetic’s. Like you I favour using 3-4 pairs of shoes over the week. Once you’ve bought into the pain “in your wallet” buying twice a year doesn’t seem so bad, especially if you compared to say ‘Membership of a golf club plus green fees’
    On the 12th December I’m running a half marathon to raise money for ST Peter’s Hospice.

    Thanks for you Kinetic review. NK

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