Putting your best foot forward

By: Alison Dunn Mar 29, 2011
Putting your best foot forward

When I first started running a few years ago, I chose my running shoes for all the wrong reasons.

I didn't choose them because they fit well, or because they were comfortable, or because they were the right type for my gait. I chose them partly because they were a cute colour and had a special adaptor I could hook up to my iPod. But the main reason I chose them was because they were cheap – and so was I.

I had heard many times that you need to replace your running shoes frequently, but I figured it was just a marketing ploy from the big box and running specialty stores to get you to buy new shoes. I mean, really, I've had regular shoes that lasted several years; why wouldn't running shoes be the same?

How wrong I was. I kept those shoes for a full year, and ended up with shin splints, sore knees and a pain in my glute that wouldn't go away. I was a mess.

That's when I learned first-hand that you need to replace your shoes after running (or walking) 500 km, because the cushioning breaks down and can cause aches, pains and injury.

The first time I ran with a new pair of shoes, all the aches and pains disappeared like magic. Since then, I replace my shoes regularly every 500 km or less, and I make sure the shoes are the right fit, not the prettiest ones or the ones with the coolest gadgets.

I fell into the trap of not wanting to replace my shoes because I didn't want to spend the money. I also chose the cheapest pair of shoes I could find rather than the ones that were the right fit. That doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a $250 pair of running shoes every three months. I found that buying my shoes through an orthotics centre cost quite a bit less than at a big-box store, and they also helped me find a good shoe that fit my price range.

Then, when I started training for my first marathon, I consulted with a certified pedorthist about how frequently I should change my shoes. With marathon training, you end up running around 70 km in one week – it doesn't take long to hit 500 km. I ended up getting two pairs of shoes and rotating between the two to make them last longer. It was great advice – my shoes and I made it through to the end of training without an ache in sight! (For more great advice from a pedorthist, be sure to check out Lisa Walter’s article on shin splints this week on Health Local.)

Finally, I learned a few tricks of the trade to keep that running shoe budget under control. Yes, I love running, but I also love power walking, strength training, Pilates and spinning – and I do many of those activities frequently. The shoes I need for running and those I need for power walking or the gym are very different, so I make sure to have a few different pairs in my front hall closet. I use my running shoes exclusively for running, which makes them last longer.

True, I can’t really say anymore that I have the prettiest running shoes around – but I have the happiest feet, knees and legs!

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.