Shoes

August 3, 2011

When do you change your shoes? Do you know that your shoes are a major cause of injury and pain?

I am going to speak to the runners mostly, but some of what I have to say applies to walkers and recreational athletes of all varieties. What do your shoes look like? Are they dirty? Do they look like they should be receiving Social Security? If so, they have probably exceeded their “Best By” date.

The general recommendation is to replace your running and walking shoes every 300-500 miles. Your shoes also should be replaced annually at the very least. If you are playing basketball or tennis you want to replace them more often because of the pounding and cutting that takes place. I personally recommend replacing your shoes every six months.

Why? It’s all about “pronation.” I am not going to define it because it would take far too long and require you to read something that won’t be all that meaningful. Let’s just pretend that your foot is a bag of bone. As it hits the ground the bones move to absorb the shock and to continue with motion. As you roll from your heel to your toe your foot goes through a dynamic process that is machine-like.

Your shoes provide you with support in pronation (your foot hitting the ground). The rubber in your shoe will break down and generally will not withstand months of heat and wear. Look at your shoe. Gaze at the side of your shoe where your big toe resides. See the different color in the foam that is about under the arch? That is the rubber that I am talking about. It doesn’t last forever.

How do you know when your shoes have seen their end? One is to keep track of miles. For those that live meaningful lives not counting miles and calories, you can do the twist test. If the shoe twists like if you are ringing out a wash clothe then it is pretty well at the end. You can also observe the tread. If you let your car tires get as little tread as your shoes you would have more car problems and flats than you know what to do with. If you are seeing a real difference in the tread underneath then it is time to re-up. Another thing to watch is if the back of the shoe begins to lean to the side. The shoe has broken down when this happens.

So how do you pick out a shoe? For running I advise against cross trainers. They are heavy and are not suited for constant running. Use them for strength training or for occasional running. Go to a store that sells running shoes. Most places that you go to that are serious about shoes will let you run around in them to make sure that they feel okay. When you first put on a pair of shoes make sure that they are not too narrow or too short. Your toes need to be able to move and your foot should not be compressed by the sides. Next, stand up. You should feel the shoe supporting your arch, but not pushing into it. Once you have found something that feels right try it out. Take it for a test ride.

Expensive shoes are not necessarily better. Cheap shoes are not necessarily bad, but may not be your best bet. I generally go with a middle of the road Saucony (that is just the type of shoe that works for me). I do not have a great affinity for Nike. They were the first running shoe, but they are not great running shoes. Nike makes more narrow shoes. I do not recommend any particuliar shoe though. Every foot is different. You have to find the shoe that works for you.

Don’t let your shoes be the cause of pain or injury. Be proactive.

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